My City, London

It has been only recently that I have come to really, truly love London—really love it.  Honestly, I am not quite sure why it took me so long—London is so easy to fall in love with.  The skyline, the river, even the indeterminable weather seem to be imbued with a mixture of English charm and busy, metropolitan life that you could never find anywhere else in the world, and I love it.  I love London.

I know the exact moment that I realized how much affection I had for this city because it was only a few days ago.  I had taken a friend’s advice and visited London’s National Portrait Gallery, the preeminent collection zone for all the paintings of old people you see in high school history books.  I was browsing through the Elizabethan section of the Gallery and stopped in front of a 1500’s portrait of Shakespeare—not your typical Shakespeare either, with the high, frilly collar and the vacant expression.  This Shakespeare was younger, rocking an earring and a drawstring shirt, looking for everything like a pirate who could bust a sick rhyme in iambic pentameter at any given moment.

I laughed out loud in the middle of the hallway, getting some weird stares from a couple of older gentlemen sketching in the corner—look at that girl, snorting at five-hundred-year-old works of art.  I did not care, though, because I had just been hit with the most bittersweet thought in the world: I am really going to miss it here.  Shakespeare would not be a five-hundred-year-old rebel with an earring back in Texas—just an old writer from someplace far, far away.

The day after I realized my love for London, a man drove a truck into the crowds on Westminster Bridge and killed four people.

I was getting ready to go out and meet a friend when I heard the news—armed assailant, possible terrorist connections.  My stomach dropped.  My heart broke a little.  Who could ever bring themselves to do something so horrible in any place, much less in a city so full of history and diversity and life?

But the Brits are masters of “carrying on”—they have been doing it for about a millennium—and the next day, London pulled itself back together, stronger than the hatred that had tried to tear it apart.  A couple days after the attack, the city held a candlelight vigil for the people who had been killed, and I was so proud of London for coming together, closer than it had been before, even after this tragedy.  The resiliency of the people of London has only made me love it here even more.

I cannot believe that my time here is already over halfway gone.  Although I am excited to get back to the States and see all my friends and family again, I know that I will hate to leave this amazing city.  I may not have been born in London, but I feel the city in my bones anyway, and I am glad that I will always have a home here on the other side of the Atlantic.

Chelsea Teague is a junior majoring in professional writing and rhetoric.

Travel Tips for Bears on a Budget

Image courtesy of

It goes without saying that studying abroad is an experience and a half by its very nature.  Immersing yourself in the culture, language, and food (which is my favorite part) of a foreign country is a fantastic way to spend the semester, no doubt about it.  However, what some potential study abroad-ers may not know is that spending five or six months living outside the US, particularly in Europe, presents a ton of opportunity for travel to even more foreign countries—even while taking classes, and even while on a budget.  To help you on your way, here are some helpful tips for becoming a jet-setting world traveler as a student in Europe:

  1. Understand your academic time commitment.

From my own experience in England, and from what I have heard from study abroad students living in other European countries, college across the Atlantic is a lot more hands-off than college in the States.  For example, students generally take fewer classes abroad than we do at Baylor (think three or four instead of five or six), and classes meet only one day a week.  Also, instead of dividing a student’s overall grade among several different assignments, class participation, and exams as is more common in America, final grades in most schools in Europe are determined primarily by one or two major assignments completed over the course of the semester.  Fewer class periods and less homework mean more time to plan trips to Italy!

  1. Use Skyscanner, or a similar flight comparison app.

(But really, just use Skyscanner.)

Skyscanner is a mobile app that compares the prices of airline tickets to popular destinations for whichever times you plan on travelling.  Its intuitive design makes it easy to use (even for technology failures like me), and I am convinced that you cannot beat the prices.  Using Skyscanner, I was able to fly to Ireland for around twenty dollars round-trip, and to Luxembourg for twenty-five!

  1. Stay in hostels while travelling.

I have to admit, I did not have a very high opinion of hostels before I started travelling around Europe, but really, most of them are absolutely terrific accommodation options for students on a budget.  Hostels are completely safe, often serve free breakfast, and typically cost around fifteen dollars a night per person for a dormitory-style room.  Or, if you would like a little bit more privacy, travel with a group of three or four and book a private room for just a bit more money.  Hostels are a fantastic resource for Bears abroad!

Using these tips, I have been able to see much more of Europe than I ever thought I would.  For anyone thinking of doing some travelling while they study, I hope this advice helps you to make the most of your semester abroad!

Chelsea Teague is a junior majoring in professional writing and rhetoric. 

Us and Them: Talking US Politics Across the Pond

Image courtesy of Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Before I left for the UK, I and everyone else getting set to adventure around the world were required, on pain of death, to attend a study abroad orientation. We learned things like how to be safe in foreign countries (“Just don’t walk around with your nose in your phone”), how to dress for the weather (“Texas is not normal—you will need a winter jacket”), and how generally to assimilate into our new home (“Just… don’t act so touristy”).

All of our study abroad advisor’s advice was invaluable, but there was one thing that he told us that, in my experience, has proven true over and over again.

“Especially now,” our advisor said, as I crammed my mouth full of free pizza, “people are going to ask you about politics. You may be the only American person some of these people ever meet, and you need to be prepared to answer them.”

Sure enough, in the six-odd weeks I have been on British soil, every single native I have ever had a conversation with has somehow found a way to bring up the election.  Some people are really clever about it—

“So how’s the weather in Texas?” a classmate asked me over coffee a couple weeks ago.

I tried and failed to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius in my head, and defaulted with, “It’s a lot warmer than here!”

The classmate laughed. “Oh, really?” he asked. “Not a frigid wasteland yet?”

I tried to think if I had ever heard anyone use the word frigid to describe east Texas before, and while I puzzled over it, he clarified, “You know. Because of the President.”

“Oh,” I said, clueing in. “Politics.”

After the initial broaching of the subject, all the conversations generally flow the same way.  What do you think of it all? Did you vote? What do you think he’ll do? What do you think he can do? And although no one says it—because nearly everyone in the UK is wary of the Trump administration—the main thought lying beneath this line of questioning is always how could you let this happen?

There is an obvious way to answer this question, and I am always tempted to let my frustration at current events get the better of me and to give the obvious answer. It would be so easy for me to shrug off my country, denounce nearly half the population who put their support behind President Trump and say, “Well, I didn’t vote for him. Ask them.” Classic Us-Them rhetorical device—easy and self-gratifying.

It is so easy to vilify people when we do not agree with them. Any six year old can tell you that the best color is blue and that anyone who thinks otherwise—green, maybe?—is just stupid. But I have spent a lot of time trying to convince the people I know that I am not a six year old, so I have to stop and think before I say anything else—Isn’t this divisive rhetoric the thing that I hate most about the Trump administration? Don’t I think that close-mindedness is the world’s most costly sin?  How hypocritical would it be for me to throw every right-leaning American I know under the bus, just to take the easy way out?

So when people ask me how I or anyone else in the United States could let any of this happen, I stop.  I think hard. And—because it would not feel right to do anything else—I try to understand.

There are some bad people who voted for Trump, I tell them. But everyone has a bottom line, I say. For some people, that bottom line is social equality. For others, maybe that line is abortion, or the economy, or the Supreme Court, or something else that, for those people, allows no compromise. Or maybe some people are unhappy with the way things are, I say. Maybe they really think that this new President can change things for the better.

I disagree, but if everyone agreed with me, we would burn every disgusting tomato crop to the ground, and then what would we dip our fries in?

I do not know what the future will bring, and I cannot know if anything I say about politics or America or anything else actually sways the people here who ask me about those things. What I do know, though, is that defending these people that I disagree with—trying to understand them—is a good thing. I know that America needs my understanding more than it needs my anger, and—above anything else—I know that we are stronger together than we are divided.

Chelsea Teague is a junior majoring in professional writing and rhetoric.