Newly refurbished BYU London Centre fosters familial environment for students

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BYU’s London Centre opened its doors to students again after a year of extensive remodeling.

Since 1978, 27 Palace Court in London has served as a school and home to thousands of BYU students, faculty members and their families. The Victorian-era townhouse bore this burden well, but 35 years of hard living took its toll. So last spring, the London Centre’s doors closed and the extensive remodel began.

The BYU London Centre just opened after extensive renovations. Photo by Mark Philbrick.
The BYU London Centre recently reopened after extensive renovations. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

Even during the remodeling stages, when students lived in flats near Hyde Park, hundreds of students flocked to London to study and live in one of the most important historical and cultural cities in the world. But actually living and learning in the London Centre has special meaning to the students. Aside from BYU’s Jerusalem Centre for Near Eastern Studies, the London Centre is BYU’s only study abroad location where students and professors live together under the same roof.

Anna Thurston, a BYU graduate from Sandy who attended the London Centre in 2008, especially remembers mealtime with professors.

“The best part of the meals together in the London Centre was also the most terrifying. I think we all had the pleasure of showing up for a quick breakfast in our pajamas, only to have one of our professors come sit across from us as at the table,” Thurston said. “Despite that horrific sinking in my stomach, those moments became ones where my professors became real. We all learned to be comfortable around each other and to respect everyone in every setting. So, bed head during breakfast chats with your professor? Worth every moment.”

Students who participated in the London Study Abroad this spring had a unique opportunity to compare the experiences of life in London flats and life in the London Centre.

Rachel Stott, a dietetics major from Meridian, Idaho, remembers the two different experiences.

“Arriving in London we settled into the flats, and of course we were all very excited to be there. Unfortunately, the rooms were very spread apart and since hardly any of us had phones, it made it hard to coordinate plans with each other,” Stott said. “But after moving into the London Centre, the study abroad all of the sudden became more than a trip to explore London; it became an opportunity to make lifelong friends. Unlike the flats, the Centre was very homey, with eight or more students in each room, a dining room where we all ate together and a living room where we could all gather easily. I will always cherish the London Centre where some of my most unforgettable memories were made.”

One of Stott’s classmates in London, Chunie Johnson, also had similar feelings.

“Before going on the study abroad, people had told me that the London Centre is a magical place, and I just nodded my head in agreement. But it’s really something you … understand until you experience it; now I can say with confidence, it is a magical place. Not just because the building is absolutely beautiful — both inside and out — but also because of the spirit fostered there,” Johnson said. “I could feel the difference as we moved from the flats to the London Centre. The spirit the Centre hosts is one where people can grow individually and as a group. I didn’t feel like the Centre was a temporary home or a youth hostel; I felt like it was a community.”

BYU students on study abroad in London participate in activities together in the newly renovated London Centre.
BYU students on study abroad in London participate in activities together in the newly renovated London Centre. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

Now that the London Centre’s doors are open again — this time with a fully refurbished, 21st-century interior — BYU students in London can once again experience the special “community” atmosphere that has always made this study abroad so unique. As James Faulconer, director of the BYU London Centre, told the students in London this spring, the expensive decision to refurbish the London Centre was not made lightly — it was made for the extraordinary benefit to the students who live together there.

The familial setting the London Centre provides is an integral part of the London study abroad program; it has blessed the lives of BYU students for decades, and it will continue to bless the lives of BYU students for decades to come.

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