I’ve never had any problems being away from home or traveling. But I’ve never been out of the country before. I don’t think I was ever nervous about it. I had a few concerns, such as any possible medical problems I could run into and how I could counter them and the course load. But overall I was really just ecstatic about this opportunity. The only thing I really struggled with in London was allergies. At home, I go through immunotherapy because I have a lot of allergies. I didn’t think through the idea before hand that going to a different area of the world that there would be different allergens around. Having to deal with extreme allergies again was a major adjustment to me.
All I remember about arrival is excitement and disbelief. We went to the Brunswick to get toiletries and lunch shortly after arriving at Connaught Hall. The Brunswick was like an open-air mall. I loved the market that was there. There was a small book sale, baked goods, and food from oter After this, we all walked through Russell Square and past the British Museum, where we were supposed to go later that day. This of course did not happen until the next day. We went too Carphone and some of us picked up prepaid cell phones. I picked one up because Verizon decided not to activate my cell phone. Once back at the dorm rooms, I was able to correct the problem with my cell phone, and after waiting, my room was finally clean and ready for me to just put my stuff in and head out to the British Library.
Courtney and I wanted to grab something to drink, so we left separate from others and headed to Costa. I ordered a strawberry lemonade and didn’t expect what I got. It was blended with milk and a little ice, then served over ice. I would later learn that what is Sprite to us is lemonade in England. We then headed to the British Library. I admittedly did not expect it to be a museum. Seeing the Magna Carta, What really caught my attention though were the original copies of music manuscripts. Pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and others were all there. I always find looking at originals interesting, because you can usually tell an intention on how a piece should have been interpreted. I actually found a violin sonata that I’ve played, and Handel’s Messiah was also there, which I have both sung and played excerpts of. This was so exciting to be in the same room as the DNA of these composers.
I was also very grateful that we came during a time where there was an exhibit on Benjamin Britten, an English war composer. Much like Virginia Woolf, many of Benjamin Britten’s pieces focused on war, specifically his hatred towards it. I have played Britten before, but never looked all that much into him past the one specific piece (which was not war related). This was the highlight of my trip to the British Library.
After looking around a bit more, I met up with more of the group, and Katrina. Katrina took us to a pub. Since I’m only 19, this was my first time being legal to drink, and my first time purchasing alcohol. This felt foreign to me, as if being in a foreign country didn’t. It was really nice to just hang out with everyone and make new friends.
The next day, I went with a group of people to do “the tourist thing.” Growing up with New York City basically in my backyard, I’ve never really been a tourist in a big city. I’ve been to Boston and Cleveland for music, and the most I’ve done is walked around to get some cheap food. I really just followed people around since I had no clue where I was going. We ended up at Buckingham Palace, and we got to witness part of the changing of the guards. Right beforehand, I caught a glimpse of the royal marching band practicing for the ceremony. I thought we could hear Big Ben chiming, but I later learned that it was actually St. Margaret since Big Ben doesn’t ring anymore. We spent a lot of time in Westminster. It didn’t occur to me that a lot of places would not be open on Sunday. We ended up at The Barley Mow and had traditional fish and chips!
We then went to the British Museum. This place really packs a punch. There were so many pieces of history in one space. To me, the most impressive was the Rosetta stone. It’s still pretty unbelievable that I actually saw it in person. This museum reminds me of the idea “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” While this saying shows how much power the British Empire has in the world, where they are so widespread, this museum does the same thing. A place that can hold so many artifacts from other cultures is clearly a place with a lot of power.
The first day of classes, we discussed Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe. I personally never knew of Londinium prior to reading this. This really put into a perspective of the new and old for this class to me, and how London is always changing. This book also focused a lot on woman’s sexuality. These young women were very open about their sexualities, and also very in tune to their body’s desires. While I believe women still know what they want and like, I do believe that the focus on the self has been lost today. These women were young and carefree. They didn’t serve men like it has been believed women should. While the times are very different, the characters are still relatable, at least for me. Zuleika does what she wants because she enjoys it, not because anybody tells her to. Her friends seem to be the same way, though we follow Zuleika more closely, as she is the main character. These are women to look up to I believe.
This same day we went to the Museum of London and viewed the Suffragette and the Roman Galleries. The Roman Gallery really put pieces together for how people lived in Londinium. Seeing what the modern day equivelant really helped me to see how this could connect to day’s day and age, and see how they got by without what we have now.
In McVicker’s class, we discussed Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. I have never read Woolf before, and this book made it very apparent that there is a lot of detail to pay close attention to in her writings. This essay clearly presented the idea that women need money and privacy to be successful in writing. This was a harder fate for women to achieve than men. Once women writers were finally becoming accepted, there was still an idea that they write about different things than men. We of course know this is no t the case, as either sex can write about anything, but it’s the style in which they write. But this was not the case then, and Woolf indicated the importance of an androgynous mindset.
The second day we focused mainly on Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels.” This was my favorite novel of the trip, and definitely one of my favorites that I’ve ever read. This also focused on the woman’s role. For Maude, we watch her grow up, and become a young woman. We can assume that she will end up being like her mother, as Kitty Coleman is a very influential individual. Kitty has struggles of her own,, and finally realizes the missing piece to her life. She not only joins the Suffragette movement, but transforms her home into a headquarters for this movement. She becomes one of the most important individuals in this group of women, Even when she is arrested and faces the possibility of jail time, she doesn’t take her focus off of her mission.
“…You’ll be fine. Thre is something I want you to do for me, though.”
Maude gazed at me eagerly.
Even before I pulled out the collecting card and began to tell her about self-denial week-a campaign drive the WSPU was initiating to raise money – I knew I was doing the wrong thing. As her mother I should be comforting and reassuring her. Yet even as her face fell I continued to explain that she should ask all our neighbors as well as any visitors to place donations in the card, and that she should send it to the WSPU office at the end of the week.
I don’t know why I was so cruel.
The Suffragette gallery gave me chills. It was so impressive to see the lengths in which these women went to fight for a right they deserved. This was my favorite part of the London Museum from the day before. Highgate Cemetery also helped me to connect and make Falling Angels come to life. There were so many different statues, and learning the symbolism behind them all was interesting. Of course, the sleeping angel was the highlight of the excursion, however it was overall very impressionable.
After this, we discussed Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias” and Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn. This was relatable to the cemetery visit as well. Each grave marks a specific space We believe that they exist, but do they really? Or is what lies underneath just an illusion field? Perhaps the graves have decayed and now it is just dirt. Of course, we do not wish to believe this, so we believe the former. According to Foucault, the Earth is disruptive since it does not stay in the same place. The urns in the cemetery also freeze a moment of time, and nothing endures but change.
The fourth day, we discussed Feminine Gospels. We mostly focused on the roles different adult figures in “Laughter of the Stafford Girls’ High” play. Dr. Bream is older, and keeps a tight control over everything. The other teachers went along with this, but eventually the laughter broke them, and they all realized that it was okay to change and be themselves. They decided to pursue their own lives and do what makes them happy. Once Dr. Bream loses control, chaos ensues, and the change eventually drives her insane. This breaks the automatism.
In McVicker’s class, we discussed The London Scene. We defined a place as an order, and space as a practiced space. Then we questioned how presence transforms space. Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral on our walking tour really answered this question. It was heavy with tourists. I know we weren’t there to worship, but when I walk into a highly religious space, I feel protected and safe. But this place seemed empty and cold. The infrastructure was incredible, but it infuriated me that a religious space would charge a fee for people to visit.
The next day we discussed The Mara Crossing. Basically, Englishness is defined by culture. Not just amongst the people, but the animals as well. This book connected the link with how humans define a culture (in this case, Englishness), and how animals define as well, and they really weren’t all that different. In McVicker’s class, we discussed Tess of the D’Urberbvilles as we were preparing to visit Stonehenge. Tess was very weak to Angel. I believe Angel’s name paints him as a perfect figure meant to protect Tess. Of course, he does this as best he can until she is arrested in Stonehenge.
The Natural History Museum was fascinating, but The Victoria and Albert Museum really stole my heart out of all of the museums. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Everything was white and pure. There was a lot of natural light, and I was really able to connect this to the lifestyle.
Stonehenge really was the highlight of the weekend. To actually be inside this place was just mindblowing. I’m still at a loss for words with this experience.
Seeing places such as Lacock and Oxford really showed me how different other areas of England are in comparison to London. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I loved the teachers, the courses, and the people in the group. I never thought that 16 days could change my life so drastically, and honestly, 16 days just wasn’t enough.