Chris Wittig London
Month #1 is in the books, and I am absolutely loving this city. With tons of history, great opportunities to travel, and fantastic markets everywhere, I am taking advantage of the new experiences I have at my disposal. Below are some of the highlights!
18 January – London’s East End
Through a one credit class titled “Inside London,” I toured the East End of London alongside a dozen of my classmates. This area is extremely eclectic, and has undergone serious transition over the last hundred years or so. During WWII, Britain granted asylum to children who were separated from their parents, and while it is terrible that many of these families were never reunited, it was inspiring to hear about the efforts that everyday citizens of Britain made to not only house these children, but to raise them too.
Today, the East End is experiencing large scale gentrification, which of course is a very polarizing topic. On one side, the area is extremely attractive, especially to tourists, and is much safer than it was in the past; however, the wealth that is flowing into the area is dispersed very unequally, which leaves some of the poorer residents struggling to keep up with rising costs of living.
20 January – Canterbury
Alongside my good pal Mike, I took a day trip out to the historical town of Canterbury, a small town with a religious past dating back to the fourth century. The highlight of this trip was visiting the Canterbury Cathedral, which is the “Mother Church” of the Anglican community; of course, while it has physically existed since the twelfth century, it only has been Anglican since the infamous reformation at the hands of Henry the VIII in the 1500s. I was sure to pick up a copy of “The Canterbury Tales” as well, which to my surprise, is written in very old and difficult English poetic prose. Nonetheless, I shall take a stab at it!
25 January – Borough Market
While Borough Market is one of many markets across London, it is far and away the best I have ever experienced. Here you can indulge in cheese, meats, desserts, and wines, or can grab some souvenirs instead. I ate some spinach ravioli and finished off the day with the best gelato of all time. This city is extraordinarily expensive, but I have decided just to accept it and treat myself for the semester, especially when it comes to the amazing food. Aside from the market, London is known for incredible Indian food and fish fry, too!
29 January – Fulham Football Club vs. Brighton and Hove Albion Match
I previously was of the opinion that soccer was boring to watch…BOY was I wrong. After touring Fulham’s facilities through Inside London, a group of us decided to buy tickets to our first English Premier League match; this was hands down the most exciting live sporting event I have seen. Despite having a poor season, the stadium nearly sold out and was full of energy from start to finish. Fulham scored four goals in the second half to earn the comeback victory by a score of four goals to two.
Five Things to Note
- Busses and Cars will not slow down for pedestrians…
- Cooking is a ton of fun!
- British dogs are everywhere and are ridiculously well behaved
- The public transportation system is phenomenal
- Museums are (mostly) all free and very high-quality
All in all, month number one has been a grand success, although I am hoping things will slow down a little bit. It is very easy to forget that I have to study/live here as well, and cannot travel/explore every moment of every day. With trips planned to Munich, Paris, and Spain, I have a feeling that this is not going to happen though…Stay tuned!
Now that the class “Inside London” has concluded, I began to travel outside the United Kingdom in February. I also was fortunate enough to have my Father in town, which made me finally feel like a native Londoner than a tourist. Check out some of the highlights below!
I finally was able to watch the better “football” again, although at the expense of my sleep schedule. A huge cohort of Notre Dame students went to a local pub from midnight to four in the morning to watch the game. I was surprised at how many native Londoners were interested in the game, in addition to how many people had gambled on the game. From guessing the first halftime show song, to whether the coin will be heads or tail, to the winner of the game, it is crazy to see how much money is gambled on this game every year. There are places to gamble everywhere in London, which I am opposed to, as I definitely think it contributes to gambling addiction.
While a lot of this trip was spent indulging in German food, the most profound moment for me was our trip to Dachau Concentration Camp, the first concentration camp during Hitler’s rule during the Holocaust. Despite studying and reading a lot about World War II, there is nothing that could’ve prepared me for the experience of standing in a gas chamber. I was very impressed with the country’s transparency and emphasis on education; in my opinion, every single student in Germany (and elsewhere, if possible) should be required to take a trip here for the perspective and realization of how fortunate we are in today’s world.
Week with Family in Town
My Father and Step-Mom, neither of whom had travelled outside North America before, were thrilled to experience Europe for the first time. The highlight of our week together was the Churchill War Rooms, where Winston Churchill hid and strategized during the bombings of World War II. This exhibit took us through his life from beginning until end, with many of his rooms still in the same shape as they were in the 1940s.
The highlight of my abroad experience thus far was Rome, Italy, where I met my friends from all across Europe to celebrate a few birthdays. Rome is the only city I had been to in Europe prior to arriving this past January, but I definitely do not think I appreciated it enough when I was younger. The sheer history of the city is mind blowing, with the Ancient Ruins and Colosseum still standing, although not entirely. It was a nice change of pace to visit Rome financially as well, as it is generally much more affordable than the pricey city of London.
This was my first experience outside of the Catholic Church after being confirmed catholic in April 2018. With the English Church breaking away from the Catholic Church in the 16th century, there is not a huge catholic presence in London. I went to an Evensong one night in order to experience both the architecture of the church, in addition to the English church as a whole. Turns out, the two churches are exceptionally similar, with minor disagreements on some of the sacraments and the hierarchy of the church.
My plans for March include finally making it to Copenhagen, Denmark, which is the most successful city for small businesses in the world. I have ambitions of centering my senior research on this topic, so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to check it out qualitatively. Additionally, I will be traveling to Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Stay Tuned!
Month #3 in the books! March was the best month yet, as I balanced a couple trips with some quality time in London, in addition to hosting some friends for a weekend. Check out the highlights below!
Since my freshmen year, I have had ambitions to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, as it is the most successful place to start a small business. And while I have yet to conduct official research on the topic, I learned a lot about my potential senior year research topic! The biggest takeaway from the trip was just how few chain-restaurants are present in the capital city, which was a big surprise to me, but explains a lot about the success of small businesses. I am definitely curious to dive deeper into what makes the environment less favorable for the big names brands that are far more prominent in other big cities. Aside from this, I took a canal tour and attended a Viking Museum, which helped me learn a ton about Denmark’s unique history as a trade-heavy city.
The company I am working for this summer, Aon, is headquartered in London, so I thought it would be a good idea to check it out and meet some of the team. I spent a morning learning about how actuarial work in London compares to the United States, and was blown away by the caliber of the building. Given that Aon encourages its young employees to do work abroad, I will definitely consider working in London if I ever end up working for them in a full-time role.
Along with five of my closest friends, I traveled to Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona for Spring Break, which was undoubtedly one of the most complete weeks of my life. In Lisbon, we hiked to Sintra, a World Heritage Site known for being the western most point of continental Europe. This six-hour hike was spent by talking, singing, and solving riddles, which helped the trip fly by; most importantly, we ran into a herd of wild donkeys…In Madrid, we spent time amongst the city’s beautiful parks and palace garden, and in Barcelona, admired the architecture and church of the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi.
75,000 Step Day
The true highlight of the trip consisted of a 13 hour, 40 mile, 76000 step day of walking all around London with my good friend Thomas. What started as a joke proposition turned into a long reality when we decided to stay in London for the weekend, as we embarked to some of our favorite markets, parks, and streets in all of London. Over the 13 hour trek, we each listened to only 6 songs of music, spending the rest of the time conversing and complaining about the increasing pain our feet were experiencing. I think we both would agree that by the end of the trip, the journey was just as much of a mental-challenge as a physical challenge.
To recap the semester so far, below is a top five list of my top cities in Europe!! Dublin, Nice, and Edinburgh still to come!
Until next time,
During my final month abroad, I checked the last few things off my abroad bucket list, as I saw Les Misérables, took a boat cruise down the River Thames, and hiked the Scottish highlands...See below for the highlights!
Ireland (April 5-8)
This trip began in Dublin, where I caught up with some old friends from other abroad programs. We toured the Jameson distillery, Guinness Brewhouse, and witnessed some traditional Irish dancing and music. I was particularly impressed with the friendliness of the Irish people! We then voyaged to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher on an all-day bus trip, which introduced me to the breathtaking country landscape of Western Ireland (see below!)
Nice (April 12-14)
For one of our last trips, we travelled to France for a little rest and relaxation, where I had yet another opportunity to use my broken French...The highlight of our weekend was a day trip to Monaco, the richest and safest country in Europe. We toured the “Monte Carlo” Casino, walked along the water, and saw the largest yacht in the world. Overall, this was a great weekend before the approaching home stretch of spring semester.
I finally made it to the northern U.K. for a hiking trip with the lads. We began in Edinburgh where we marched to the top of “Arthur’s Seat.” While the views were stunning, the trek was rather difficult as the four of us are finding ourselves increasingly out of shape...We then journeyed to the Scottish Highlands to hike and celebrate Easter, where we attended a local mass and met some of the friendliest people yet!
Approaching Trip to South Africa
I was able to work on a final project for my Emerging Markets class on the current political and economic climate of South Africa. This is very fitting considering I am leaving for a 16-day service trip to Cape Town, South Africa immediately from London. With an upcoming election that will have a lot of bearing on the future of the country, it should be very interesting time to be down there.
Furthermore, the country is faced with an unemployment rate upwards of 25%, which is the rate at which America experienced in the Great Depression. Given the inequality present in South Africa, this is not surprising, but the goal is that this election will help stabilize growth and bring down such an unfortunate reality.
I feel extraordinarily blessed to have had this opportunity to study abroad, as I have learned so much about both myself and the places I visited. What an opportunity it has been to travel the world with some of my best friends!!
Now it’s off to South Africa before Chicago this summer. Thanks for following along!