After a great first week in Cambridge, our students and mentors packed onto a coach for a day-trip to London. For almost half of our participants, this was their first time in Britain’s capital, but even for seasoned Londoners like Pratishta and Chris, it was to be a memorable expedition.
At the crack of dawn, sixty fresh-faced students clambered onto a coach after a sturdy English breakfast, and kept themselves occupied with books and games for the two-hour drive. On their way into the city, they peered out at sights like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England, and were dropped off at Embankment station for a walking tour. For almost two hours, our pupils wandered the streets of Westminster and Whitehall, gawping at some of Britain’s most impressive architecture: the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace. One or two of our number took a break from petting the huge horses of Her Majesty’s guards to tell me that the extra-curricular side to Cambridge Immerse had inspired them academically: surrounded by such grandeur, they wanted to become architects.
Then it was up and off to Hyde Park Corner for a rest. From there, the avid consumers among us set out for an excursion to Selfridges and the British Museum, and the rest headed to South Kensington’s museum district. Walking through the streets of London on a sunny summer’s day was the perfect way to show off the beauty of the capital, and some of us were lucky enough to do rather a lot of walking indeed, as we allowed a participant who lived in the area to lead us to a very ‘nearby’ spot for lunch. After nearly an hour of trekking through some of the richest real-estate in London, taking in the Royal Albert Hall, Knightsbridge and Gloucester Road, we finally arrived at Nando’s, that much-sought-after oasis of culinary mediocrity in a barren desert of fine restaurants and haute cuisine. Devouring their lunch after a morning on their feet, one or two of our number took a break from their meals to tell me that the extra-curricular side to Cambridge Immerse had inspired them: surrounded by mountains of dark bones licked clean by hungry teenagers, they wanted to become chefs.
After an edifying stroll through the museums of Natural History and Science and the Victoria and Albert museum of art and design, we all headed back to Park Lane, where our coach was waiting to take us out of the bustle of the big smoke and back to the comparative tranquillity of Cambridge. Participants chatted about the sights they had seen and compared purchases until we drew up to the Great Gate of Christ’s College, the grand 16th-century entrance to our temporary home. Ducking under its wizened wooden beams into a six-hundred-year-old home of learning and youthful fun, any ambitions to design royal palaces or spicy chicken dishes were put off for the time being: most of us were just looking forward to the week ahead, with tutorials, sports days and a talent show to come.