August 20, 2012

Shea ’14 Reflects on London Olympics, Fulbright Program

Shea ’14 Reflects on London Olympics, Fulbright Program

Emily Shea '14 was in London this summer as part of a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission award, participating in the three-week cultural and academic program "Getting a Head Start: Learning about Leadership Through the 2012 Olympic Games." Her stay allowed her to take in Olympic events, the London 2012 Festival, an immense cultural celebration subsequent to the Games, as well as London's numerous attractions. Below, Shea reflects on her time in London. For additional photos of her trip, click here.

On July 21st, I set off on what would be a whirlwind adventure in the Olympic city of London. I arrived early the next morning, full of excitement and anticipation for what the next three weeks would hold.

There were six American students who were awarded a scholarship to study at King's College London. Each of us was given this incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through the generosity of the Fulbright Commission. Created by treaty in 1948, the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission is the only bilateral, transatlantic scholarship programme, offering awards and summer programmes for study or research in any field at any accredited U.S. or U.K. university. The Commission is part of the Fulbright programme conceived by Senator J. William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. Award recipients and summer programme participants will be the future leaders for tomorrow and support the "special relationship" between the U.S. and U.K.  Fulbright Summer Programmes cover all participant costs. In addition, Fulbright summer participants receive a distinctive support and cultural education programme including: visa processing, a comprehensive pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and an opportunity to join their alumni networks.

I am extremely grateful to have been one of the participants selected for the Fulbright-King's College Summer Institute this year, and I wanted to do everything possible to make the most of my time in London. On the morning of July 22nd, when I first met the five other students, we all sat down and made a list of what we wanted to do and see during our stay. At the time, we thought it was probably a bit too lengthy to be realistic. To our surprise, by the end of the trip, we had completed the entire list! We saw 28 major landmarks, I attended three Olympic events, and we saw part of the Olympic torch relay. We were exposed to many different types of people and cultures both in the classroom and outside. There were students in our class from all over the United States and the world - Singapore, China, France and more. And of course, we made plenty of time to sample every type of food that we could - from the classic tea and scones to Indian curry.

In just our first week, we visited Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Camden Market, the Lyceum Theatre, Platform 9 ¾ (for all Harry Potter fans), and we watched the Opening Ceremonies from Victoria Park. We managed to fit all of that into our afternoon sightseeing, as our mornings were occupied with classes. We participated in a course called "The Olympic City: Global Games, Local Impact," which looked in-depth at the effect of the Olympics on its host city. It was fascinating to explore the legacies that past Olympic Games have left on their cities, both good and bad. After learning some Olympic history, we looked at the present day. We discussed London's successful bid, their budget, their infrastructure, and how all of this has been affecting the people. It was a very interactive classroom experience, as we saw the topics we learned about come alive all around us. The course really opened my eyes to what the Olympics involve, beyond just the athletics we see on TV, and this perspective gave me a greater appreciation for the city I was exploring each day. 

In our second week, we visited Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Olympic Park, Abbey Road, the Houses of Parliament, Brixton Market, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern, just to name some highlights. During our third and final week, we saw Windsor Castle, Oxford, Stonehenge, the British Museum, Borough Market and Manchester. On our second-to-last night in this incredible city, the whole group witnessed the U.S.A. win the women's soccer gold medal match. 

Suddenly, before we knew it, it was time to pack up and find a way to fit all of our new souvenirs into our suitcases. The three weeks seemed to fly by, but they were spent wisely. We were able to see almost all of the major landmarks in the historical city of London, as well as have our part in all the Olympic excitement. We left the city feeling enriched both on an educational and a personal level, and feeling inspired to share our experiences with others. I am indebted to all those at King's College London, who were an essential part of the welcoming support system we received when we got to London. I am also deeply grateful to the Fulbright Commission for making this all possible, and I encourage other students to look into taking advantage of such opportunities. 

The group kept a joint blog while we were in London, and you can read about some more of our experiences here.