Spring Break in London

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in a Spring Break trip to London through Knowlton, and its required class ARCH 5798. We visited many places on the trip that were known for not just their architectural features, but their cultural significance like St. Paul’s Cathedral. We also explored sketching as a part of both the class and trip.

I experienced a new city fitting into an old layout. London despite being almost 2000 years old, has grown and adapted to the modern world. Like London, in order to thrive, one needs to adapt with the times. Not everything needs to stay the same, cities and people can improve themselves over time.

The streets were difficult to navigate as the city layout seemed to not have changed in decades, if not centuries in some places. Yet, there were so many construction cranes building new skyscrapers in multiple areas. The tube connected the city well, making it easy to get from place to place on our trip. In  one moment you could be looking at a building centuries old, and another moment you could be looking at a shiny new skyscraper.

The change is also present in other areas such as government. Despite having a much smaller population than the United States, their representative body of government has several hundred more members. On my last day in London, I took a tour of Parliament and I learned more about the United Kingdom’s government. According to my tour guide, the UK government tended to have more aspects of it that were not as “political” as their American counterparts. While it has taken centuries for the UK to move away from hereditary requirements in places like the House of Lords, their current system seems to be more inclusive to different political parties, and therefore ideas.

American politics leave out any party besides the Republican and Democratic parties, especially on the national level. While voting with the party is more expected in the UK than in the US, party loyalty on most issues still seems to be required in Congress. It just makes me think how could the US be different if there were three or more major parties. Would laws passed represent more of the people’s wishes, or would there be too much gridlock, creating inaction in the government?

I think experiencing a different culture or country is valuable in that it can help us think more critically about our own. As our country seems to be getting more split between left and right, Democrat and Republican, an alternative might seem more intriguing. It is important to vote for people that best represent you, but difficult when there are only two choices, vying for opposite ends of a spectrum.

The political landscape that we are currently in is changing, and it will be the voters of tomorrow that will decide how. We are seeing some relapse of old, dangerous ideas that have led to terrible violence based on hatred, yet also a renewed commitment towards a welcoming, inclusive society to counteract this. As a voter and someone with interest in being an elected official, we want elected officials to fix “new” problems that are popping up, which call for “new” solutions. I say “new” because in many cases the problems are not actually new, or only newly addressed in the United States.

So why is this significant to me? It is significant to me because I could potentially be in a situation in the future where I may need to come up with a solution for one of these problems. Being able to take a step back, expand the box of possibilities, can help with crafting a solution. Before I went to London, I had this view, but by visiting London I was able to experience first hand how a different country with a different system of government. The main point I am trying to make is that maybe we can borrow parts of different governments to make our government more representative of the people that live here, which would hopefully help solve our problems and future problems in ways demand by our voices as a whole rather than a political party that does not identify with all the people.


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