Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Why Yes, In Fact, I Do Live in a Manor (And There's a LOT To Do Here)

It's into the second week here at
Harlaxton, so you might think I'd be getting used to things by now. And to some extent, that's true--I'm getting the hang of the class schedule, figuring out where that elusive "Morning Room" classroom is, and remembering how to get back to my room from more than one place. But on the other hand, there are things about Harlaxton that just refuse to become routine. Every day as I head off to class, I'm struck by the magnificence of the Great Hall. And when I'm sitting in my chair, waiting for a lecture or a class to start, I'm surrounded by beautiful sculpted walls, painted cielings, and chandeliers. That kind of scenery just will not blend into the background, and time after time I find myself stopping a moment to take it all in. Because I'm not just in another semester of college anymore--I'm in a manor house, living and learning and maybe even doing a little bit of growing up.

I suppose when I thought about studying abroad, I focused mostly on the weekends away, on all of the places that I'd see. Harlaxton, in my mind, became merely this stable place to come back to from each grand adventure. But I underestimated how much of an adventure it would be day to day, just living here. It's the second week, and just look at all the things that I've done right here on campus:

Upon arrival I naturally I explored the manor house, trying to find the mysterious hidden passageways and how to escape from my room if the main stairway happens to be blocked by a fire. This was especially vital since, for the first week, I was in a single room off in a small hallway that I was a little concerned was sure to be haunted (mostly because I kept having dreams about ghosts watching me in the two mirrors that faced my bed).

I've already gotten to make use of my new fancy heels (which effectively make me one of the tallest people in the room) at the first formal (or "high table") dinner, where the random seating chart forced me to make conversation with some lovely people I'd never met before.

I've lived in not one but TWO separate rooms, since I was put in an RA room for the first week. I tasted the freedom (and terror) of living in a single room in a humongous and very old manor and then the comfort (and awkwardness) of a giant four person room, where everyone else will see the ghosts if they happen to come around (don't worry, they haven't.)

I've had several meals of the reputedly terrible food, which I haven't found all that bad. Admittedly there's a lot of rice and potatoes, but as a great lover of starch, I have to say I can't complain. Yes, it's a bit of a strange hybrid between American and British cuisine, but it's warm, it's edible and it's even a little bit delicious every now and again.Not to mention, it's very cheerfully served by the fantastic kitchen staff. I am going a little bit insane with out my habitual Diet Pepsi at every meal, but I've replaced it with a spot of tea or hot chocolate, so I'm suffering through.

I learned to do several different dances from several different countries during the Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee) that the school sponsored last week. Yes, I even had to touch people's hands and everything, but it was definitely worth it because I felt like I was in the middle of a Jane Austen novel, which is something I've always wanted to feel. Sadly there was no Darcy, but I was with my wonderful friends and met some new ones, and I think that very nearly compares to Colin Firth (sort of).

Since we all live in the same (gigantic, gorgeous) place, I've met a TON of new people, both from my home school U of E and from the other schools that have come together to make up this Harlaxton semester's class.

As the semester got underway almost as soon as we got here, I've already started in on three new classes, two of which are taught by the British faculty (British studies and Shakespeare), and one of which is an intensive writing workshop from which I can already tell I'm going to learn a lot. It's a lot of fun listening to actual British people talking about British history and about Shakespeare (although we haven't gotten too deep into that yet, having a gigantic class and needing to split it into two sections). The faculty here, both the British ones and the visiting faculty, seem pretty fantastic thus far, and I'm excited for a stimulating (if challenging) semester. Even if the last thing I wanted to do when sitting in my hotel room in London this weekend was my British studies homework.

Last night, I watched a bunch of grown men dance around with handkerchiefs and sticks while wearing bells and flowers at the Sword Dancing/Clog dancing event, which was even more entertaining than I dreamed, even if it was a bit unexpected. When someone says "sword dancing" I usually imagine a bunch of muscular, shirtless men doing a bunch of dangerous stunts with pointy swords. Instead, we got hilarious scholarly men doing authentic, if a bit silly, old dances, complete with a jester of sorts who went around hitting girls in the head with a bladder, which he assured us will encourage pregnancy in the coming year (I should certainly hope not!).  Then we went out to the (cold) conservatory to watch clog dancing, which looked particularly challenging but also very entertaining, and was complete with background stories.

Each night when all of this is over, I come back to the same room and collapse into the same bed when all the homework is finished, and that's as close as it gets to being the same day to day. Somehow, I'm trying to organize the busy schedule of classes, events, field trip, and travel into something that vaguely resembles a routine, because I'm the sort of person who needs a routine. However, since I'm loving every spontaneous and unplanned minute of it, I'm doing okay with the fact that the only real routine is that I wake up, go to classes, and at some point eventually make it back to my bed to rest up for whatever the next day is going to bring me. Because, yes, I do live in a manor. And that alone promises life these next few months is going to be just a little bit more than ordinary.

1 comment:

  1. That feeling of awe never goes away. Until the day I last stepped foot in the Manor, I continued to be amazed at my surroundings. I still get my breath taken away when I look at pictures... and read blogs, like yours. Thanks!