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Mastering London

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Hola, my name is Beatrice Baumberger Altirriba and I am a MSc student at the Hashemi Lab at Imperial College. I am from Barcelona, but I studied in Boston and am now pursuing my MSc in London. As you can see, I like exploring new cities. So much so, that even though I love spending time with my family, I believe in the huge enrichment of discovering oneself though the exposure to different cultures and settings. Some of my many passions include plants and flowers, but I feel like I belong in a big city, which explains my repertoire.

Different situations have taken me to the different places I have lived in but one thing remains constant: balance. Seeking the right balance has always had a central role in my life. I studied biomedical engineering at Boston University while I was in the varsity field hockey team, because the university was strong in both athletics and academics and located in a prominent city near the ocean. The cultural diversity Boston University offered, made me never want to settle for less. I met amazing people from everywhere in the world, who came from completely different backgrounds and had the most inspiring stories. This probably nurtured my decision to travel through South America with my best friend for 6 months after I finished my undergraduate studies: an experience full of life lessons and great memories.

After working in consulting and data analytics in Barcelona, I realized my passion was in the medical industry and decided to redirect my career toward what drives me the most: helping others. Given my curiosity and my eagerness to improve the quality of life of those in need, I knew my way of helping had a scientific motivation. As sad I was to leave my family again, I searched for programs that suited me the best at the time, and noticed Imperial College offered that “oh so sought for” balance. Located in the heart of London, a diverse artistic beautiful city not so far from home, Imperial provided an intense 12 month very encapsulating MSc neurotechnology program and also counted with amazing research: a powerhouse. I set my mind to it and even though it was challenging to reroute again into science after a life in a more corporate world, I made it! Now I live in London, I am finishing my MSc and I could not be happier.

These past months in London have been a rollercoaster! But the kind that once it is over, you want to go on again, regardless of the unsettling moments the ride included. The city offers countless opportunities and experiences for all kinds of people. There are not a lot of places in the world that can make so many different people feel at home. The diversity of the community that builds London’s society is remarkable. Where else in the world can you find the best museums, the greenest parks, an endless list of art galleries, all types of music, the best education… all in one space? It is unique, to say the least.

All in all, adapting to a new city and a new culture is always a challenge. London is huge and I dare to say that huge is an understatement. Learning to navigate through London has been an experience of its own and also speaks about how much there is to see in the city. Every neighborhood has a different vibe to it, its own little personality. It sometimes blows my mind how the city changes from east to west: the architecture, the food, the residents… everything! All in its own beauty and all within the same city of London.

Creativity goes hand in hand with science for me. And the inspiration behind this creativity does not necessarily need to lie within science. Once again, in my opinion, balance is the key. The diversity London offers makes it possible to mingle with different communities, which offers a unique opportunity for creative thinking. Music and art can serve as inspiration for a new signal processing technique, maybe, who knows? Having the direct exposure to many different industries and their respective experts on all types of modalities at hand’s reach is priceless. If you think

about it, London attracts the best of the best in a wide variety of fields… there must be a reason why this is so, right?

Another huge advantage London has is its demographics in the world. It is not too far from anything and you can get anywhere in the globe from London. This might seem obvious at first but, this accessibility makes London very attractive. In my case, it allows me to be a 2h flight from home and a 5h plane ride from my friends in the US. London offers direct flights to hundreds of places and more airports to choose from than almost desired – there are five airports in the vicinity of London... (if you are to pick from all the airports, I recommend Gatwick the most, since Heathrow is great but can be quite expensive)

Studying gives a person independence in the management of their time. Since it is one’s own responsibility how much they want to get out of their studies and how they want to organize their time, the flexibility of the situation should not go unnoticed. Many professionals do not have the choice of setting their own schedule, but as a MSc or PhD student, one can manage when and where to be. This makes enjoying the city even more unique. London has a lot to offer, so it is a densely packed city. It is key to know when it is most efficient to run errands, most enjoyable to visit museums or even less crowded to go for runs, all to make the most out of even the seemingly insignificant situations.

Since I am talking about London, I feel the need to address the badly famed weather. Well, I have mainly lived in warm cities with constant sunshine and blue skies. I have also lived in one of the coldest snowiest windiest of cities, Boston. My expectations when coming to London were very low, since I really dislike rain, much more than I dislike snow, and I feel like I need my Vitamin D. However, I learned that there is beauty in everything and as much as I still dislike rain, I see what it does to the city. People are not stopped by rain, which amazed me since as soon as a drop falls from the sky in Barcelona people feel the urge to stay at home if they can and put a blanket on, watch a movie and avoid going outside. In London, bikers still bike. With a good umbrella, a good raincoat and some good boots, nothing can stop you! And the appreciation and smile on everyone’s faces when it is sunny in London is priceless…the city blossoms like it’s a new year, a new beginning.


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