I See London … (Or, How I Spent My Summer) | By Jasmine Maharisi
I measure my self-worth by the number of miles I’ve traveled. Late last year I signed up for my university’s annual London trip, a short study abroad experience that allowed communication students to explore another first world country and its media industries. The tuition for the trip was relatively cheap, in comparison to third-party study abroad programs, and I had plenty of time in advance to make the proper financial and work arrangements. It was perfect for a student who has her plate loaded with a full-time school schedule, a part-time job and freelance writing on the side. Not to mention my several extracurricular activities and an internship.
And there was a lot of preparation that went into this trip, and times that I wasn’t sure how I’d accomplish all I needed to do before my departure from Omaha’s Eppley Airport. But I did somehow, and arrived in London on May 9, 2010.
It didn’t hit me that I was in London until the third day when our group took the tube down to Trafalgar Square and I saw the quintessential English metropolitan that I envisioned: bustling, noisy, with signs for theatre tickets everywhere. And the National Gallery. Oh, how I’ll never forget the National Gallery! To walk among the several masterpieces in the museum must be what a trip to the holy land feels like: overwhelming yet peaceful, invigorating and above all, awe-inspiring. I saw Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” as well as “A Wheatfield with Cypresses.” Diego Velasquez was there, too, and Rubens and Elizabeth Sirani. “Portia Wounding Her Thigh,” one of my absolute favorite pieces, was there and when I saw Vigee’s self-portrait, I had to sit down I was so struck by its beauty. All of the great works I’ve studied were at the gallery, it seemed, and they were the real thing, the same canvas the artists had worked on. It was an indescribable moment and perhaps I’m trying in vain to convey my feelings through words.
Art is a transparent phenomenon as it absorbs and is magnified by its surroundings. That’s why curators spend an immense amount of time coordinating an exhibit; balancing out intense work with a simple, minimal environment while complimenting softer work with bold setups. As a tourist, and as someone who had recently walked and observed the streets of London upon entering the gallery, I associated the entire city as the gallery. In other words, the exhibits weren’t inside a four-walled structure, they were folded within an international locale with such wealth of character and history that it almost overwhelms this New World-er.
History. Is that what makes London so enchanting?
As I go through my travel photos and arrange them for my scrapbook project, I begin to have the insight that only distance—and a bit of nostalgia—can yield. I see a city that not only has an abundance of history, but a culture that refuses to sever ties with its past. There’s no regret in England. There’s not an apologetically meek smile to cultures or persons done wrong. We’re the epitome of human civilization, London seems to say, and it took a lot of mistakes to build enough character to become this charming.
About Jasmine Maharisi
Jasmine Maharisi is a journalist, writer, and artist whose work has been featured in a variety of publications. She has received several awards including, most recently, the 2009 Best Nonfiction–Travel Writing award from the Preservation Foundation. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and writes for independent, alternative publications including The Reader, El Perico, and Neighborhood News.
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