I'm Erika Johnson, a senior at the University of Evansville. I'm studying political science, and I'll graduate this December, a week after I get home from Harlaxton! I'm an Evansville native and have always thought it was amazing that the University of Evansville had an entire campus in England. England seemed like such a cool place, the home of the Spice Girls and Harry Potter. Actually being here and truly learning what England is like has been such an eye-opening experience. It's not girls running around in Union Jack dresses and secret entrances into magical worlds tucked away between stores. Well, that second might still be true - I’m just too Muggle to notice. But what England really is seems to be a place where history and the modern world coexist completely, leaving a cultural experience like no other.
I say that history and the modern world coexist because historical monuments that date back hundreds of years are still used right next to modern developments. York has walls that encircle a great portion of the city and they date back to about the 12th- 14th centuries. You can still walk on these walls and get a great view of the city. It is amazing to stand on these old walls and see cars speeding by and know that the original architects could never have imagined motor vehicles.
There's so much history crammed into York. York Minster and Clifford's Tower are just amazing to look at. The great thing about visiting these locations after taking British Studies at Harlaxton is that we have the historical background to truly appreciate these locations. I would not have been able to appreciate Clifford's Tower as the military feat it is without that class. The tower is built on a steep mound of land that would tire out armies trying to take it before they even had to tackle the tower itself. The United States of America really does not have such casual history sprinkled throughout, because we really are a young country in comparison. We never had a need for castles and fortresses all over North America so seeing these glimpses of history is amazing.
The view of York Minster from high on the wall was one of my favorites. You can really get a sense of its vastness and splendor from so far away. The city as a whole was just beautifully old fashioned, yet it didn't feel like I was thrown into the past. The streets were busy with people that lived there and blatant tourists, too. The city smelled like something was cooking for the most part, like every store was secretly baking in the back. And then there would be occasional streets that smelled like sewage, and it was randomly awful. Everyone I talked to said the same thing about the smells! But beyond that, it was a pleasant experience.
That view of part of "The Shambles", a busy and exciting stretch of stores in York was another of my favorites. It just had such energy, people leaving York Minster and going to find a coffee bumped into people just leaving work nearby that were grabbing lunch. During my day in York, I also visited the Jorvik Viking Museum, which is a must visit if you have any interest in Viking history at all. It was such a fun and immersive look at a huge part of European history. To be completely honest, my favorite finds were actually bits of home found in new places. I found a fantastic hair store, so I stocked up on some favorite products from home and that was a lifesaver. And then I found the Disney store which made me feel like a kid again, and believe me when I say I wasn’t the only one! Plenty of us that found the store ended up goofing off in there, especially when it got a little cold and rainy outside.
York was simply a really beautiful place. It was filled with history yet life and I went home completely happy with the experience. England has yet to let me down on providing amazingly beautiful experiences while traveling!
All my best,