Student Reports: Joseph Dorris, London, 2012
After finishing up a family vacation around Europe, I arrived at the Umi hotel around 11 o’clock on June 5. I could tell everyone else was suffering from jet lag, so I decided to explore the area around where we were staying. The cars, people, and atmosphere were very different from what I was accustomed to as I was having to adjust to being in a new country as well as being in a city of this magnitude for the first time. I realized that we were very close to the famous Hyde Park, which I had just watched on TV the night before. It had been filled with millions of people for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert celebrating 60 years on the throne. We had come to London at the perfect time. The Jubilee and the Olympics had the city filled with excitement and invigoration, and I could not wait to see everything it had to offer.
The next day we all met up with Dr. Berry and took the tube to our classroom for an introduction to the city. The program head gave us advice on the local culture and advised us to check out local markets to get a true taste of the town. He then took us to the bus stop to start our tour around the city. The bus went past St. Paul’s Cathedral and dropped us off next to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. From here, we got on a ferry that traveled along the River Thames to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We crossed the bridge to get a closer look at the London Eye. We finished the tour by getting on another bus and traveling back past Westminster towards our hotel. Dr. Berry ended our welcome day by treating us to one of the greatest meals I have ever had.
I woke up the next day with a quick jog around Hyde park which was much larger than I had realized. We had our first day of class. Afterward, some of us went to see the British Museum next to our classroom only to have the alarm go off after 10 minutes. I didn’t want to wait for the guards to allow us back in so I went off on my own to see a market and look for rain jacket, which I realized was going to be a necessity. This led me to Covent Garden where I got to see a street performer that climbed up a 10 foot ladder and juggled knives while bouncing in a circle.
After class on Friday, we met up with the other group of UT students in London at the Royal Institution. They were studying circuits, and this lab was once home to Michael Faraday himself as well as many other great scientists. We explored the lab with them for an hour before heading to the Science Museum to look for Turing’s exhibits. They had been taken down all over the museum because they were giving him his own section, which would be opening later in the month, so we decided we would have to come back later.
I devoted Saturday and Sunday almost completely to walking around the markets. I found 3 outdoor markets including Portobella Road, Brick Lane, and the Camdon Lock. There was culture and good food from all over the world at these markets, which spanned several blocks each. I knew this was going to be one of the highlights of the trip. On Saturday, I also took a tour of the Olympic Park. It was a great setup and I cannot wait to watch the Olympics now after seeing the facilities in person.
I saw a lot of London in the first week and plan to see much more. With the class already starting to become more difficult, I also hope the area may start providing insight into Turing’s history and thought process. So far, I am very glad I made the decision to study abroad.
London’s Olympic Park
After a week of settling in and sightseeing, we focused on class for most of the second week of the trip. With my little free time on Monday, I went to a pub to watch England play France in their first Euro 2012 game. I had never really been a soccer fan, but watching a game with these people was exhilarating. It was a whole new type of sports experience. Soccer is more filled with anticipation than American sports, so when England finally scored a goal, I was screaming with the best of them. Seeing this much enthusiasm in a sport renewed my excitement for the next season of Tennessee football. The culture was much different but the passion was the same.
Wednesday was our big trip to the set of Harry Potter. All of the props and sets were unreal to see in person. I learned many secrets to the movie that had been bugging me such as how Hagrid was so large and how they did the invisibility cloak. The highlight was definitely seeing the large model of Hogwarts that they used for all of the shots of the castle. It took up a huge room, and every detail down to the tiles on the roof was impeccable.
Large-scale model of Hogwarts school from the “Harry Potter” film series
We finished up talking about Turing machines on Thursday to be ready for our first conference on Turing. We traveled by train Friday morning to Cambridge. We did not get to see much while we were hurrying to the conference, but I could tell this was a very different community from London. Houses were still very close to each other, but they were much smaller. It became obvious it was a college town with the many clubs lining the streets.
This first conference that we attended was Alan Turing’s 100th birthday party at King’s College. At the conference, I heard lots of famous authors and mathematicians, such as Stephen Wolfram and the author of a number one bestseller in Britain. We ate birthday cake shaped like a Turing machine. The second day we heard from a codebreaker from Bletchely as well as a talk on Turing’s work with morphogenesis. I was the youngest one at the conference, and it was quite a privilege to hear from all of these influential people honoring Turing’s memory.
Cake to celebrate Alan Turing’s birthday, shaped like a Turing machine
After the conference, I got a free day on Sunday where I went around the community fair. The fair was a great place to learn about rural English culture. They had dog shows, mini-horse shows, and any other animal show imaginable. I was able to watch an armor and sword fight demonstration. They were all selling hand-made foods like 18-month old aged cheese. Children were milking goats on stage. I loved it.
Sword fight at the county fair
The next conference began on Monday, This conference involved talks on quantum mechanics, randomness, morphology. It was far more in-depth, and I was completely lost for many of the discussions. The talks took up most of the days for the whole next week so we did not have a huge amount of free time, but I was able to watch some more soccer and see the set ups for their May Ball festivities. These were huge celebrations for each college’s end of semester and they were amazing to see. The goal for each student was to “survive” until the next morning when they would all punt down the river and go have breakfast. This tradition really needs to come to Knoxville.
It was great to see the Cambridge atmosphere and realize that their college is just like ours. They also ended up at a cheap fast food place at 2 AM. They played sports on open fields. One thing that I really liked at Cambridge was that their colleges/departments within the university acted more as separate entities. They could have rivalries within the university as well as outside. It was a great school, and I could see why it is one of the top in the world.
Turing’s bombe code-breaking machine
That next Saturday we traveled to Bletchley Park where they had things set up for Turing. They were running a Turing Test and demonstrated his bombe that was used to break German Enigma code. I was able to see his actual office and many other areas that were huge in helping to break the code and eventually win the war. It was a great way to sum up our talks on Turing.
We got back to London, and some of us made the trip to Thorpe Park. It was one of the top amusement parks in Europe, and I had to see how it compared to Cedar Point. They had some unique rides like a Saw rollercoaster with a 100 degree drop above a giant sawblade and the Swarm, which had you going dangerously close to many obstacles. The rides were not very tall but they did have one that went from 0 to 80 miles per hour in like 3 seconds that made the trip worthwhile.
Students gathered at Thorpe Park
In the last two days we wrapped up the course and prepared to travel home. We saw “The Taming of the Shrew” in the Globe Theater on Monday, and I took a trip to see Wimbledon on Tuesday but could not get in with the four hour wait time. We had a farewell dinner at St. John’s, number 2 on Anthony Bourdain’s 13 places to eat before you die. After talking about it all trip, the veal and oyster pie definitely lived up to the expectations. That last night we went over to Tower Bridge and looked at city’s lights. I was going to miss London.
London’s Tower Bridge at night