Semester Abroad

London City Escapes

January 28, 2020
By Madison Jones, SEAS '21

Semester Abroad
Queen Mary, University of London

It may seem counterintuitive, but the secret to escaping the hustle and bustle of London is to go right to the heart of the city. There lies Hyde Park. I would argue that a walk through Hyde Park on any given morning offers a more accurate representation of life in London than any tourist attraction. For starters, there are the morning joggers, the weekly soccer matches, and the most beautiful dogs. Nature lovers will appreciate the dozens of bird species and meticulously laid out gardens. Finally, there is a café on the very edge, near Hyde Park Corner, that has some of the best scones in the city.

In total there are eight Royal Parks in London, made up of land originally owned by the royal family for recreational purposes. Each park carries its own unique history, and I made it my mission to visit each one during my time abroad. So, when asked about my favorite places to visit in London, I typically offer the following summary:

  • Regent’s Park: Located in north London, this park contains Queen Mary’s Gardens with over 85 different varieties of roses. On weekends you can catch locals playing soccer, cricket, and rugby. At the top of the park you can climb Primrose Hill for a free view of the city’s skyline.
  • Greenwich Park: At Greenwich Park you can visit the Royal Observatory and stand on either side of The Prime Meridian Line. If you walk deep enough into the park there is a deer enclosure featuring both Red and Fallow deer.
  • St. James’s Park: Overrun with tourists. To be avoided at all costs.

Beyond the aesthetics and history, the time that I spent exploring all of these parks was important to my semester abroad because it compelled me to slow down and really appreciate my experience. The months you spend abroad can fly by in an instant; therefore, it’s important to occasionally hit pause and reflect. Whether it be reading a good book, journaling, or simply people-watching, these green spaces gave me an opportunity to temporarily remove myself from the fast-paced environment of the city and university. Additionally, visiting every Royal Park was an objective that I set for myself and executed on my own, which helped me to grow and become more independent. Setting a goal and achieving it is an amazing feeling, and along the way I got to explore corners of the city that I might have missed otherwise.


The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.