Monday, 15 April 2013

My English Family

The beginning of my semester, like many students, was rocky and unexpected.
On top of unanticipated homesickness, I experienced nightly anxiety attacks and lack of sleep from the time change the first week abroad. After the first weekend spent here, I received a phone call from my parents which set a rough opening scene for my whole semester.
A perpetrator broke into the home of my best friend’s brother and shot him before leaving. He was in critical condition from multiple shot wounds.
After hearing the news, my mother immediately thought about my mental state and wellbeing, concerned about how I would process the news. At about this time, I met my Meet-A-Family.
I, along with two other Western Kentucky University students, Susan Creech and Rebekah Huffman, have had the joy of calling Reverend John and Christine Bruce our English “Mum” and Dad this semester.
Established in 1983 and now celebrating 30 years of success, the Meet-A-Family program of Harlaxton College was made so visiting American students had the chance to meet and build relationships with local families in Grantham. It’s also designed to involve students in the community and give them a sense of British identity while spending their semester abroad.
Before I met John and Christine, my mother let them know of her worry for me after the news. A mother and father themselves, John and Christine immediately reached out and invited me and my other semester sisters to their home before the Meet-A-Family program officially started.
Although meeting for the first time in the midst of a stressful and gloomy event, they opened their home and allowed us to be our goofy, American selves in their cozy family room from week to week. Being in a home rather than a grand manor during those hard first weeks impacted my time at Harlaxton immensely. If I didn’t have my Meet-A-Family to find my home away from home, I would have crumbled.
Each week since the beginning Susan, Rebekah and I have gone to John and Christine’s home every Wednesday night, shared a lovely home cooked meal and watched a film to finish the night.
It’s almost habit now, anticipating John’s message to schedule the specific time he would pick us up from the Manor via FaceBook. It was the one thing we could always rely on each week as our lives were filled with homework, homesickness and travel.
John and Christine, although wise from age, are young at heart. Now retired, they both have more time to pour into students each semester and influence and be influenced by each set of students that come to Harlaxton semester after semester. John’s youthful personality and Christine’s lovely tenderness are genuinely welcoming and make it easy for one to feel right at home as soon as you walk through their front door.
The Meet-A-Family program has impacted my life by teaching me more about British culture, more about the difference in generations, and the importance of relationships. John and Christine have taught me much more than I could have learned in a classroom during my time abroad, and they helped me cope with a rough beginning of the semester.
From our family outings to the town in which they grew up, to walking around the church they were married in, to them allowing us to play with their loveable dog, Katie, my times with John and Christine will never be forgotten. I can now say that I have a Mum and a Dad in England, and that’s all thanks to Harlaxton’s Meet-A-Family program.
From left to right: Reverend John Bruce, Susan Creech, Katie Greiner, Rebekah Huffman and Christine Bruce enjoying a family outing to John and Christine’s native Spalding, England.
-Katie Greiner

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Time Clash

America is a very young country. Nothing has made this clearer to me than this semester at Harlaxton. In my travels around Europe, I have been amazed at how evidence of times long past still exists today. From the ruins of ancient Roman forts in England to the magnificent cathedrals such as Notre Dame in France, the preservation of history in Europe is very impressive. But one city in particular has grabbed my attention more than any other because of how it manages to mingle the past with the present.

London, England is an enormous city. I have been their twice and still have only seen a small part of it. There was Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, Westminster Abby, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Baker Street, and so much more to see and do there. Like many other cities in the UK, London had many stone or brick buildings that looked like they were from an older time. As they are in all of England, the streets of London are narrow, like they would have been during the horse and cart days before motorcars. The many museums in England, such as the British Museum, hold artifacts and treasures from ancient times and from cultures all over the world. It is obvious that London is very concerned with preserving the past. However, as I looked over the skyline, I noticed something that seemed to contrast greatly with this preservation of the old. Modern-looking buildings and skyscrapers stood tall throughout the city. Many seemed to be off in the distance, away from the older-looking parts of town. The designs of some of these buildings were very unique and creative. There were a few egg-shaped structures, such as the elongated Gherkin building. Another prominent structure, which looked a bit like a very tall, skinny pyramid, was called the Shard. According to its website, the Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe. Some areas of London combined the old and the new quite well. In Piccadilly Circus, while many of the buildings were still reminiscent of older times, wrapped around one of them was a large screen that flashed several different advertisements, somewhat similar to the giant advertising screens seen in New York City.

The way London easily combines the new with the old greatly impressed and intrigued me. No other city that I have visited in my travels with Harlaxton captured this mixing of two clashing time periods quite as well. It once again reminded me of how young my country is, and made me wonder if perhaps someday America will have its own version of London, preserving relics of the past while embracing the modern touches of the present. 
-Falaniko Medrano

Monday, 1 April 2013

Traveling School Style

Throughout the semester many trips are made and gone on.  Harlaxton College offers many unique opportunities for us students.  I have taken five trips with the school and they were to London, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Ireland, North Wales and Paris.  It is nice to travel independently yes but at times it is also nice for everything to be planned out for you.  The school trips cover the cost of transportation to your destination, lodging, and some sites to visit while at your destination.  

My favorite school trip had to be to North Wales.  I loved the mountains and the overall beauty of this magical place.  If you were to have one painting in your home and it could be from any place in the world?  I would say paint me a scene from North Wales.  Having a hotel right along the coast was inspiring.  It took on a new form of life to see what people do on a coast compared to a city format.  If you were doing independent traveling it would have been difficult to have a good deal on a coast line hotel.

The school can offer students some great experiences since we have a large group going.  Discounts are made on groups, and they may offer a bonus since we have so many people.  There would be no way independent travelers could be offered those deals.  An example of this was when the school went to Liverpool for a day.  We were able to get into the Beatles museum before a large sum of individual travelers.  This was very nice for us since we were taken out of the equation to wait in line for about an hour. 

Transportation is not cheap anywhere.  When you have a bus with 50 other people it becomes fairly cheap.  I know on a good day a trip to London and another destination could be about 25 pounds compared to 7.5 pounds on a bus.  

There are flaws as well.  People might not be able to go to everywhere they would like or spend how much time they want in a particular place due to what the school has scheduled.  

With every trip there are good times and bad times.  Traveling with the school I believe is an equal opportunity for students to take advantage of having a lot of planning done for them.  The school costs are not that bad either.  In my opinion they make it simple for a student to get on bus, plane or train and arrive at their destination with little worries. 

-Justin Lang