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By Alexandra White, Mass Communication Graduate Student
The following article is one of three posts written for Dr. Rao’s International Communication class during the students’ study abroad trip to Europe:
Taking the tube everywhere was the biggest and most interesting cultural experience I had while studying abroad. I’ve never been anywhere in the United States where public transportation was as integral to society as it is in London especially. David, our tour guide, told us that the tube is as fast, if not faster than any other form of getting around. Everywhere we went that was more than a few blocks away was via the underground train. The sheer percentage of the population that utilizes the tube isn’t the most interesting thing, however. Every class of people was standing shoulder to shoulder packed on the same trains. It truly felt like whenever you were heading underground to wait for those trains, the feeling of rich and poor was less apparent. No matter what you had, where you come from, or where you’re going, everyone is sitting in the same seats and holding onto the same poles to avoid getting caught off balance. Another effect of the underground system actually occurs on the sidewalks above. One of the most charming aspects of London is the beauty of the preserved buildings and strict building codes. Another thing that adds to that is the lack of crowded streets unlike New York City where there’s a sea of people everywhere you go.
Speaking of the cultural experience I had taking the tube in general, the people who I interacted were an integral part of it. I talked to people of all different races, ages, backgrounds, careers and religions, and nobody necessarily stood out. I believe the diversity of London is a cultural highlight in itself. We often speak of the diversity of America, but there is no comparison when I compare it to what is seen walking down any city street. All in all, I think I chose the tube to talk about because it was such a relevant part of London life and its existence has a domino effect on society and how people treat others there in a very positive way, in my opinion. To me, the tube is the equalizer, the common ground, and the reminder that we were all just trying to get some place important to us, and I got a good sense of that from others as well.