Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Time's Winged Chariot, or Can It Really Be Nearly March?

Teatime in Wales!
Tomorrow is the last day of February. Our journey abroad has passed its halfway point, but it feels as if I’ve been here forever. I am no longer stymied by the labyrinthine passages of the manor, nor feel surprise when I see the driver step out of the right side of the car. (I still have trouble with the doors, though, nasty things. They never open in the direction I expect). I have developed a fondness for stopping in my travels around three o’clock, in order to pop into a café for a pot of tea or glass of coffee, and am in love with the architecture I see around me on a daily basis.

Curiously, Harlaxton provides an interesting mixture of opportunities to be both more and less independent than we are at home. The Refectory provides all of our meals, and we have no opportunity to cook outside for ourselves, much as we may long for a wider variety of food. The cornerstone of the program here is the British Studies class, which every student takes, meaning that we share many of the same experiences. And there are absolutely no independent transportation opportunities; when I can’t take it any longer and need a Diet Cherry Coke, I have to wait for the shuttle to take me into Grantham rather than jumping into my beloved Impala, Amelia, and popping over to Target.

But yet, I have planned trips to foreign countries with nothing more than a friend or two, the internet, and my poor, abused credit card. When Cypress and I turned up in Bremen last weekend, we had neither map nor S-Bahn (train) schedule, but between my ability to speak German and her uncanny sense of direction, we had an amazing time, and got marginally lost only once. Navigating train lines, choosing a non-sketchy hostel and sleeping in an airport are no longer scary, and are just a part of regular life here. The ready availability of alcohol also fosters a sense of independence—we can buy it here!—which some people handle better than others, the last I shall say on that particular subject.

Bremen. How could you not be moved by the architecture?
In my admittedly rather unofficial and possibly quite skewed survey of my friends, both close and casual, I would contend that most people are having a wonderful semester, but will be ready to go home when the term is up. I would tend to agree with this. This is, by far, the most rewarding semester that I have ever had. Every experience I have, every place I go and every person with whom I speak enriches me immeasurably. That said, there is a sort of bizarre surrealism inherent in this experience; it still does not feel wholly real, that I just got back from Bremen, and that I will be going back to Germany in another two weeks; that I have day trips to LONDON planned; that I live in a freaking manor house. It’s really quite exhausting. There is the old adage that a college student can have two of the following three: good grades, enough sleep and a social life. Add into that mix traveling nearly every weekend, and you can see where the difficulty comes in! And of course, many people, myself included, are starting to really miss their families, their pets, their own beds.

Best care package ever.
And American food! At least once every day, I hear someone say something along the lines of “I would kill someone for a burrito.” Or for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Or their mom’s sweet potatoes. My mother sent me a care package that contained Ramen. I almost cried for joy.

All this said, I would not give up the rest of my semester for the world. I have so much traveling left – Düsseldorf, another two trips to London and finally Edinburgh! (Why Düsseldorf, you might ask. The answer is no better than that I love Germany, and tickets were FOURTEEN POUNDS round trip. It would have been a crime to have said no.) There are more foods to try, people to meet, things to learn and see and do. I have not lost my sense of wonder; every time I see the manor from the road, my heart leaps up. At this midpoint of the semester, I am having the time of my life, and cannot wait to see what the remainder of my stay will bring. 


  1. Ramen is quite delicious. :)

  2. I know what you mean about seeing the manor from the road. I went to Harlaxton about 3 years ago, and my fiance lives in Grantham. Every time I pass by the Manor, I still feel a sense of awe and amazement. Enjoy the rest of the semester. It will go by quicker than you think.

  3. Winona is ALMOST as awesome ;)