Side travel – where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and done

Joe Murphy
The International Core Curriculum London
Summer 2016


Going overseas to study is a fantastic opportunity, both to study and do a bit of travelling on the side. While many people I know took the opportunity to explore the rest of England, the rest of the British Isles or even the rest of Europe, I took the opportunity to visit another famous educational institution that rivals ACU in its excellence, Hogwarts.


Or at least the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, the home of the Harry Potter films.


I’m yet to meet anyone my age, or anyone older or younger really, who isn’t a fan of Harry Potter and the broader Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My friends and I are no different, and as soon as it was confirmed that we were accepted into the UNCC London trip, we booked our tickets for Hogwarts, ready to head off to learn spells and magic, even if of the movie making kind.


At the pre-departure seminars, as others proudly explained their travel plans across Europe and the United Kingdom, I was proudly able to say that the place I was most looking forward to was a film studio in Watford, on the outskirts of London. Visiting different countries to experience a different culture is an exciting adventure, but I was much more looking forward to being a muggle experiencing the culture of Wizarding Britain.


On our first full free day in London, we set off for Watford Junction on the train. Sadly, it didn’t leave from Kings Cross and was not the Hogwarts Express, which I fell is an opportunity which has been entirely missed. From Watford Junction, we caught the shuttle bus to the Studio, which unfortunately is not the Knight Bus, which is another missed opportunity.


From the outside, the studio isn’t all that exciting, a regular movie lot looking like sheds, the only clues to it housing the sets of one of the most incredible movie series ever being the full-sized wizard chess pieces out the front; the name above the doors, dwarfed by the enormity of the studios themselves; and the hundreds of excited Harry Potter fans rushing in to collect their tickets.


There’s really only one word to describe the tour, and that word is magical. Walking through parts of a fantasy location for oneself is incredible. There is so much detail in all of the sets, props and costumes that are barley noticeable in the films, yet adds to much depth to the world. I don’t really want to spoil the tour itself beyond saying it is absolutely incredible, and that anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter should go if they are given the opportunity. Yes that includes you, because of course you are a fan of Harry Potter.


I spent several hours walking through all the various set pieces and examining costumes and props up close, and could have easily spent several hours more. The amount of care put into the movies by everyone involved from set designers to prop makers to costume designers is incredible. It really needs to be seen up close to be fully appreciated.


The beginning of our tour was sadly marked by the passing of Alan Rickman, the news of which broke as we joined the queue to enter. Being able to go through and appreciate his work up close was a great way to remember just a slight sample of the amazing work he had done as an actor.


While Hogwarts and the rest of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour may not be the large scale trip that other ACU students choose to go on while completing their overseas study, it was the one thing I was most excited about (apart from riding the tube, but that’s another thing completely). I would recommend it to anyone who is remotely interesting in Harry Potter, and I would definitely recommend any and all ACU students studying overseas to visit the sites they are interesting in and are passionate about, and not merely the ones which are known for being tourist spots. Though generally those are incredible too.