Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry I haven’t written more frequently, but that silence has largely been due to how busy I’ve been keeping myself over the past few months! With Christmas break and the Lent Term at LSE, I haven’t had the time to write a new post. I’ll try to catch you up.
Last time I wrote, November—and my first term at LSE—was coming to a close (man, that’s a long time ago…). December went by smoothly, filled with some essay writing and final social events of the calendar year, and I flew home on December 14th for my four-week Christmas break. I was fortunate enough to go directly to St. Olaf and see my friends on campus for a few days before finally heading home to Decorah for Christmas. Break was perfect. Even though I had only been gone for about three months, I missed everyone; getting to see them all before returning to London for the long haul (until June) was much needed. After working Admissions at Olaf for the first week or so of interim, I flew back to London to start our second term at LSE.
Because I don’t really remember what happened when chronologically, I’m going to sum up Lent term at LSE in sections dedicated to my different areas of life in London.
During our first meeting of the new term, my a cappella group (The Houghtones) tried to figure out all of the pieces we wanted to do over the next few months. This was always going to be a big term because we had a few performances mixed in with Timeless (which I’ll explain later) and The Houghtones very first competition. At this meeting, we came across two songs we were considering: Take a Walk by Passion Pit and Some Nights by Fun. While listening to Take a Walk on YouTube I realized that the two songs actually worked really well together, so I decided to venture into a discipline I had never entered before. Arranging. That first weekend of term, I spent about 15 hours arranging this mashup of two songs I really, really liked. In the end, I laid the foundation for the arrangement and organized a base structure for the mashup.
In the end, we decided on three songs to learn and perform: A Simon & Garfunkel medley (Bridge Over Troubled Water/America), a Radio medley (in which we tried to be a radio, complete with station-switching), and the Some Nights I Take A Walk mashup (where I got to have the Take a Walk solo). Our first major performance was in Timeless in mid-February. Timeless consists of multiple LSE student groups coming together to form a variety show of sorts under the guise of a theater production. The acts
came from tons of dance groups (including many Indian dancing troupes), solos, a comedian, and us. The best part about Timeless, however, is that it is performed in a West End theater. This year it was the Lyceum Theater, home of The Lion King. We rented out the theater for one day and spent the whole day doing tech rehearsals and putting the show together at the last minute. The Houghtones had two slots in the show, which we filled with the Simon & Garfunkel medley and the mashup I originally arranged. By this time, the mashup had changed significantly. With the help of other members of the group, we changed the arrangement to include We Are Young by Fun. The mashup now went from Some Nights to Take a Walk to We Are Young and back to Some Nights. I love that mashup and am truly proud of it. Performing on a West End stage was something I had never dreamed of doing, but Timeless was really an experience I’ll never forget.
The other major performance of the term was our competition. The Houghtones are a relatively new a cappella group, and because of that we had never entered a competition before. By entering the Voice Festival UK competition, we were placed in the London regional with five other groups, including All The King’s Men (who finished 3rd at internationals last year) and Vive (a semiprofessional group from a renowned London music school). Needless to say, we had our work cut out for us. We worked hard on learning the Radio medley, and we pieced everything together (including movement) just in time for the competition.
That night, we (lucklessly) drew the performing spot right between All The King’s Men and Vive. We performed about as well as possible (minus some vocal fatigue from practicing so hard that week), and I really think we impressed the London a cappella scene. Predictably, we didn’t win. Out of the six groups there, I can confidently say we were at least fourth, but the three groups who I would put ahead of us all have albums out and have gone on international tours, so I wasn’t distraught at all over it. It really was amazing, though, how much attention we received simply by entering this competition. Our President, Liam, received emails from producers asking about working together for our “next” album, and one guy even wanted to include us in a documentary on the UK a cappella scene! That’s exposure you can only get in a big city.
I loved being in The Houghtones, and I know I’m going to miss it (and definitely the people) next year at St. Olaf, but I also know I’m going to love being back in Chapel Choir.
Because I chose to play both football and basketball at LSE, I didn’t get to play as much football as I wanted. The season went relatively well; in one league we finished third (out of ten) and in the other we were relegated. I really enjoyed my football, though, becoming more and more confident as a goalkeeper. Some guys in the FC said they thought I was the second best keeper in the FC, only behind the first team keeper. I couldn’t believe it. That means they put me ahead of a guy who played for the England U16s and only behind a keeper who went through the Chelsea academy until the age of 16. It makes me wonder what I could have done in the academy setup over here. But overall, the third team (and the FC as a whole) has been such a great group of guys and I’m definitely happy I chose to play over here.
Being in football is also a major social commitment, though. Although first term I didn’t go to Wednesday night AU (Athletics Union) events very often, I went more frequently this term. Those nights will definitely be memorable, especially Club Dinners, AU Ball, and FC Pub Quiz night. I’m definitely going to miss the FC (and all their songs) next year.
Basketball proved to be my least enjoyable extra curricular of the year, mostly due to our performance on the court. We went 1-10 and were relegated from the top flight of UK university basketball. What I failed to realize was that some of the teams in my league gave full rides to basketball players. I lined up for our playoff match at Worcester against a 6’9” guy from Boston who was on scholarship. We lost by 69 points. SIXTY. NINE. POINTS. That kind of deflates your confidence.
Regardless, I liked the team. A lot of my teammates were graduate students, which meant I didn’t really see them outside of basketball, but nonetheless I enjoyed playing ball with them. I once again realized how much I prefer playing football to basketball, though.
London Events (read “Arsenal and the West End”)
This term has been a memorable one as far as London events go. I have now been to the Emirates five times (once for a youth game which I’ll mention below), and I’ve seen Arsenal win five times in person! (There has to be something to that… I need to go more often). First term I saw the 2-0 win over Montpelier in the Champions League, and then this term I saw the 1-0 win over Swansea in the FA Cup replay, the 2-1 EPL match against Aston Villa, and the resounding 4-1 win over Reading in the EPL this past Saturday!
The other major notable event was a few weeks ago when I managed to get a free ticket from a friend to go see the Book of Mormon on the West End. I had heard from my friend Greg back at Olaf that it was incredible, and man, it surpassed every expectation I had. I love South Park and I love Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but I didn’t think Book of Mormon could really be that funny. I was wrong. I don’t think I stopped grinning and laughing until intermission. It’s by far the greatest musical I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop since. I’m so lucky I get to go again in May with Vidur!
I was blessed to see quite a few friends from home this term.
Over Olaf’s interim break, my friend Sheldon stayed with me in London for a weekend. He had been in Rome for January, so he figured he’d stop in London on the way home. That weekend was the second time I really did the whole “London tourist” scene, going to Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, the Southbank, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, British Museum, Abbey Road, and the works. By far the most interesting part of the weekend was at Buckingham Palace during the Changing of
the Guard, however, where we met up with a couple other Oles. During the change, one random guy walked into the middle of the road holding two knives in his hands. He started shouting, and since I’m super tall I was able to start watching this way before other people noticed. After a minute or so of shouting and police cautiously approaching him, he put one of the knives up to his throat. At this point I started rambling to the other Oles about what was going on and quickly snapped a picture of the guy with the knife up to his throat. At this point one of the police officers managed to run up from behind the guy and tase him before he could harm himself or anyone else. By this point the whole crowd was fixated on the happenings and watched the police set up police tape and put the guy in a police vehicle. Here’s an article in the Guardian about it. Needless to say, that was…interesting.
Later in the month I also got to meet up with my friend Mike from Decorah, who is studying at Swansea for the semester. He happened to be in London, so we met up at a pub and caught up for the first time since high school, really.
A few weeks after that one of my best friends from Decorah, Charlie, came to visit. Charlie is studying in Copenhagen for the semester, and he managed to come by for a weekend in London. We did the usual tourist stuff, but the highlight for me was going to the Arsenal v Aston Villa match with him, my friend Hamish, and Hamish’s friend Will from home. Arsenal won 2-1 thanks to a late winner (made all the sweeter since Hamish is a Villa fan) and it was overall a great day in London. Thankfully, I’m going to visit Charlie in Copenhagen later this week!
Once term came to an end in late March, we began our five-week Easter break. Five weeks is a lot of time, so I planned a couple of trips around Europe to fill some time. Those all start in the second week of break, though, because for the first week my friend David from Olaf came to visit! He originally had planned on visiting our mutual friend Zach (who went to high school with David and was at LSE first semester) and myself, but Zach actually took an internship in D.C. second semester so he didn’t return to LSE. However, our friend Mac, who is studying at Trinity in Dublin, came for a few days! The three of us managed to do all the touristy things we could imagine, including a few things I hadn’t gotten to do with my other visiting friends, like tour St. Paul’s Cathedral and go to the Science and Natural History museums. We also managed to go to an Arsenal NextGen Series U19 game against CSKA Moscow at the Emirates, which the Arsenal youth team won 1-0. The stadium only had 6,000 fans, but the highlight of the game was definitely watching my friend Jon, a Tottenham fan, have to stand up during the “If you hate Tottenham, stand up!” song. David and I also got to go to the Arsenal v Reading 4-1 win that following Saturday, capping off a great week. The highlight of week for me was definitely the food, though. Even though I had been in London for so long, I had never really explored the food scene enough; thankfully, Mac is a serious foodie and looked up some incredible places to eat, including two Japanese noodle places, two incredible burger places (Patty and Bun was my favorite of the week), a burrito truck, and a toasted cheese sandwich in Borough Market, which was voted the best sandwich in all of London. That cheese sandwich definitely lived up to its billing. Borough Market was filled with delectable food stalls; I’m going again, no matter what. During this week we also were able to run into my friend Rebecca from Olaf and her friends from UW-Eau Claire, Sarah and Megan, who were all studying in Aberdeen. On top of meeting up for some meals, all six of us managed to go see Spamalot on the West End! I’m going to visit Rebecca in a few weeks, and it was nice showing them around London before having them show me around Aberdeen!
So that brings me to this week. For the next two weeks, I’m on a travel extravaganza where I’m basically visiting all of my friends who are studying in Europe right now. I’m currently visiting Mac in Dublin (oh my, the Guinness from the gravity bar is delicious), and later this week I fly out to Copenhagen to visit Charlie, where I’ll take a weekend trip to Oslo (to see Oyvind for the first time since Junior year!) and Stockholm. After that, I’m spending a weekend in Aberdeen with Rebecca, followed by a few days in London before going to visit Jon in his hometown of Plymouth. It’ll be a crazy few weeks, but I’m excited!
Classes and Exams
Of course, this five week break is supposed to be for revising, but don’t worry, I’m studying during my plane rides everywhere! Classes have been going well. I’ve been doing pretty well on my essays and the subject matter has been continuously interesting throughout the year. For my four classes, I’d say I’ve enjoyed my Government course on Politics and Institutions in Europe the most followed by my Social Policy course on Poverty and Social Exclusion. Foreign Policy Analysis and my two Math(s) modules haven’t been quite as fun, but they’re still okay.
I received my exam timetable a week or so ago, and boy is it spread out… I have finals on May 20, May 23, June 4, June 12, and June 17. A full month of exams. Yay. I guess this is what I wanted, though. I don’t have any awful back to back exams, and I have plenty of time to prepare, but it is pretty annoying that I finish on the 17th and fly home on the 20th, leaving me only a few final nights with my London friends before leaving them for who knows how long.
After that, I’ll be going back to Olaf to work admissions in the summer. I’m looking forward to it!
Anyways, this has been a long recap of my term at LSE, but hopefully it’s been an interesting read. I’ll try to blog again down the road, chronicling my traveling experiences and my exam month from hell…