Before signing up for the Temple Summer in the UK: Literature and Culture program, I definitely knew more about London than Glasgow. But that was only through media, pictures, and things I have heard from other people’s visits. I will admit that London was what initially drew me to this program. I gravitated towards this program rather than the other programs offered by Temple because I have always wanted to go to London, especially from all the books and movies and tv shows I have read and watched over the years. The weather also enticed me. I wanted to experience an English summer with a little bit of rain and sunshine.
However, when the second week in London rolled around, and the city was hit with a two-day heatwave, I was unprepared. On July 18th and 19th, London reached record-breaking numbers with temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the 18th and 104 on the 19th. I know temps reach that high in the States, but I am always lucky to have AC. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for London and the no AC anywhere. It is understandable, considering they are not used to heatwaves and extreme weather, but it was still something I was not used to. Although, I did get lucky because the Arcadia Centre where my program is studying and taking classes is fortunate enough to have AC and on the 18th, I had both of my classes so I was able to stay cool all day. And on the 19th, instead of trying to stay cool any other way, I went back to the Centre and stayed there all day doing my work.
Transportation during the heatwave was also another good way to get to know the city. Fortunately, the tube in London is the most straightforward subway system I have ever experienced. My family came to visit the first week in London, so my first experience of taking the tube was by myself trying to find my family across the city. But, I caught on super quickly and learned how to navigate the underground. It is so easy, it is almost fun!
Although, during the heatwave, the government recommended taking the buses because of how hot Underground gets. In my opinion, both modes of transportation were the same. The buses were just as hot because everyone in the city was also listening to the government’s advice, so they were all crammed with people in the blistering heat. But, as the days cooled down, I was able to enjoy the buses, especially where we are located in London. The nearest tube station to my program housing is down the hill at a station called Archway. The walk down the hill is not bad, but the walk up is definitely killer, especially after a day of classes. So, taking the bus is just as convenient!
The tube is the easiest way to get around the city, especially for classes. The tube ride to class is only 15 minutes and it’s a straight shot right into the center of the city. I have never been a commuter before, but this was what I imagine it to be like!
We also have the opportunity to explore London through the lens of our class field trips. For those, we always take the tube to places like Kensington Gardens where a Peter Pan statue sits, or to King’s Cross where Harry Potter’s 9 and 3 Quarters Platform is located. Or Brixton Lane where the Black Cultural Archives are located; for my Representing Race class, we get to interact with past archives there that help us understand the importance of keeping records. And to the British Library where we had the chance to order rare books that correlate to the books we are studying in my Children’s Lit class.
London is very different than Glasgow. The two cities have completely different vibes when it comes to city life, but I love both all the same. If you want a peaceful stroll on a cold and chilly day, I would recommend Glasgow. If you want a bustling day with hundreds of attractions around every corner, I would suggest London. I am glad I got to experience both because each place offers a different outlook on life. Every city is different, and I think it is important to experience different ones!