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London vs World

Jonny Chadwick (UCL English) says London is special for what it allows you to be.

Photograph Julian Anderson


There may be dementia wards all around the world, but there’s only one Mile End Hospital and, within its walls, only one Eunice. She is a skilled raconteur, and while there are occasional lapses in her grasp of the narrative, she manages to tell the story of her dastardly twin cousins stealing toffee apples from her grandmother in full, breaking off regularly to describe the physical environment of her childhood home with an almost Proustian flair for tangents.

Without the Befriending scheme run by the housing association, Hestia, I would never have met Eunice. The initiative pairs mental health patients with a volunteer who visits them weekly to provide company, support and offer a much-needed reprieve from their daily routine in the hospital.

And it’s just one of any number of opportunities that London provides for its students. It is not having a Starbucks within arm’s length or an infinite supply of pulled pork that makes this city special.

I find London the perfect place to study, not for what it allows you to have, but for what it allows you to be. Whatever your interest and personality, London has the opportunities you need to be fulfilled in whichever way you desire.

While the dementia ward is a scene that might inspire pity, there is rarely a sustained period of sombreness, with regular release from one of the patients demonstrating how they have maintained their lifelong sharp wit and intelligence. My weekly visits are incredibly rewarding in isolation, but also in giving me a greater understanding of my family members’ experience. As I rarely saw them in their later years, I was largely unaware of the condition that would define the later years of both my grandfathers.

I became interested in mental health during my break from studies in 2015, and it did not take me long to gain experience and knowledge in the area as soon as I returned to London. A quick look at UCL’s excellent volunteering service site and within 10 minutes I was applying to the befriending service; a matter of months down the line and I am now applying for a Master’s in mental health.

It is a quality unique to London: inspiring you to be interested in the world around you, then providing you with the opportunity to fulfil that interest entirely.

  • Contents 2016/17Contents 2016/17
  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • InboxInbox
  • Two new grand challengesTwo new grand challenges
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • UCL a “global university”UCL a “global university”
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Follow the CrowdFollow the Crowd
  • A Time to GiveA Time to Give
  • How to Build a BrainHow to Build a Brain
  • Next MachinaNext Machina
  • Social AnimalsSocial Animals
  • What Janani, Sarah and Adam did nextWhat Janani, Sarah and Adam did next
  • The power of philanthropyThe power of philanthropy
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
Portico Issue 3. 2016/17