Rejoice, spring has arrived! Melancholic winter has fled from our gardens and is now replaced by skirts, barbeque, and laughter. A group of friends and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to go visit Cambridge last Sunday, which is only an hour by train from London. Clouds were nowhere to be seen and temperature was already comfortably high when we arrived at 10 in the morning. I did not quite know what to expect as we walked towards the historic centre of the city, as I had deliberately decided not to research Cambridge on the Internet before going. In all my naïvity, I thought its historic centre would look similar to other historic centres in cities such as Bruges or Ghent. To my surprise, however, this was not the case at all, as Cambridge proved to be very different. Rather than being a city, Cambridge is a town that fully revolves around its well renowned university. The University of Cambridge ranks as one of best universities in the world, and has influential alumni ranging from 16-century-poet John Donne to mathematical genius Stephen Hawking. Founded in 1209, it is the third-oldest surviving university, behind the University of Bologna and the University of Oxford, Cambridge’s rival since the very beginning. Cambridge is an incredibly beautiful university town steeped in history.
in the rainy days of autumn
the wind whistles your name
underneath the umbrella of my thoughts.
stick to my mind
like a wet leaf on damp earth
brought by cold and dark
wonder why I still see you
underneath the stones of projects and ambitions.
London, capital of the United Kingdom and one of the leading cities of the world in fashion, finance, arts, and pretty much everything else you can think of. More than eight million people live in Greater London, with many more commuting into the city every day. How does London handle such human traffic? How easily can people move from one place to the other? Here are four ways of how people travel in London:
The London Underground, better known as the Tube, is a very popular means of transport. It is quick, easily accessible and very extensive, covering pretty much most of London. The picture below shows how massive London’s underground (and overground, which is the orange line) actually is. It might seem daunting at first, but it is in fact quite easy to understand and use. The stops itself are always well indicated above and below ground, with arrows pointing you in the right direction. All the while, you will enjoy being brainwashed by the happy-go-lucky colours of the new iPhone 5S, or will enjoy reading how much Frank Sinitra liked his Jack Daniel’s, or will get to know all about the latest movie of some director, a masterpiece of modern cinema art which you cannot miss. And even though the Tube is quite expensive, costing me some £20 a week for travelling in zone 1&2, I very much like it and use it multiple times a day. However, be careful of using the tube during rush hour, as popular stops get really packed with people. The more people, the hotter it gets as well, so unless you want to come out as a well-steamed or boiled broccoli, try to avoid rush hours.
How strange London would be without its double-decker buses. Throughout the years, the buses underwent quite a few changes and they look very modern now, although they have always retained their symbolic red. The buses are a symbol of the city and Londoners are quite proud of them. Although less easy than the Tube, it is not hard to figure out where a bus is going and how you can get to your destination. You can also use them with your Oyster Card (the card you use for the Tube) or with any metro ticket, which is quite convenient. However, because of traffic, the bus you’re in will probably stand still longer than it will be driving.
The Hackney carriage, or just taxi, is a quite expensive and not even quick way of transport in London. But you might take it because the metro is no longer open (it closes somewhere around 1AM), or because, for the girls, it looks kinda cute and typically English. And yes, absolutely everything has an ad smacked on it.
Arguably the least efficient way of moving around in London, although they are a very good way of showing off, if you would need that kind of satisfaction. And even though I’m not a car fanatic at all, I enjoy the cars in London.
There are less obvious ways of transport as well. If you’re brave enough to cycle your way through London, you have the Barclays bikes, or Boris bikes, because mayor Boris Johnson is said to use them regularly. I’ve also seen people skate-boarding and roller-skating towards their destination as well. To sum it up, there are many ways of moving from one place to the other, but I consider them all enjoyable, simply because London is such a fascinating city to travel in.
I’ve deliberately used a number in my title, because I learnt that a number is a particularly strong way of getting people to read your post. People like lists as well. If this post is a statistical success, I might use this technique more often (although I don’t really like it). Thank you for being part of my experiment.
Two summers ago, I did a summer school programme at the University of Exeter. For that, I had to take the TOEFL test, which tests your proficiency in English. I scored quite well on it, because I had been studying English in high school and in university and simply because the test wasn’t really difficult. A few weeks after the summer school, I was contacted by Hult, a prestigious and renowned business school with campuses all over the world. They asked me if I was interested in joining the London campus, which I obviously was. However, I had just finished my undergraduate in languages and was uncertain about my knowledge of business and economics, so I declined the offer and told Hult I would reconsider their offer next academic year. I went on to study a master in management, where I would graduate with distinction, and fully forgot about the offer.
Until my cellphone rang three weeks ago. I got asked the same question and pretty much jumped on the offer. Everything was set to study one last year in Belgium, but I saw this as an opportunity that would open up prospects unimaginable if I would stay in my home country. I could see an entirely new world opening up in front of me. However, I had to find a new tenant for my room, had to withdraw my fencing subscription, had to contact my Belgian university, had to ask the warranty back for the bike I had rented, and plenty more. All the while, I was working from nine to five, had to look for a hostel and a room in London, made up a financial plan and was going through Hult’s application procedure, which meant writing essays and being interviewed to see if I would actually fit the Hult profile, which I eventually did.
It was all so sudden it came as quite a shock to my parents. From one day to the other, I had completely given up on all the goals I had set for my academic year in Belgium and had decided to move to a very (very very very, according to my mother) expensive school in an entirely different country, so I could understand they had difficulty coping with the change. But I love to flip things over from time to time and I strongly believed, and still do, in the Hult potential.
The school is very expensive, especially compared to Belgium. And this year in Hult will not necessarily be harder than a year of business economics in Belgium would have been. But there will be much more opportunities for better jobs, many more influential people you will meet, much more possibility that you will lead a life other people would be jealous of (whether you would be happy yourself is a different thing). So in a way, you buy yourself into a better life and I struggle with this. I have always strongly believed, and still believe, in the human potential. Everyone can get wherever they want, as long as they fully put their mind to it. There is always a way, as long as you’re willing. But it seems society still leans somewhat towards the persons with capital, regardless of competence. Of course, those selected for Hult are very competent, but persons that might be more competent but lack the capital do not gain access. My belief in the strength of commitment and willpower is so strong that I want to remove the two previous sentences, but I won’t, since they are true. But I believe and sincerely hope society is changing. People with strong skills and abilities should be rewarded, while those without should not. I favour a strong meritocratic society, rather than one where money sticks to the corrupt, glued to those that do not add to society.
I bought myself into a higher society. However professional the school might be, however lovely the people here are, it feels corrupt and I am part of it. How can you justify such high entry fees for education? Society has to adjust its moral compass, and so should I.