I write this post, elated from just finishing my last final of the term, listening to Vince Guaraldi as the first snowfall of the year blows gently outside. This means that Christmastime has officially set in. While I still have papers to write, all of the “heavy lifting” is done for the term, and now I can calm down and begin to get the Christmas season.
As most of my posts have been about my social experiences, I figured I would give you a quick look at UCL, the reason I’m here! UCL is the founding member of the University of London system, was founded in 1826 as the first university in London. The undergraduate experience is much different here than in the States – students go to school for 3 years and only take courses in their subject area (as opposed to the more liberal-arts focused US).
Our founder was Jeremy Bentham, who was a sociologist and statistician who is famous for his “panopticon” theory, which is now a highly studied idea about behavior. His will stipulated that he wanted his body to be preserved and remain forever with the college that he founded, so that’s what we did – and now his body is sitting vigilantly in the main academic building, on display to all visitors. A rumor is that our sister college (King’s College London, the only other large university in London) once stole his head from the display and played football with it – while this is untrue, it hasn’t stopped the UCL-KCL rivalry. His head is now safely stored in the archives, and a wax head is on display. His body is regularly wheeled out into the universities’ board of directors meetings, as he represents the “tiebreaking vote”.
There are no varsity sports here – only clubs, but there multiple club teams for each sport (for example, there are 5 men’s football teams) according to skill level, so mid-level athletics is prevalent. Even so, there are very few athletic facilities in downtown London, so some teams are forced to travel 20-30 mins to reach special facilities – my friend on the tennis team (she plays at Haverford College in the US) has to travel 40 mins on the tube to get to their tennis facility for practice.
UCL’s location is in Bloomsbury, just north of the West End, and about a 15 minute walk from Leister Square, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus, three of the main hubs of activity on any night of the week. It is also right next to Regent’s Park, which was great for jogging (when the weather was warmer!).
Alumni of UCL include Mohatmas Ghandi, Alexander Graham Bell, prime minsters of Japan, the founder of Kenya, the band Coldplay (who met on the 5th floor of my dorm) and Christopher Ramsay (the namesake of my dorm, Ramsay hall – one of the names you’ll hear over and over in any chemistry class, he discovered all of the Noble Gases)
Here are some pics of some of the main buildings of UCL – hopefully this gives you a better idea of what I’ve been doing when not bumming around Europe!