If it were up to me, I would spend my seven weeks in London sightseeing, visiting museums, sampling cafés, walking along the Thames…unfortunately for myself and for every other student in a foreign country, at some point you have sit down, open your laptop and notebooks, and…study.
As tempting as it is to spend every waking minute discovering London and other parts of England, taking two classes – International Marketing and UK Media & Politics – does require time and attention. During the beginning of my program, studying mostly entailed reading, which was something I could easily do in my “dorm” room, study lounge, or at the IES Abroad Center in Bloomsbury. But as final papers and exams are approaching, I find myself facing the question: where should I study?
I’ve always been more inspired to study if I’m in the right environment, and I find it hard to concentrate in a crowded study room or my dorm room. At Indiana University, my go-to places are Wells Library, Willkie Library, and Franklin Hall, but finding a convenient study area in London is much more difficult than around campus. Excluding where I live, my studying options are public libraries and cafés. Many of these places are loud and filled with tourists, so I’ve had to pick and choose carefully and hope for the best.
My second week, I started someplace close to where I live that happens to be one of the most obvious studying options in London: the British Library. To my disappointment, it was over-crowded and uninspiring. Over the next weeks, the cafés I’ve gone to study at have been hit or miss – Daunt Bookshop and the Monocle Café were small and wonderfully quiet, the London Review Cakeshop in Bloomsbury was perfect for reading, however the Camera Museum and Syrup of Soot fell a little short on ambiance. Studying at Pret a Manger, the London equivalent of Starbucks, has been convenient now and then, but hasn’t given me the kind of inspiration a traditional library would.
After a little Internet research, I decided to check out the Bishopsgate Institute, a free library just by Liverpool Street Station. Five stops on the Hammersmith & City line to Liverpool Street and a short walk later, I was there. I was pleasantly surprised by the Bishopsgate – I was met with dark-wood paneling, cabinets and cabinets of books, and almost complete silence. Needless to say, I was able to work on a paper without distraction or feeling crowded.
As the end of my time in London grows nearer, I’ll hopefully make it back to the Bishopsgate Institute a few more times; sometimes a little searching goes a long way in finding the perfect place to study.