Honors biophysics student Mathias Bellaiche is spending the 2012-2013 year studying abroad as a Libby Finch scholar at Cambridge University, in Cambridge, England.
February 18, 2013
Last week marked the exact middle of my stay here in the UK – I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by! This past month has been so busy but I finally made it out of Cambridge to visit around.
One week, physics practical (the eight hour bane of my existence spread over Friday and Monday afternoons) was cancelled, so I decided to celebrate my freedom by taking a weekend trip to Luxembourg to meet one of my friends from the U of A, Jessie Hargis, who is currently studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh. I left Friday morning and made my way to London Gatwick airport (don’t be fooled as I was when ordering tickets; London Gatwick is nowhere near London, so I got the full experience of the English railway system), where I got on a worrisomely cheap flight and before I knew it I was in Luxembourg. The city was beautiful and steeped in so much history, and it was great to experience a different European culture. The country has a mix of French and German influences, and everyone there pretty much speaks four languages (French, German, Luxembourgish and English). It was great to use my French, and the food was so yummy! On Saturday morning we walked around the markets in the city centre and then did a walking tour that guided us through the history of the city and took us from the bottom of the Pétrusse Valley (the valley that divides the city in two) to the Wenzel, a walk along the (very high up) ancient city wall that defended the city from invaders in the Middle Ages. Being ridiculously scared of heights, that was admittedly not my favourite part of the visit. The next day we visited the Luxembourg City History Museum, before heading back to the UK.
Then the next Sunday I met up in London with an exchange student at Girton from MIT to do the typical touristy activities. In order to get around, I had to take the Tube (the London metro system), which, given my absolute lack of a sense of direction, I’m very proud to have accomplished without getting hopelessly lost forever deep under the city. Anyway, we started off the day at the British Museum, which was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, we only had a couple of hours to spend there, so we had to race through the Top 10. We saw pieces from all periods of history and from all over the world! There were Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greco-Roman marble sculptures, Aztec artifacts, Sri Lankan Buddhas, Medieval weapons, Chinese jade, African contemporary art and so much more. I’ll definitely be going back there before my trip is over! My favourite was probably seeing the Rosetta Stone; it was amazing standing so close to the object that decoded the alphabet of the ancient Egyptians. After the museum, we walked to Covent Garden, which is one of the biggest markets in London. On our way there we stopped to get the quintessential British meal: fish and chips. The portions we got were unbelievably huge, but so so good. Then in an effort to fight off the food coma, we walked around the market and saw loads of awesome street performers and artisanal stalls. Then we had to say bye to London and head back to Cambridge, as there was a supper party with the Mistress of Girton that night.
In the rowing world, our crew had our first race last Saturday. Our valiant efforts proved ultimately fruitless though, and we lost to the Jesus college crew, which was to be expected as Jesusans are practically bred for rowing. It was still a wonderful day, as the weather was fantastic (i.e. we could see the sun) and it was a great break from the heavy course workload. Plus it gave us much needed practice for bumps next week!