When Brittany, the Study Away Coordinator and one of the faculty on this trip, asked everyone in our class if we had intended to deviate from the flight plan from the rest of the group, it caught me off guard. When I went to Greece in the Spring 2018 3-week, I had traveled with the group to Greece, but deviated after to go to Italy with my family. I had not thought that it was possible to fly out of somewhere else and meet them wherever it is we were going. I am from Chicago, so I drove six hours home for term break and dropped of my belongings then turned back around and drove another six hours in order to meet my group at the airport.
This trip I asked Brittany if it was possible to fly out from Chicago and meet the group in London. She said yes and I was all set and packed to go to the airport, and I even made it to London without a lot of issues. The one issue I met while on the plane was knowing that I was alone, and not having anyone to talk to or even share our excitement for the upcoming weeks.
When I landed in London, I had landed about two hours before the rest of my group had arrived. While I waited for my group to arrive I had to go through border security first, it was the place where they checked your passport and made sure you were not going to do anything illegal while staying in the UK. I waited around an hour to an hour and a half to make it to the check point counter. When I went to have them check my passport, the men working in the booth were worried about me because I was all alone and was not really sure of the name of the hostel that I was staying. When I tried to prove where I was staying and that I was with a group from college, I showed them my college ID and the itinerary that I had been given, but they did not believe and stated “Well you could fake those.”
Eventually after talking to the men for another half hour they finally let me in. I can not tell you why they had a change of heart, but thankfully they did. I looked at my phone and I still had around thirty minutes before everyone else was to arrive. Before any of the border issues had occurred, while I was still on my plane, my group met and made it on their plane to Boston where they had around a five hour layover. So when I met them in London, I was already behind because they had already developed inside jokes and had found their groups that they would be a part of.
Yes, when I had finally met up with them everyone welcomed me with open arms, and everyone was just happy the group was whole, but it took me a little bit longer to find my group that I was going to be a part of. I love the group that I am a part of now and would not change how anything happened, But I can honestly say, that if you are thinking of flying out from a different airport than the group, I wouldn’t! I recommend traveling with the group because then you have someone to share the experience with, whether it be a funny memory, an awful experience that you can laugh off later on, or if it’s a wonderful experience that you will all now share together.
The most important undercurrent to this three week term has been traveling. It seems obvious but at the same time it isn’t- there is a driving sense of perpetual motion which has influenced the experience almost more than the locations. I left America and Hiram expecting to travel and then to study, but didn’t fully understand how the travel never actually stopped. Part of the experience has been the constant transition, the in-between and the moving to somewhere else.
The three week term at Hiram is typically a flurry, fast paced, and in this case it occupies time in an incredibly complex way. There is always a subtle need to catch up, to move on, to go. And in the same moment, time feels to stretch on to eternity. We are caught up in an endless swell from station to station, hostel to hotel, and on. The thing is, these times spent moving from point A to B aren’t lost. They aren’t negative space. In fact, they are transformative.
There was an artistic concept in the seventies called the ‘white cube’. In almost every art gallery or museum, the piece is placed against a white piece of drywall. The background is meant to be imperceptible, a blank stage for you to observe the piece. However, in the seventies it became a topic of discussion – that background, that stage, influences your perception of the work. The way pieces are shown intermingles with their meaning, content, significance, and how you experience them. White gallery walls set the tone, taking an ordinary black and white picture and giving it severity, an intense platform, when it was once simply a poster by the subway.
In the same sense, travel here serves as our white cube. Being in perpetual motion alters our thoughts, our behaviors, our tone. The drywall framing our daytime adventures is made of trains, and hills, and whipping wind. While the itinerary focuses on the content, the positive space, the piece and narrative at the forefront of our minds- the time in-between is the driving force. It is inescapable. The act of moving, orienting, re-orienting, is vital to the experience. Every activity is a quest, something to be mapped out or stumbled on-to. We walk to places where our goal will be to walk. We take trains that empty out to busses. It’s beyond geographical reasoning. It’s an element of discovery. It imparts a sense of dizzying energy, profound disbelief and wide-eyed looks out the window at a country that is flying around us. It is imbuing us with a mentality so different from what we would feel on Hiram’s campus. The sense that we are good to roam, that there are threads we can pull on and streets to wander down if we only display the interest.
This trip has been full of new experiences for me. Firstly, this is the first time I have ever been on a vacation without at least one of my parents. It is also only the second time I have flown out of the country, and the first time I have been to Europe.
To me, going on this trip by myself was outside of my comfort zone, and a big step towards independence. The anxiety I felt during the weeks leading up to this trip have completely dissolved. Every day, I get a new and unique experience that pushes me and helps me grow as a person. Learning to be alone and to be self-sufficient is a hugely important part of any college experience, and I feel like this trip really takes that experience to a whole new level. To be practically alone in a foreign country is so much more fun than I could have even imagined.
Before I left for this trip, I was full of anxiety and questions. Will I make friends? Will I be homesick? To my surprise, I have formed a unique bond with every member of this travel group. I truly believe I have made lifelong friends, which is something I hadn’t yet done at Hiram. As for the question of being homesick, this was my main concern. I was so nervous to leave home and to leave my mom who I am very attached to. But weirdly enough, I do not feel homesick. I do miss my family, but the experiences I am having in the United Kingdom are so incredibly fun and unique that if I could, I would stay here for months. Just walking through a new country and seeing things I have never seen before is so incredible and in a sense so liberating. There are things I have done on this trip that I would not have been able to push myself to do at home. The main example of this is the great deal of hiking and walking we have been doing. Getting to see the beautiful landscape of the United Kingdom is worth the discomfort of long walks.
I feel like at home, I get so used to comfort and routine, and this trip has completely flipped that upside down. One of my favorite parts of this trip so far has been the simple moments laughing with friends. Forming inside jokes and walking down the cobblestone streets laughing until our sides hurt will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. Another one of my favorite parts of this trip is simply being surrounded by such rich history. As a history major, I like to find stories for everywhere I go. Here in the United Kingdom, their history stretches back so much farther than the United States as a country. You can see aspects of this rich history everywhere. Old buildings, museums, castles, stone circles, palaces, and more. These are things unlike anything I could wish to see in America and I am so endlessly thankful that I got the opportunity to experience the United Kingdom in this way.
Happy Birthday Shakespeare! Stratford-Upon-Avon is the home of William Shakespeare and it is believed that he was born on April 23 in a house in the town. That house is now a tourist attraction and I was lucky enough to lead the group there the first day in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Only about a fifteen minute walk away from the Travelodge we stayed at was a road that was mostly all related back to Shakespeare in some way or another.
As you walk down the road you pass not only Shakespeare’s birthplace but cafes named from his quotes like the Food of Love. Every shop could be related back to the bard himself or one of his plays. It was overwhelmingly filled with Shakespeare and it was pretty neat. Now if I’m honest, I have always considered myself as not the best theatre major because I had never been able to feel a deep connection or feeling towards Shakespeare and his plays. In fact I was never too much of a fan at all. I had been in a couple of his shows at Hiram but I had never made even an effort to go see any performances. I think the feeling towards the shows dates back to my middle school years when I was given A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a 12 year old and told to read and understand the play.I pretty much understood nothing and decided at that point that Shakespeare wasn’t for me. Then of course in high school I was given more shows that were better explained but I just never was able to completely get rid of my initial reaction.
At Hiram it started to be introduced bit by bit with a cut, staged reading of As You Like It, performing Measure for Measure, and eventually performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream after reading it another couple of hundred times at Hiram. Even after all of the much more in depth discussion and readings of Shakespeare, I still just couldn’t seem to find the same passion as all of my peers had seemed to have found. As we travel the UK, I am starting to find that same passion and understanding.
Being in Stratford-Upon-Avon I started to experience a bit of what could have been happening during Shakespeare’s time with a bit of imagination of course. To picture William Shakespeare attending school at the school house and walking down the roads that I was standing on. Being in that spot made something click that simply haven’t clicked before. We also visited Shakespeare’s grave at Trinity Church and to see the effort that was put in to make it extravagant and beautiful. While standing there I was able to take a moment and realized just how significant this one man was to theatre and literature.
On his actual birthday the town was actually really quiet. A few of us went to the Birthplace and found a place nearby to eat breakfast. the Food of Love cafe that caught my eye the first day in Stratford-Upon-Avon ended up being a fantastic choice. It was a small restaurant with a ton of really good food options. They also had a bust of William Shakespeare with a VIP lanyard, which we all got a kick out of. Seeing a few shows in Stratford-Upon-Avon was probably the highlight of the town for me. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is located only a little bit down the road from the Birthplace making it the perfect thing to do while in town. We got the opportunity to see both As you Like It and Taming of the Shrew during the two nights we were there! Both shows were interesting takes on the plays and I got a lot out of seeing the plays performed in the way they were. Being able to be in Shakespeare’s home town and seeing some of his plays on his birthday made the experience even more exciting and memorable and it something I will likely not forget!
Have you ever thought about the reasons for events in your life, I know we all say that these events are lessons in our lives and they are meant to make us better people. I would like to believe this also but I want to think there is something more. I know this sounds clique, but I like the idea of destiny, the concept of the universe demanding that something is right for you. I’m a hopeless romantic that loves to believe in taking the risks that will challenge the hell out of you. Is life worth living if you’re not being challenged?
Traveling to the Uk has been a dream of mine since my sister ended up going when she was sixteen and I was nine. If I’m being honest with myself I was extremely jealous of her and her journey, I was happy and envious about her getting this opportunity. When my sixteenth year came and gone I remember asking my parents why I wasn’t presented with the same chance. I had to learn and understand that at different points in our lives, we have different chances and situations. I don’t blame my parents for my not traveling to Europe when I was sixteen and I am actually quite grateful that I didn’t go at such a young age. I know now that I wouldn’t have been mature enough to take everything in. I know that I probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the joys and magic of England.
I knew that if I ever wanted to go to England it would have be at my own charge, I knew that after my high school years came and gone that if I wanted to go on this journey I would have to find a way to pay for it. I didn’t really know how I was going to do this before Hiram. I didn’t know that they even had a trip that would go. So when I heard that I possibly had the opportunity to apply for this trip, I jumped on the chance to sign up. I was accepted but needed a killer essay…..the first two paragraphs were basically that essay, summed up of course. I also worked all summer to try and come up with my own funds. So get this, I got my scholarship, I was able to get on the trip and now I’m here. But that leads to the rest of this blog, I didn’t want to just report about how I got the opportunity to fly across the pond, I wanted to tell of the adventures that I want to have. I tried to make a budget list with every location that we went to, I wanted to make sure that I lived this experience as much as I could.Most of the items on my list were small, simple, trips to coffee shops where I could read a book and write in my journal, I also wanted to just walk through shops and spend time looking at normal average events in the lives of the people living here. The things that I didn’t realize that I would experience is the fact that the women here dress so much better here! Everyone’s outfits are so beautiful and trendy. I have also found that the toilets are completely different than they are in the states, the seats are wider and use less water which is something that I think the US should adapt. There are so many things that I find really cool that the States should start to see as examples.
This trip has really opened my eyes to so many different aspects of my own life, I have found that I can’t actually hang out with people for long periods of time without having me time. I have found that I am actually more independent than I thought I was, which actually surprises me. I have also learned that I really love this country, I have actually started to dream about how I could stay here. I have thought about auditions and maybe what I could do with my marketing major when I graduate. I have also been thinking about how the experiences I’ve had are almost the same as my sister’s and I’m so happy to get home and talk to Rachel about the experiences she had. But most of all, I’m excited to be able to take these friendships I’m making and extend them back to Hiram. We have honestly created so many memories and experienced so much together: long flights, late nights, questionable decisions, and lots and lots fun.
I’ve decided that I’m going to write my blog about how I first fell in love with Shakespeare’s work. I was an avid reader as a kid and my mom just started her job as an English teacher when I was in grade school. She would come home and tell me these fascinating stories about Hamlet, Macbeth and Julius Caesar, I was basically invested from the start. My mom would start by reading me Shakespeare stories. I had this kids book version of his stories so they weren’t in complex Shakespearean. She would tell me about them in ways that I could only dream about. Plus, being exposed to child-friendly tellings of the stories made it easier to comprehend. Movies like The Lion King series has covered Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Or classic episodes of The Simpsons doing parodies. But as I got older, I felt like I was superior to my other classmates, because I had had the hands on experience of learning about Shakespeare at a much younger age. Shakespeare’s plays were enthralling to me, in high school my auditions would consists of Lady Macbeth’s monologue or how I would quote Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” (even though it’s about death) when thinking about simple things like whether or not I used my mug in the kitchen.
Freshman year of high school, when we had to read Romeo and Juliet, I knew when to pause readings, I knew the insults, I knew so much but it was hard to stay so excited when everyone else is bored with him. In a dramatic reading of Romeo and Juliet, (I played the prince); I stood up and recited it with the book in one hand but barely even glancing at it. Nobody was having it. I sat back down when I realized nobody was as excited as I was. It was a little crushing.
Moving on to Sophomore year when we read Julius Caesar, it wasn’t the students this time. It was the teacher that was against me. As I was excited about Julius Caesar, she was excited to fail me. I felt as though she was my Cassius.
Junior year was empty. Shakespeare had been preserved for the AP Lit Seniors. If I wanted to read Macbeth or Hamlet with a class, I needed to take that class. I decided to take an easy class my senior year. And we only covered Hamlet’s monologue.
My theater class helped my love for Shakespeare be shown without being considered weird; I was put in skits of side characters of Shakespeare and I loved it. In a dramatic reading, I was Lady Macbeth asking her husband to kill, at the line of dashing brains, I swung my hands in such a violent motion that my friend playing Macbeth backed up. I was Caliban in a tiny reading of The Tempest, I was Ophelia in one scene and in Midsummers I was Cobweb. I didn’t mind being these characters, I loved it. I love Shakespeare. He always has something elegant to say, whether he is insulting you or flattering you. That’s why I take so many Shakespeare courses at Hiram, I took the Shakespeare in film one because I wanted to see how much of an impact he really had on modern tellings. (Plus Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet is my favorite). Shakespeare is the reason I fell in love with literature and want to teach it.
One of my favorite things about Europe has always been the close knit community that is created by having so many countries that are small and close together. As someone who is passionate about language and culture, the ability to walk down a busy street in London and hear a multitude of languages is one of the most exciting parts of this trip. Coming into this trip I figured there would not be as much cultural and lingual diversity as other European countries may have, since the U.K. is in its own little corner and speaks English primarily, but I am surprised and thrilled to say that throughout my time here I have been able to experience countless amazing encounters with other languages. Just in the week and a half that we have been here, I have heard/seen Spanish, French (so much French oh my gosh), Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, Swedish, Welsh, British Sign Language (BSL), and probably a ton of others that I was not able to recognise at the time. Everywhere you go here, there is a chance to encounter other languages and fascinating people from other countries.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was going to Wales, a land filled with pride of its native language. Everywhere you go in Conwy you can see Welsh, from the signs in the train stations to the maps around town. The government of Wales has been working very hard lately to honor and maintain the language, and that importance is obvious when you walk through the city. One place we went to in Conwy was an old town home from the 1500s that gave a fascinating glimpse into what it would have been like to live in Wales as a wealthier man back then. The house offered audio tours in English or Welsh, and I did mine in Welsh to experience more of the language. It was so cool to me to hear a language that no one ever experiences in the United States.
Another cool situation was hearing a barista at a coffee shop in Stratford-upon-Avon switch from clear British English to Italian when a family of Italian tourists came into the shop. They seemed so happy to meet a worker who spoke their language, and hearing them converse was really special. Situations like this are so much more rare in the United States, so it was exciting to me to see it.
Language is everywhere in the U.K.! With language comes language barriers though, which can also be a common occurrence on this trip. At first I did not expect that at all, considering the fact that the United Kingdom speaks the same language as us primarily, but I experienced a lot of confusing or strained communication situations.
The accents of the UK can be very hard to understand at times, especially if you are not used to hearing certain ones, like the Welsh or Scottish dialects. Besides those, however, I have had lots of situations where language barriers have made communication hard, or I have wanted to be able to communicate but could not. An example of this happened on the tube in London. I am studying ASL and love sign languages, and seeing BSL at all is super exciting to me! While riding back to the hostel one day, I saw a man and woman with a puppy, signing to each other, and I was so eager to sign to them and compliment their dog or ask them about BSL, but I could not of course, since BSL and ASL are not at all the same. I wished in that moment that I knew a few signs, and it was an interesting feeling to be able to sign, but not the appropriate kind for the situation.
My friends and I also had an interesting situation with a waiter at a restaurant whose English was weak, and he had a hard time understanding us and how we wanted to pay. He ultimately had to ask another waiter for help, which we felt awful about, but it was becoming too confusing for him. He told us, however, that he is French and only just moved to England a week beforehand, so he was still working hard to adjust to things here. It made me appreciate the process of overcoming obstacles and experiencing other languages and cultures in an immersive and, sometimes scary, experience! I bet his English will improve rapidly the longer he stays here, and I hope the people he comes across are kind and understanding with him.
If you find yourself in a situation where there are communication barriers, remember for yourself and for the other person that experiencing new languages/cultures can be scary and intimidating, and making mistakes is natural. Staying patient and calm is key, and enjoying the possibility to communicate with people from other places and differing ways of seeing the world. It is truly awesome!
Upon arriving in London, and therefore Britain, the land appeared entirely alien to me, despite my paltry previous experience thirteen years ago. Its contours, unmolded by glaciers, were quite unfamiliar; the hills undulated with almost serpentine grace beneath a more consistent sky than one can ever expect in northeastern Ohio. Shortly after leaving the airport, I saw my first bright-backed magpie from the bus, vaulting up to the lower branch of a strange-looking tree. It was curious, therefore, that the preserve surrounding Wilderhope Manor should feel so comfortable to me. Ridges of such steepness as to flummox the thighs, crazy-eyed sheep scurrying from my path, scolding me for my intrusion, and uncommonly narrow strips of a peculiar forest nonetheless soothed my nerves and cozened my travel-tortured body even as I hiked through driving rain. The comfort I felt in such a peculiar place was unreal, and made very little sense.
Little sense, that is, until I managed to associate my very home. The house in which I live, though a mere infant when compared to any given London pub, is quite old by American standards, such that my road is named after the man who built it. Moreover, since the late 1970’s my father has devoted almost a third of his waking life to the property: the property bristles with well-placed trees and shrubbery, the brush which formerly owned it has been driven to tightly defended borders, and the lawn hardly ever goes unmown. In short, the land has been rendered sacred by the care and attention shown it, and my time there acts as a balm upon my soul. Some people must imagine a soothing “happy place;” one of mine was wrought for me before ever I was born.
But what an infant it is indeed when compared to fair England’s countryside! This land has been loved, fervently and consistently, for untold centuries, which has had an indescribable effect on the entire atmosphere. I shall nevertheless strive to detail its effect on my spirit. The ancient footpaths, stretching thither and yon like the mythical ley lines, tantalized my feet and mind with cunning yet passable terrain, inviting wider and more random wanderings than ever I’d imagined. The wide pastures, broken by mysterious tracts of forest, conformed precisely to every inch of useful terrain. It is almost the platonic picture of the pastoral, but arisen from the love and care of generations rather than from some accident of nature. Sacredness can be, and certainly has, been imbued by countless human minds. That is why the English countryside is such a comfort: the land returns the love it has been shown like the wisest and most patient of animals. It is an almost preternatural happy place, a living wonder into which one fits perfectly.