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What My Post-War British Pop Culture Course Taught Me

Jul 2, 2018 1:30:00 PM / by Irene Kanthan

Alice Ding

Alice is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Computer Science and Marketing major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in London this semester.

In this week's post, Alice tells us about her summer course on Post-War British Pop Culture and the different subcultures she has explored through this class in London.

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Upon receiving my schedule for CAPA, I was surprised at the timings of my classes. Here, I only have classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays; that’s twelve days of classes for the entire course of the program. I’d have five weekends. Compared to American school schedules, it truly seemed like a dream like true, but maybe only on the surface level. Imagine having a class that runs from 8:30am - 4:00pm every Wednesday and then a class right after that from 4:20pm - 7:50pm. Yup. Almost 12 hours of class straight. Part of me dreaded this. Wednesdays were going to be crazy for me. A seven-hour class? No way I’d survive.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Summer2018_From Alice Ding - Street Art in Shoreditch on our Walking Tour
Our first class: street art in Shoreditch where we did a walking tour to see several pieces of work.

After the first day though, I realized that this would probably one of my favorite courses I’d ever take, abroad or otherwise. Despite its length, the time flies by.

Post-War British Pop Culture

When choosing courses, I knew I could take a “fun” class and after reading each description, this one sounded the most interesting. Each block is a little more than 7 hours with the morning consisting of a lecture, exploring a different subculture of London from the 19th century, and the afternoon has us going out into London to see something related to what we’ve learned.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Summer2018_From Alice Ding - At Abbey Road During a Class on The BeatlesUs at Abbey Road during a class trip related to The Beatles!

We’ve learned about the hipsters, the rockers, the teddy boys, the mods, the ravers, and more. Each group represents a different era of London and shows how the U.K. was slowly shaped into what it is today. We spend the lecture discussing and watching videos related to each subculture while field component of the class keeps things interesting as we actually get to go out and explore the city.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Summer2018_From Alice Ding - Remainders of One of Brighton's PiersThe remainders of one of Brighton's piers along with a restaurant area where beachgoers can eat.

Our class doesn’t only touch upon London though, the highlight of our semester definitely being the trip to Brighton. We got a walking tour of the city, saw a spot where a movie we watched in class was filmed, and had the opportunity to eat fish & chips right by the sea.

I look forward to this class every week. The opportunity of exploring the city with our knowledgeable and insightful professor, Richard McGuire, is an experience that only he can provide for us. He’s knowledgeable about not only the background of each subculture but can attest to being in one, having participated in ‘rave’ during the 1980s.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Summer2018_From Alice Ding - Ben Wilson the Chewing Gum Man ArtistAfter discussing street artists during our first class, I managed to find one of the people talked about in person!
Ben Wilson, known as the Chewing Gum Man, paints on dried gum on streets everywhere,
but is often spotted on Millennium Bridge which is where I found him.

This class has helped me view London in a different light than your average study abroad student. You truly get to see the city through another lens when given the backdrop with how history has played out and generates questions that make you truly think about the city.

Is the Cereal Killer Cafe, one of London’s restaurant attractions, actually a symbol for gentrification? Are the closings of many of the sex shops and gay bars in Soho a positive or negative sign of change and how does it affect the LGBTQ+ community? Is the street art in Shoreditch something that should be conserved or covered up? How is gentrification not only affecting the city of London, but my own university city of Boston?

Thanks Alice!

Alice's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England, Academics Abroad, Classes in London