And that’s how this is going to start.
With an obligatory quote from a British Prime Minister whom we idealize in America.
I admit that it’s certainly not the most original of beginnings or even the most inspirational. And I confess that I am not the slightest bit concerned. This blog will not be similar or even recognizable to my other blogs that I have written about my previous travels (Malawi and South Africa). Whereas previously I have waxed romantic about the soul searching and enlightenment that will inevitably find one who is embarking on a foreign journey, this blog will be an unapologetic prism for which people can gain a perspective that cannot be found in a travel guide. Therefore there are some things that need to be straightened out before I begin this blog in earnest.
This is not a journal. I will not document each tedious detail of my daily life. That’s what Facebook is for. In fact I fully intend to describe my experiences and opinions in a broad manner which could encompass days, weeks or months of my London experience.
I am not Anthony Bourdain, no matter how much I wish I was. I will not obsess over the fine dining London surely has to offer. Nor will I find swank hotels for people to blow their retirement money on. No my stay in London (and travels to other countries) will be much more on a budget and I’ll be much more likely to offer advice on hostels or where to find a cheap meal. Not to mention I fully intend on being far too busy to explore in great detail all of the best hidden gems of London. With all honesty, I will most likely do some of the touristy attractions (though there are some I will steer clear from) and find one or two little holes in the wall that most people wouldn’t know. So I suppose now that the foundation for this blog has been set I can go into more full detail of what I will actually be doing in London for an entire year.
When I first started telling people that I was going to pursue my MA in International Relations at Richmond, the American International University in London I saw a reaction that would be more suitable to me telling them that “ya know, like I really wanna backpack through Europe for a year and work at a surfing shop on the Mediterranean”. I know that reaction well because I am sure I have expressed it myself when someone tells me they wanna study abroad, “but in somewhere like Sydney or Paris”. Of course people want to do that. It’s completely understandable, but so is the skepticism that it’s usually met with. I want this to be perfectly clear for everyone that may stumble upon this. I am not moving to London to enjoy a year-long vacation. I am not going on sight-seeing tours and trying to get drunk in each of London’s pubs. I will be there for one reason and one reason only. And that is to get my MA. It’s always been a goal of mine, and after a disappointing start at WVU, I worked tremendously hard in my junior and senior years to be in a position where attaining an MA is even possible. And now that I have my required “seriously I’m going to school” statement fulfilled, I cannot deny that the opportunity to live in what is truly one of the world’s great cities was not a huge factor in my decision to move abroad. Anyone that has ever known me will surely know that traveling and living abroad is more than a hobby to me. It truly is part of who I am and a characteristic of who I’ve always been. Obviously I wouldn’t pursue a career in International Relations if I didn’t enjoy other countries, but I feel that this point really needs to be hammered home.
Richmond, the American International University is more than just a really long name for a school. It’s where I am investing a lot of money and a year of my life. Therefore I think it’s appropriate to give a brief description of this small private school situated primarily in Richmond-Upon-Thames (part of greater London) but with a satellite campus within the Royal Burough of Kensington and Chelsea. In continuing with my theme of keeping this blog uncensored and honest I will simply state that Richmond is not Oxford or Cambridge. It is a fine school in England but I would be lying in the extreme if I walked around claiming I’m going to the Harvard of the United Kingdom. When I approached my advisor Dr. Hagan during my senior year at WVU and told him that I intended to go to grad school, he recommended that I broaden my gaze and look at schools that I hadn’t previously considered. Richmond was one of those schools. Now surely I was a bit skeptical, as is my nature, but the more I read and researched about this school, the more impressed I was. Albeit much smaller than the ~30,000 students who call WVU home, I think being in a smaller and more intimate environment will be crucial for me to succeed at the graduate level. From what I can tell I will be 1 of probably 15 graduate students in the IR program (my future roommate being one of them). The director of the program is Dr. James D. Boys, who is highly regarded in England and is frequently a desired commentator on the BBC and Al-Jazeera. Along-side him I will be studying under some other brilliant minds from all over Europe and Australia. Richmond has an affiliation with the world-renowned Chatham House think tank which entitles me to a membership there and full use of their facilities and events (library, seminars, etc). Finally the real clincher for me about Richmond’s MA program was the fact that as part of the program I am required to complete an internship within the IR field. For reasons which should be plenty obvious this is an absolute necessity for me since I intend to seek immediate employment after graduation.
I leave for London in 2 weeks and I am starting this blog now largely because my idleness has left me with much excitement to abandon the monotony of suburban New Jersey and I need something to keep me busy until then. My next entry will be from my flat in Courtfield Gardens.