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Teen Ink London Writing Program

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When I told my friends I was going to London, England for two weeks over summer break they were jealous. When I told them I was going to an all girls intensive writing program which entailed classes, homework and assignments I got a lot of quizzical looks. Their doubt did not faze me. After all, I would be with other girls who enjoyed writing as much as I did. In the morning I would be learning from the acclaimed playwright Diane Samuels, short fiction writer Caeli Widger and listening to a variety of guest speakers. During the afternoon and night we would explore the city, see plays, countless museums and most importantly, find inspiring places to write. I was definitely excited but also nervous. I was so wound up, that I did not sleep on the long drive with my parents from my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin to O’Hare Airport, nor on the plane to JFK or even on the transatlantic flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. Upon arrival at the dorms where we would be staying, I was as they say, dead on my feet.
The program leaders did not want to waste any time so as soon as we unpacked we were swept onto a double-decker bus for a tour of the city. It was raining steadily as we zipped past Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and other London landmarks. I was most interested in the English people on the street, who were in their national costume of rain gear and umbrellas. After the bus came to a jerky stop and let us out, we embarked on a cruise of the Thames. My memory is rather blurry at this point, probably resulting from 48 hours of not sleeping or the undercooked English breakfast I had eaten earlier churning in my stomach.
Thankfully, for the rest of the trip we used a much smoother form of transportation. The London Underground (colloquially dubbed “the tube”) hurtles you through dark, concrete tunnels at catastrophic speeds. It’s efficient and cheap, but also hot and crowded. It was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, and although most of the lines have been updated with escalators, some older stations require walking up torturously long flights of stairs. Besides connecting the many lines of the underground, the serpentine tunnels of the London Underground also double as a venue for some of London’s not-so-talented musicians who run the gamut of genres from jazz trumpet to opera.
The Tate Modern Museum was one of my favorite parts because it is magical. Seriously,things which are not art in the real world are transformed into priceless wonders. An open can of pork and beans in a glass case is art! So is a dusty old sofa! One exhibit showed a wild film of men and women dancing in fur underwear. My friend and I started laughing hysterically. Some French tourists who were watching the film intently looked at us in disgust and walked away. Apparently, we cannot appreciate great art. My favorite part of the whole trip was our visit to the British Museum. Although we spent hours there, we only got through a few exhibits. It is safe to say that every great culture in the world is represented in the expansive collection of the British Museum.
At the Tower London, visitors are greeted by a gang of angrily squawking ravens who hop around in lieu of flying. The ravens have their wings clipped which disables them to the point that they cannot fly. I felt sorry for the birds until I realized they are the much famed Tower Ravens. Legend has it that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, the monarchy as well as the entire Kingdom of Britain will fall. The Tower Ravens are under the care of the doting Ravenmaster, whose duty it is to feed each raven a rabbit on their birthday and make sure all eight ravens are happy and healthy.
My last day in London was overwhelming. The experience had been so monumental and I was just beginning to process it all. I befriended dozens of girls from all over the US and Canada, had my work critiqued by professionals, witnessed several terrorism scares and learned about the world first hand. I have gained invaluable insight and confidence from my first experience abroad. I would recommend the Teen Ink London Writing Program for any girl interested in exploring an amazing city and themselves.





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