After months of sacrificing my Friday afternoons spending two hours on campus talking about Shakespeare, the day finally came that all of the reading and papers led up to. I nervously packed my suitcase with a week’s worth of clothing, assembled a carryon bag and gathered my passport and boarding pass. My mom drove me to the airport and noted how I seemed nervous. Of course I was. I had never been to Europe before and had never been without a family member in a different country. It left for the airport at around 3 p.m. and arrived to check in about two and a half hours before my 6 p.m. flight took off. I went through security and then found my terminal. I saw the faces of people who I barely knew also waiting. These were the people I would be spending the next nine days with. I hoped we would all get to know each other better and that it wouldn’t be awkward. Our professor walked around with his notorious moleskin notebook and began checking off people’s names in the neurotic way that he always did. The time passed and we finally bored our overnight flight to London. Looking back now a month after my trip, I can say that the faculty led spring break trip I took, Shakespeare in England, was one of the best experiences of my life.
Just the right amount of time
I always wanted to study abroad, but wasn’t crazy about going away for a whole semester to a continent I had never been to. I am quite the home body. Going to London for nine days was the perfect way to study abroad. I got to experience so much in those nine days and get to know people in my group pretty well. Even better, I was able to go away without the risk of getting behind in my degree by going abroad. We definitely made use of every second we were there. We went to three cities all together and I truly believe we got to see almost everything there was to offer in each city. There was not much down time at all. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Seeing amazing things
Since pretty much every second was planned on this trip, our activities we already planned and there was not much leeway in skipping activities that maybe did not appeal to everyone. This could be a negative aspect to some people, but I grew to enjoy this. It provided structure and the guarantee of always seeing an extremely popular and important site with an amazing tour. One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was seeing Westminster Abbey. The extremely gorgeous church is where many important monarchs, scientists and authors are buried. We had an excellent tour guide who really made the whole experience with his knowledge and wit. We got to see many other places such as the British Museum and the Tower of London. While in Oxford we got to see many of the places where the Harry Potter films were made. I think if our group had more free time and less structure, I would have missed many of these amazing places because I would have probably been so indecisive about what I wanted to see. Also, great tours are very expensive to swing on your own. Sure we all felt a little annoyed following our professor around like sheep in London while he tried to navigate the tube system, but it was worth not getting lost on our own and missing things.
That is not to say that we had no free time because there were times we got to venture out and do what we wanted. One day some friends and I went to King’s Cross during free time to see platform 9 ¾, where we saw Professor Sprout.
The studying part of studying abroad
Because this trip was for a grade and the course was called “Shakespeare in England,” we were obligated to prepare beforehand. This included a lot of reading and writing, but by the time we got to London and saw productions of what we read, I was grateful for the readings and discussions beforehand. We saw five plays in London and two in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. It was an amazing experience going to some of the most famous performance spaces in London and seeing the shows. It was also really cool to go to a pub afterwards and critique and discuss what we saw over a pint. That and spending almost every second of the day with members of the group got all of us relatively close. Seeing plays was a very cool way to “study” while abroad. The rest of our time was spent sightseeing.
Looking back, it all went by so quickly. I am extremely grateful for the experience and all that I got to see. It was great getting to know my peers and professor in a different way than in the classroom setting. I will never forget the amazing plays we saw, the great food we tried and the little memories that made the experience of a lifetime.