Category: United Kingdom

The Genius of Study Abroad: Revolutionary Imagination

I sit here, cramped and crowded, on the plane flying at mind-boggling speeds toward familiar oceans. The window is dark, wet with clouds turning surprisingly quickly into beautiful patterns of ice. I lay my head back and consider the time I have been away from my little corner of the world. I have had the incredible opportunity to travel throughout Europe over these last three weeks, and I have learned a great deal from my adventures and experiences during this time. I have examined in great depth and detail the meaning of “travel” and of “place”, and I have considered what each of those terms means in relation to myself. I have departed Portland, Oregon as one person and left Paris, France entirely another. In order to understand the true meaning of “study abroad”, I have followed in the footsteps of symbols and figures of the world in a myriad of disciplines, and attempted to understand why they chose to go abroad in their own time and how that experience affected their work and their own perceptions of the world.cliffs-of-moher

I arrived in Ireland, meeting the nine other students who would become my traveling companions. We excitedly traded stories of our flights and embarked together to University College Dublin, our first home away from home. Dublin is full of landmarks, though none so well known as the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. Ireland’s capital city instead offered a contrast to such dramatic manmade exhibitions. I found myself appreciating the role nature played within the city (and outside it) far more than any architecture. One of my favorite memories was a day trip I and another student took across the country to see the Cliffs of Moher. It was an unforgettable experience and offered a unique view of Ireland. The trinity-college-dublinshockingly green, stunningly beautiful rolling hills and the cloudy gray skies created a beautiful color palette against which to appreciate the culture. I remember it vividly; recalling these hues also brings forth a memory of euphoric music and laughter, the trademarks of the friendly Irish people.

The stunning city of Oxford was filled with the most elegant buildings I had ever encountered. The entire city appeared almost as a single, sprawling castle. Everywhere we went, throughout tours, walks, and strolls, I found myself gazing upwards in awe at the grace and beauty of the colleges. I especially loved visiting the Bodleian Library. This particular collection was incredibly large and full of treasures, on display in exhibits for the public to appreciate. The original draft of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Magna Carta – all of these amazing artifacts added to my wonder. It was a massive building, more modern than the rest of the town but open and accessible to any who might wish to enter. The library to me represented Oxford well; a hub of learning for any who might wish to search for it and full of historical treasures waiting to be admired. I fell in love with the tranquility of the city and the way I felt while there, and promised myself I would return someday.

The most surprising city, London, was unlike any other European city big-benI had visited previously. Leaving Oxford behind, London was the next step into the 21st century. Bright, loud, and busy, the city was excited to be alive. Londoners walked by their world-renowned sights and symbols on their morning commutes. I stood in front of Big Ben in awe; it surprised me with its elegance. I had never spent much time examining photos of the gigantic clock, believing it to simply be nothing more than a timepiece. Now I stood irresolute, jostled by the hurrying crowd and saw for the first time the intense detail that had been placed within the monument. London is the home of so much of human culture. We had the astonishing opportunity to visit both West End and the Globe Theatre. Attending those performances of The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Macbeth were experiences I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Paris is unique to itself, and I believe that is why so many, myself included, feel their hearts pine for it. It is full of beauty, romance, history, and literature, but it is a living city, and reflects this in its dirty metro stations and streets. The Eiffel Tower is famous, but I was more interested in la Cathedral de Notre Dnotre-dameame – the Church of Our Lady, sitting in the heart of the Left Bank. I sat for a long time in front of the church. The sun was setting, and it was bathed in orange light. The crowds were thinning, and the people were quiet as they began to consider dinner plans and their evening activities. I quietly examined each arch and window of the façade, looking at each carved face and wicked grinning gargoyle. I imagined a small silhouette reaching up to ring the bells, and felt literature come to life. I focused so intently on the architecture, without a camera or distraction of any kind. It evoked in me a sense of peace and a sense of loss, on my final evening in the city. The church was serene, overlooking the Seine with the patience of ages and looking down on tiny me with the same tranquility. I stood, vowed to return as soon as I could, and walked back along the winding streets in the twilight.

The world is both bigger and smaller than it seems to one looking out at it from their own window at home, and this paradoxical state seemed to be in constant flux for me as I traveled. I walked streets that were filled with people just like me. I felt as though the world was not truly as alien and mysterious as it sometimes seems from far away. I felt confident in the knowledge that though this place was new and on the other side of the world, it was really no different than the small quiet streets of my suburban home in Oregon. This illusion was displaced nearly as quickly as it formed, however, as I gazed in awe upon buildings older than I could fathom and landmarks both huge and beautiful. This incredible adventure was meaningful beyond all expression, and I am forever grateful to everyone who made it possible. I have been changed for the better in so many ways by my experiences abroad. I will cherish my love for these places forever, and hope someday to see them again.

 

-Delane Cunningham, Summer 2016 happy

Meeting Idols, Getting Involved

I loved everyone in our group of nine, but Adrienne has to be my favorite. Everyone was there in London to learn more about theater costuming and historical clothing, but Adrienne and I were passionate about the subject in serious way. At least once we both threw ourselves on a museum floor to look at the insides of an eighteenth century gown. We got in numerous animated discussions standing in front of paintings, conjecturing at the structure of clothes.

One day she told me “I e-mailed Cathy Hay. She’d love some help.” I think I made some kind of high pitched noise. Cathy Hay is famous in costuming circles for running a subscriber website that is a compendium of historical sewing knowledge, as well as for her ambitious projects. Her latest effort is a reproduction of a 1902 Worth dress that is encrusted in silver and goldwork embroidery. It had started as an inventive for a fundraiser to help victims of the Haiti Earthquake, but Cathy quickly realized that it would be impossible to finish the dress in any reasonable amount of time by herself, and at that point in time, she had blown out her wrists embroidering.

Adrienne and I picked a day to go and booked train tickets to Nottingham. We were both nervous and excited to not only meet an idol of ours, but to help on this project we had watched come together through Cathy’s blog. An hour’s travel through London, three hours on the train, and an additional hour on public transportation through to the suburbs of Nottingham and we arrived at a parking lot where Cathy picked us up. She greeted us warmly and thrust bottles of water at us, which I thought was very thoughtful.

On the car ride to her house, we managed to not make fools of ourselves. She introduced us to her cats, and her partner Demi and then showed up pictures of the original dress and we discussed how it might be constructed. Then she took us into her workroom and showed us her project. I had seem bit she had finished online, but it looked much smaller in person. And so much shinier. It was then I realized how much of an undertaking this project really was. I may or may not have squealed “Oh my gosh it’s real! Can I touch it? I’m gonna touch it.” Cathy probably thought I was insane.

Then she gave us a demonstration the embroidery process. It was much simpler than I had feared. (This is the point where I admit that I have no patience for embroidery, but I really wanted to get up close to this dress.) Adrienne and I set to work for a couple hours. Cathy made us take breaks, as well as feeding us dinner. She told us about how weird it was to be famous in certain contexts, when she herself felt incredibly ordinary and like she was just doing the things that excited her. I think it was then that I realized how accessible the famous and extraordinary can be. They’re just people, pursuing their passions.

Cathy and Demi took us back to the train station, hugged us goodbye and promised to keep in touch. Adrienne and I arrive back in London close to Midnight on that Sunday, completely excited and satisfied.

Two or three weeks ago, Cathy formally announced plans to send parts of the dress worldwide, so that it could be completed that much faster. I’m absolutely going to help.

Elina Levkovskaya, London, United Kingdom

Finding Fantasies in London

Like many of the students on the Fantasy on the Fringe program, I grew up with 3Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. They were my friends and they were my heroes. J.K. Rowling’s novels were some of the first fantasy books I read on my own and were one of the main series that made me fall in love with literature, and fantasy in particular. Imagine then my delight when I discovered an entire program based on fantasy and in the United Kingdom to boot. Eleven months later, I was touching down for the first time in London, England!

Arriving in London was like something out of dream. I had been imagining the city since I first read about Harry going with Hagrid to get his school things. In my travel-induced, sleep-deprived state, everything—the trains, the streets, the cars, the buildings—seemed wildly different from the United States. However, after wandering around the neighborhood to find dinner and a good night’s sleep, I found a world which seemed much less foreign. It was bustling with cars, noisy with construction, and brimming with people going to work or the grocery store or to a meeting. Yet somehow there was still an unfamiliar, unexplored feel to the world around me. There were large parks, building with ancient architecture, and historic 1places on what seemed like every corner. This harmony between familiar and unfamiliar was one of my favorite parts about the program, finding the things that I recognized but which had a different role in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, these differences, to a smaller extent, could be found within the program participants as well. Having lived on both coasts of the USA, many of the differences didn’t surprise me. However, I loved getting to know all of the other participants and hearing about their various universities and towns and lives.

In the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Trelawney talks about broadening your horizons. This program has not only helped me broaden my view of the world but it also taught me to broaden my own experiences, both academically and personally. The program helped me to be more confident and showed me that the world is simultaneously a lot larger and a lot smaller than I thought.

Senna Steward, Harry Potter in the UK, London

So Much To See, So Little Time!

As part of our curriculum, our class participated in many excursions around the UK. We got to visit some of the most beautiful and popular museums in London, as well as many less well-known attractions. One highlight for me was seeing A Mid Summer Night’s Dream in the Globe Theater. I will never forget this abroad as a whole, but that experience in particular will always be close to my heart.

Each day we had class and an excursion, beginning at 10am. We saw wonderful sites in our excursions, but there is so much to see in London and Edinburgh, and there was certainly not enough class time to see everything. This meant that my friends and I in the program would take any free time we had to explore the city. We found wonderful sites and neighborhoods on the weekends or after classes. There is so much natural beauty in Edinburgh especially, and we made special trips to hike the beautiful terrain.

With so much to see, free time became engulfed in exploration. However, I was there for academia, and there was still homework to be done. One major challenge I faced while abroad was finding time to accomplish the homework we had been assigned for classes in the midst of exploring a new country.

Every college student procrastinates at least slightly, and while I admit I have done the same in the past, I usually like to get things done as soon as I can so I don’t have to worry about it. But while abroad, I found myself often putting off work because I wanted to see the city.

At one point during the abroad trip, we had an essay due that was a major part of our grade. I had put it off until the night before because it was a weekend and I wanted to go see Hyde Park before we left for Scotland. I was panicked and extremely nervous that I would not finish in time. My best friend that I made on the trip, Alyssa, stayed up with me and worked on her own assignments so I wouldn’t feel so alone in my endeavor. We took “rain breaks,” where we would go outside and dance in the rain as to get our heartbeats up and help us focus when we returned. Once I finished my assignment, I was so grateful to her for helping me through an otherwise stressful night.

From this experience, I learned that even though I was in a new and exciting place, getting my work done first would allow me to enjoy my studies abroad more fully. I plan to go abroad again in my college career for a longer period of time, and so learning this lesson when I did will help me greatly in my future studies.

Austin Skelton, Harry Potter in the UK, London

“Health is Important: I’m not Kidneying”

 

You can’t plan for everything. It was the final week of classes and I was working on my final papers for my political and arts journalism courses. I hadn’t been feeling too well, but I didn’t think much of it. I convinced myself that I wasn’t feeling well because I had eaten some gluten earlier. But the pain didn’t get better; it got worse.

I couldn’t get to sleep the night before the last day of classes. I was uncomfortable and the pains were stabbing my left side and migrating to my back. It became so unbearable that I couldn’t think straight. It was midnight when the pain grew to a crescendo. I decided that I had to do something about it. I made my way downstairs to the security desk at the dorms and informed them that I was in extreme pain and asked them to call the hospital for me. The dorm staff called the hospital, I described my symptoms, and the hospital said they would send someone to get me.

I waited in the lobby for an ambulance. Intense pain rushed in waves over me and I felt nauseous. After an hour we called back and the hospital decided to send a taxi because no ambulances were available. I had emailed my mother back to let her know what was going on. I told a classmate to let one of the program leaders know in the morning. I realize now that I should have called one of the program leaders immediately, but it didn’t cross my mind in my delirious state.

I sat alone for several hours in the waiting room at the hospital. I was terrified that it was going to cost me money that I didn’t have, but I did my best to remain calm throughout the situation. Eventually I was taken in to the emergency room. They did some tests and found out pretty quickly that I had a kidney infection. They sent me back to the dorms in another taxi at four in the morning, but this time I had medication.

I went to class in the morning and talked with the program leaders. They assured me that they were there to help me and would have been fine with me calling them in the middle of the night. The director told me he would have personally driven me to the hospital at midnight. I should have had it in the front of my mind that the directors are there to help me at all times. I should have communicated with them to the best of my ability. I only stayed in class for half the day, but everyone understood. Before I left, I communicated directly with my teachers and was given extra time to turn in my work.

Nobody wants to have health problems while abroad, but it’s a possibility that it can happen. While you’re abroad, it’s critical to understand that your health is important. You need to take care of yourself, mind and body. You need to understand the systems of health care in the country you’re traveling to and how to communicate with them. In my case, since I was in London, everyone spoke English, and the emergency room visit and medication turned out to be free. This isn’t the case in every country. It takes some insight to make good decisions in adverse situations, but it’s possible. At the first sign that something might be wrong, the best idea is to talk to somebody about it rather than suffer alone.

Jackie Haworth, London, Italy

Studying (and seeing!) Shakespeare in Stratford

As the time has passed since my trip to London ended, I look back on the whole experience with nothing but fondness and a little bit of sadness at the realization in is over. My time in London taught me independence, team building, and helped me to explore and understand a brand new culture. Although they spoke the same language as me, the British people I encountered had a completely different way of living and outlook on life. They have different priorities individually and as a country that as Americans abroad, we noticed the contributions they made to alter their English-speaking society from ours.

It would be impossible for me to write about all the theatre we saw in fewer than two pages, so instead I will focus on one of the amazing short trips we took outside of London. Our first outing was to Stratford-upon-Avon, which we all learned means “the town of Stratford that sits on the Avon River.” Shakespeare’s birthplace, the location of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and home to many other original Tudor period buildings provided an excellent example for us of the Tudor Style and a chance to experience life in a smaller British town.

Stratford is luckily only about an hour and half long drive from London, in which we passed many small villages made up of entirely thatched-roofed houses, the Cotswolds, and the steepest hill in England (which they must close down in the winter due to the icy conditions). We arrived to sunny weather, making it a perfect mini-vacation from the hustle and bustle of the city. I was extremely excited to get the chance to visit all the historical buildings surrounding Shakespeare’s life and to see shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company since they are known for such incredible and groundbreaking work.

Our first day, we visited the home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Aden, which is a working farm with all kinds of animals including sheep, hairy red pigs, and plenty of chickens. I had the most fun, maybe for the whole trip, playing on the playground at the farm. There was a pretty big group of us who were just letting go of any self-consciousness and just playing like we were 8 years old at recess again. There was a wonderful swing that was a giant hoop with rope tied to make a sort of hammock. Two of my friends pushed me on it as I lay on my back looking up at the sky. My immediate reaction when I’m scared is to laugh so I must have looked crazy while I was swinging. They were pushing me really high and I just kept laughing and then crying because I cry when I laugh a lot. I kept shouting “No!” and “I’m going to die!” But the truth is I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun while being so extremely terrified at the same time. I loved watching people have the same reaction as they took a turn on the swing.

After visiting the farm, we went to Shakespeare’s wife’s cottage, which had wonderful gardens to walk through and lovely orchards to take strolls in. Shakespeare wooed Anne Hathaway at this cottage, so it was exciting to see such a significant place in Shakespeare’s life. I loved spending time in the lavender maze there and just relaxing in the sun.

We saw three amazing productions at the RSC while we visited, Love’s Sacrifice (a Jacobean revenge tragedy), The Jew of Malta (one of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous works and to which Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice as a response), and Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller’s classic). All three shows had extremely high production value, immensely skilled ensembles, and all worked well to captivate their audience during each performance. It was interesting to go to this world-renowned Shakespeare company and not see any plays written by him at all. It was almost ironic that we saw the production of The Jew of Malta, written by one of Shakespeare’s biggest rivals, performed on Shakespeare’s birthday. In fact, for that performance, my seat was in the front row and a man sat down next to me dressed in an outfit made to resemble Shakespeare himself. I was sitting with some of my peers and we all wondered if he was maybe a plant by the company but when we talked to him after the show, he said he was not from the company but that he enjoyed dressing up to celebrate the day. The cast of the show made him come up onstage after and had the entire audience sing him “Happy Birthday.” It was definitely a night I will never forget.

On that same trip, I also really enjoyed our short visit to Kenilworth Castle, or rather the ruins of a castle built in the 12th Century but primarily used as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite places to dwell. It was amazing to walk through the ruins and feel the ancient history of the land. I sat on one of the hills toward the back of the castle for a long while and just stared at the beautiful countryside. As I sat on that hill, I thought about how lucky I felt to just have seen such wonderful play and visit such historic landmarks. I learned so much about myself (and British history!) on the London program that if I had the chance, I would go back just to experience it all again.

– Elah Seidel, GEO London

A Trip to Avebury and Stonehenge

I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend my final term as a University of Oregon student overseas in London. It has been an Dress up in the Fashion Museum_Chelsee Carterabsolute treat for my soul to witness all the many visually striking sights, along with the fantastical performances taken place all over the city. Already I can see that this trip has given me faith that theatre is still very much alive and a greatly appreciated art form; it is a shame that the United States does not share the same level of gratitude. Of course the main focus of this study abroad program was on the theatre culture in London, but I found the excursions out of London to be the most amazing and humbling adventures. The first expedition was to Bath; however on the way to Bath, we made pit stops to Stonehenge and Avebury which, has proven to be one of the most moving experiences thus far on this program.

 

I fell asleep on the bus watching the tall buildings and skyscrapers zoom past the bus window and awoke to the sight of rolling green hills peppered with sheep. I was jilted awake by shouts of glee and excitement that we were approaching Stonehenge. We began to walk toward the Henge and I was beginning to feel myself fall into denial. It still had not seemed real toTea Time in Stratford_Chelsee Carter me that I was fast approaching a world recognized unsolved mystery. Of course my initial reaction was a mixture of astonishment and delight, but I was surprised to find how humble being there made me feel. I was suddenly aware of how fascinating human beings are and what we have been able to accomplish in such a brief amount of time here. I slowly walked around the stones trying to take in everything I possibly could from every angle. As time was running out, I started to make my way toward the exit. I realized that it was grossly out of place see Stonehenge right next to a busy highway, wait in line to purchase tickets, and visit the gift shop for such an ancient and mythical location. It was such a colossal juxtaposition that I forced myself to run back and take one last look at the stones to ensure that my final memory there was with this legendary structure and not waiting in line with a crowd of pushy tourists eager to pay for an overpriced trinket.

 

We left Stonehenge and arrived in a small, quaint town that seemed right out of a picture book, with thatched roof houses and an ancient chapel. The main attraction in that town was the Avebury henge, but The group dressed in their best for High Tea after walking around the Roman Baths_Chelsee Carterwhat I found most interesting was the town itself. It was almost as if I had stepped into a different time period. The town of Avebury was so quiet and pristine that I felt guilty disturbing the atmosphere by shuffling my feet or talking with friends. Although I entered Avebury as a tourist, it was so refreshing to be away from major tourist attractions. I was allowed to experience the town as it was, essentially untouched by time, without brushing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people. Everything was still and it was lovely.

I had an amazing experience in Bath. I felt so fortunate to be in such a beautiful town with stunning sandstone buildings and roads. However, I greatly missed the stillness and spiritual atmosphere in Stonehenge and Avebury and longed to return. It was tremendously therapeutic to be in a place almost untouched by the modern era and I hope to come back someday.

-Chelsee Carter, Theatre in London

My Semester Abroad in Norwich

It’s difficult to summarize five months abroad in few brief sentences. When my friends and family ask me how the semester in England was I tell them it was great, that I got to travel a lot, meet so many new people and I learned a lot about other cultures and myself. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I have friends from all over the world now. I even got to stay with a few of them in their homes. I traveled to eight different countries and saw landmarks I thought I’d only ever see in textbooks and on the internet. I assimilated to British culture and by the end of the semester I found myself slightly confused when someone would interrupt me and ask if I was American because I forgot I had an accent. But here I won’t reflect on the adventures I had or the places I saw or describe the people I met. Instead I will reflect on a few personal moments that I realized changes in myself.

Participating in a solo exchange instead of a group program allowed me to reach a new level of independence. Of course there were advisors at both universities to help me if I needed it, but I was on my own. Two months into the semester I admitted in my journal, “I have surprised myself with how comfortable I feel here even though I’m here by myself.” I had to step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to so many people. At first, it was like dating, but for new friends. I became more confident asking questions if I encountered something new or culturally different. I could see how well I was handling my new freedom and I was overcome with this feeling that I could do anything. It felt so empowering.

Another personal quality I improved while abroad was my patience. Whilst traveling, things don’t always go as planned and traveling involves waiting in a lot of queues (the British word for line). Not only did I have to be patient as I traveled from country to country, but I also had to be patient with myself. I was experiencing cultures different than my own and I had to learn and adjust. I couldn’t expect that everything would come naturally to me. Sometimes I made mistakes, but that’s okay because I learned from them.

One particular moment that really stood out to me occurred when I arrived in Berlin. I was traveling alone and I had to take a train from the airport into the city where my friend lived. I made a mistake and got on the wrong train because the train lines were very similar in color on the map. As soon as I realized I was going in the wrong direction I got off at the next stop. The stop was in a rural area and there wasn’t anyone around, the sun was setting, I was in a new country, unable to speak German and I had no way to contact my friend. Usually I would start to panic, and I almost did, but I told myself that getting emotional wouldn’t be helpful because the only person who could get me out of the situation was me. I took a deep breath and used the map to find the best route to get to where I needed to go. Two hours after landing, I had made it to my friend’s flat safe and sound. I was so proud of myself for not shutting down despite the situation I got myself into and I figured it out on my own.

Studying abroad this semester was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am so glad that I worked hard for the opportunity to go. The world is a beautiful place. I cannot wait to explore more of it. The places you visit and the people you meet are not the only things that make study abroad worthwhile; it’s the things you learn about yourself and the personal changes you experience too. Some of the changes I have highlighted here may seem minor, but overall I feel significantly different. I know that I have returned a more mature, independent and confident woman.

-Alexandra Mullen, University of East Anglia Exchange

Theatre in London

As the time has passed since my trip to London ended, I look back on the whole experience with nothing but fondness and a little bit of sadness at the realization in is over. My time in London taught me independence, team building, and helped me to explore and understand a brand new culture. Although they spoke the same language as me, the British people I encountered had a completely different way of living and outlook on life. They have different priorities individually and as a country that as Americans abroad, we noticed the contributions they made to alter their English-speaking society from ours.

Picture2It would be impossible for me to write about all the theatre we saw in fewer than two pages, so instead I will focus on one of the amazing short trips we took outside of London. Our first outing was to Stratford-upon-Avon, which we all learned means “the town of Stratford that sits on the Avon River.” Shakespeare’s birthplace, the location of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and home to many other original Tudor period buildings provided an excellent example for us of the Tudor Style and a chance to experience life in a smaller British town.

Stratford is luckily only about an hour and half long drive from London, in which we passed many small villages made up of entirely thatched-roofed houses, the Cotswolds, and the steepest hill in England (which they must close down in the winter due to the icy conditions). We arrived to sunny weather, making it a perfect mini-vacation from the hustle and bustle of the city. I was extremely excited to get the chance to visit all the historical buildings surrounding Shakespeare’s life and to see shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company since they are known for such incredible and groundbreaking work. Our first day, we visited the home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Aden, which is a working farm with all kinds of animals including sheep, hairy red pigs, and plenty of chickens. I had the most fun, maybe for the whole trip, playing on the playground at the farm. There was a pretty big group of us who were just letting go of any self-consciousness and just playing like we were 8 years old at recess again. There was a wonderful swing that was a giant hoop with rope tied to make a sort of hammock. Two of my friends pushed me on it as I lay on my back looking up at the sky. My immediate reaction when I’m scared is to laugh so I must have looked crazy while I was swinging. They were pushing me really high and I just kept laughing and then crying because I cry when I laugh a lot. I kept shouting “No!” and “I’m going to die!” But the truth is I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun while being so extremely terrified at the same time. I loved watching people have the same reaction as they took a turn on the swing.

After visiting the farm, we went to Shakespeare’s wife’s cottage, which had wonderful gardens to walk through and lovely orchards to take strolls in. Shakespeare wooed Anne Hathaway at this cottage, so it was exciting to see such a significant place in Shakespeare’s life. I loved spending time in the lavender maze there and just relaxing in the sun.

We saw three amazing productions at the RSC while we visited, Love’s Sacrifice (a Jacobean revenge tragedy), The Jew of Malta (one of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous works and to which Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice as a response), and Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller’s classic). All three shows had extremely high production value, immensely skilled ensembles, and all worked well to captivate their audience during each performance. It was interesting to go to this world-renowned Shakespeare company and not see any plays written by him at all. It was almost ironic that we saw the production of The Jew of Malta, written by one of Shakespeare’s biggest rivals, performed on Shakespeare’s birthday. In fact, for that performance, my seat was in the front row and a man sat down next to me dressed in an outfit made to resemble Shakespeare himself. I was sitting with some of my peers and we all wondered if he was maybe a plant by the company but when we talked to him after the show, he said he was not from the company but that he enjoyed dressing up to celebrate the day. The cast of the show made him come up onstage after and had the entire audience sing him “Happy Birthday.” It was definitely a night I will never forget.

Picture3On that same trip, I also really enjoyed our short visit to Kenilworth Castle, or rather the ruins of a castle built in the 12th Century but primarily used as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite places to dwell. It was amazing to walk through the ruins and feel the ancient history of the land. I sat on one of the hills toward the back of the castle for a long while and just stared at the beautiful countryside. As I sat on that hill, I thought about how lucky I felt to just have seen such wonderful play and visit such historic landmarks. I learned so much about myself (and British history!) on the London program that if I had the chance, I would go back just to experience it all again.

– Elah Seidel, Theatre in London

 

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