That’s Why I Chose Yale(-in-London)

Even though I’ve already been stateside for a little over a month now, I still find myself encountering waves of separation anxiety and nostalgia whenever I think about my semester abroad with Yale-in-London. I’m not normally a fan of throwing around superlatives and broad generalizing statements about romanticized periods in the past, but committing to YiL was without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve made to date. I went to London to explore an interest in theater, travel around Europe, and to find new ways to breath; luckily enough, thanks to a lot of help from Mama Yale, I was capable of doing all three and then some.

One of my favorite aspects (of many) of the program had to be the housing. I lived in a fully-furnished two bedroom flat in the centrally-located district of Covent Garden, which I shared with another guy doing the program. It far exceeded any expectations I had, which were already quite frankly pretty high from what I had heard from previous program participants. A seven minute walk away from the National Gallery, a two minute walk away from Waterloo Bridge, and directly across the street from the Royal Opera House, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find a more prime real estate location.

A view of an avenue through an upstairs apartment window.

My favorite reading nook, which also doubled as my bedroom window.

The curriculum in the program consisted of four British Studies courses taught through the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art. Since there were only six Yale students participating in the program, each of the four seminars proved to be as intimate as they were challenging and enlightening. We took courses on Tudor history, British art history & landscape, and Victorian Literature taught by professors who quite literally wrote the books on their respective subjects. (But really, Professor John Guy wrote a book called “Tudor England,” which was also the name of the course he taught, so it’s safe to say I know a little more about dynastic succession and Elizabethan Reformation than I did prior to making the trip)

A cluster of Evergreen trees and bushes with a fresh coat of snow.

The view from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art seminar room.

Of the four courses offered, my hands-down favorite was Modern British Drama. When our class met for the first time, as we were all still experiencing the disorienting side effects of jet lag and English cuisine, our professor wandered into the seminar room in a bit of a frantic rush, only to exit shortly thereafter, saying, “I’ve got to go put on lipstick. You can’t possibly expect me to teach you anything without wearing any lipstick.” 

After coming back, she talked about how 2+2 was never going to equal 4 in her class, how art is interaction and education is only successful if it works to develop critical thinking skills that engage in the exploration and formation of identity. We would oftentimes have classes that ran over the two hour time period for anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes, but none of us would ever notice because of how substantive and engaging the discussions were. Dr. Fox, in addition to having a cool name, had a wonderful way of introducing topics, weaving personal experiences into her narratives, connecting them to thematic principles of theater, and then concluding beautifully without being condescending or intimidating. Her approach gave me new insight into how to grapple with difficult questions or ideas, and I’m excited to apply these lessons to the coming courses of senior year.

Another reason I loved the theater class so much is because the course consisted of going to plays on Monday night and then discussing them during class on Wednesday. The first show we went to was called Fuerza Bruta, a production by an incredible Argentinean performance art troupe. It wasn’t a play in the traditional sense; we were in a spherical theater space with standing room only, and felt more like being at a rave with acrobats, moving walls, suspended pools, and gigantic fans. It was absolutely insane, an overwhelming hijacking of the senses that was a perfect way to wrap up my first week in London.

Four Fuerza Bruta performers swimming in formation.

Fuerza Bruta performers hang in a suspended pool above the audience

It’s difficult for me to believe, even now that it’s actually over, that going to a rave with acrobats and moving walls is something that I did for credit.  Exploring the London theater scene, walking around museums with eminent art historians, living a life of educational elegance and glamour that’s taken me from Los Angeles to New Haven to Siena to London & back. As much as I miss it, I don’t doubt I’ll be making my way back over soon.