By Tayler Gill, ISA Sr. Site Specialist, England
One of the best things about studying in London is all the amazing sporting events that take place throughout the year. One of the oldest and most prestigious Tennis events takes place every year at the end of June through early July and that event is The Championships, Wimbledon.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the matches at Wimbledon on two separate occasions and it’s in my top 3 favorite experiences in London. I’ve always been a fan of playing and watching different sports, but I never really got into tennis, that is until I attended Wimbledon. I initially attended as a study abroad student because it was organized through my program. I had no idea what to expect and assumed I would enjoy the live sporting experience, but ultimately find the day to be somewhat uninteresting. I’m happy to say I had the complete opposite experience! I enjoyed every aspect of the day including walking around the grounds, experiencing a new side of British culture and learning the game of tennis.
The process to get same-day tickets and get into the grounds was fairly simple although a bit long. It was so easy and hassle-free that I think American sporting events could learn a thing or two from British events, but that’s a discussion for another time. The morning started with a very early journey from central London to SW London where Wimbledon Common is located. From the tube station it was about a 10-minute walk to an open grassy area where people had already starting queuing (lining up) for tickets. Both times I’ve been, the morning was crisp and a bit chilly with the early fog lifting around mid-morning and warming up by the time we enter the grounds around noon.
Wimbledon ticket staff members walk through the line selling the tickets to those in the queue. There are sometimes a few center court tickets available, but for the most part everyone receives a general admission ticket. Once the grounds open, the line slowly starts to move through security, bag check and finally into the grounds. After spending a morning of waiting and staying in a single file line, you are immediately thrust into the rush of spectators who are making their way into stadiums to get seats for the first matches of the day, heading towards the gift shop to get their souvenirs early, or to get their first round of the famous strawberries and cream served at Wimbledon. It’s a maze of stadiums, people and green and purple everywhere you look. Walking through the grounds is quite an experience in itself, but nothing is better than experiencing a professional tennis match in person.
As depicted in the movies, spectators’ heads really do flash side to side keeping track of the ball as rallies progress. What I wasn’t prepared for was actually how hard and how fast players hit the ball with each stroke. It’s the first time I really understood the difficulty and precision of tennis and it left me in awe throughout my very first match. From that moment on I was hooked and have watched every Wimbledon and other major Tennis tournaments since!
Study abroad opened my eyes to so many new things and left me with experiences I will never forget. It also left me with some lifelong loves- one of them being Wimbledon.