As I begin my third week of classes here at Harlaxton, it’s beginning to sink in that I’m actually going to school here. I’ve always known that this is school, but after my first two weekends that were packed full of traveling throughout the UK, I realized I had homework assignments piling up and presentations looming ahead that I really should get started on.
And though the homework isn’t necessarily fun, it’s still very surreal that this is my home for the next 3 months. Every day when I walk down the ridiculous amount of stairs (94, to be precise) to go to my classes in the gold room or the long gallery, I am amazed that this place is my school. And I love that we are allowed to explore the manor, open doors that are shut, and roam wherever we want, unrestricted by velvet ropes or weird museum guards that give you a dirty look every time you try to go somewhere you’re not supposed to. We have so much freedom.
And I love it.
As a recently-turned twenty-year-old, it’s safe to say that this semester, though still just beginning, is going to be the start of my independent life. Before the start of this month, I’d never booked a flight by myself, bought a train ticket, navigated unfamiliar streets in cities larger than Louisville (which, compared to all the cities here, might as well be farmland). I’d never traveled to another country on the weekend for a spur-of-the-moment trip. I’d never attended a worship service in an abbey (let alone the amazing Westminster Abbey).
And I realize that it is also school, but it is so much more than that. I’m reading about places in my British Studies book that I visited on Saturday! Generally in American textbooks, pilgrims and colonial times are discussed, along with the founding fathers of the 1700s. But I have now visited places that have been around since the 1200s. That is on a whole new level of interesting, and it doesn’t even come close to visiting Plymouth Rock (no offense, pilgrims). And while the book stuff may not be the most fun to sit down and read, I can safely say it’s a whole lot more interesting when I’m visiting those places on the weekend, and I can see them for myself.
(The picture is to exemplify how many cool places I can visit within walking distance of that location!)
It’s strange to not connect with family whenever I want to and that we’re 5 hours ahead of them (I still can’t wrap my head around that). But at the same time, coming here has been the most independent thing I’ve ever done in my life. That alone is an experience. Add everything that I’m going to do, see, and learn this semester, and I cannot even begin to imagine how amazing this semester will become.
And even though some things will probably confuse me all semester (counting the right change, figuring out the time, and not getting exhausted by the time I climb the 94 stairs to my room), I have already done so much in 3 weeks that it makes up for everything unfamiliar and weird. But that’s the beauty, isn’t it? The unfamiliar and weird are the most fun to explore.
And I haven’t gotten lost yet (either in the cities or in the manor)! So 3 more months of this insane experience? Yes, please.