My Semester in London – Politics, Rainy Days and Sunny Times

This week, Ambassador Mollie writes about her experience abroad last semester participating in the Hansard Scholars Program in London.

By Mollie Cramer ’20, Government and Biology major, Public Policy minor

My name is Mollie Cramer. I am a junior government major and biology minor. I studied abroad in London for my junior spring. I participated in the Hansard Scholars Program. This program consists of two classes taken in association with the London School of Economics, an internship in Parliament, and a dissertation. Here is my experience:

MY TIME IN LONDON

I was completely terrified when I first arrived in London. I was leaving the comfort of my home, the comfort of my friends and family, and the comfort of my everyday routine. But, comfort is definitely the enemy of progress. I am the type of person to keep pushing myself, so I wanted to do this competitive abroad program. I missed Cornell and my friends a lot while I was away, but I was definitely happy to miss the Ithaca snow. 

I made an amazing group of friends while I was abroad from all across the US. Our flat was in a great location near Waterloo station and Westminster Palace. Every weekend we tried to explore a different area of London: Kensington Gardens, Shoreditch, Camden Market, Oxford Street, Soho, and The British Museum. We used my new favorite public transportation system, the tube, to get around everywhere!

My program friends and me at Edinburgh Castle

TRAVELING

List of places I visited while abroad:

  • Cardiff, Wales
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Barcelona, Spain 
  • Dover, England
  • Lisbon, Portugal

Amsterdam is blessed with Stoop Waffles on every corner. At the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam, I saw paintings by Mondrian and Kandinsky. These were two prominent artists that I studied in an art history class I took at Cornell last semester. It was very exciting to see paintings in person that I had studied in class. 

In Copenhagen, I visited my friend CC. We went to Tivoli, which is a huge amusement park in the center of the city. We also went to Nyhavn, which is a beautiful canal area. I visited my favorite castle in Copenhagen, one of many during my time abroad, called Rosenborg Castle. 

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmar   /  On the White Cliffs of Dover!

My friends Leah, Alexandra, and me at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

My favorite place I visited was Lisbon, Portugal. Their signature pastry is the Patel de Nata, an egg tart, and I had about a million of them while I was there. In Portugal, we also visited Sintra to see the Pena Palace. It was a beautiful yellow and purple castle on a mountain overlooking the countryside. 

My friends Elise, Kate, CC, and me at Praca do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal

COURSEWORK

The two classes I took in association with LSE were Parliament & Politics and Politics & Public Policy. My program also hosted some really amazing guest lectures. My dissertation topic was focused on comparing the UK’s NHS system and the US’ privatized system through the lens of their opioid crises. My dissertation explored why the US opioid crisis has risen at such a higher rate than in the UK due to pharmaceutical company influence, direct-to-consumer advertising policy, doctor shopping, and variations in medical culture. I had a great opportunity to dive into a subject I really care about and engage with a government-run universal healthcare system. 

INTERNSHIP

My internship placement was with Luke Pollard, a Member of Parliament in the Labour Party. On my first day at Parliament, my MP and I had tea. I felt like I was walking around with a celebrity. On the first day I created a promotional video for him on funding the Dawlish trainline in his district. Some of my main duties for my MP was to write speeches, press releases, website stories, and social media content. This was great because I love writing. The writing style required for speeches is very different than my news style for the Cornell Daily Sun. I really enjoyed researching special education policy, small business closures, fishing policies, and healthcare services.

I was working for Parliament during the most turbulent time in modern British history. During my internship, some Conservative and Labour MPs left their parties citing antisemitism and bullying. Frustration with Brexit consumed the country. Everyday there would be a new vote or announcement from the Prime Minister. My program friends and I would stay after work to watch the votes and talk about Brexit developments at home. As a political nerd, I was happy to be observing and surrounded by so much passion and thought-provoking debates. I developed my own political opinions on Brexit and will continue to follow the UK news from America.

My office at Parliament

Parliament at Westminster Palace – my office!

FINAL REFLECTIONS

I have come to believe that abroad is not just about being abroad. My experience was extremely influenced by the program that I chose. I had an amazing working and study experience at a politically vibrant time in British history. I have a very diverse group of friends at Cornell, but it was nice to be surrounded constantly by politically-active people while I was abroad. I am very excited to be back at Cornell in the fall and I am bringing back a reinvigorated love for politics and travel.