Friday, 27 March 2015

Life at the Manor

So what is like living in a 178 year old manor house in the countryside? Well, once you get past the fact that there are about 200 Americans living under one roof in a foreign country (thank goodness for the bistro), you tend to fall in love with just about every aspect. To tell you the truth, it is one of the most interesting experiences that I have had in my life and I love it!
When I first arrived at the manor I was in shock. It was stunning, plus how in the world was I going to be able to make it back to my room everyday, and how do you even begin to find any other rooms? Now, I efficiently navigate my way through the manor as Gregory Gregory’s servants once did. I thought that I had seen every room in the manor, but just a few days ago I stumbled upon another room and a bathroom that I had not discovered yet! There is a book in the library that mentions a shield that you press/pull and opens a secret door. I have been on a mission to figure out where this “shield” is, but so far every shield that I have seen is out of reach. I am determined that I will figure out this mystery before I leave.   
There is always something going on at the manor. They offer many clubs, and our SGA has put on multiple events. If I am ever bored (which is hardly ever) I find myself looking out the windows from the upper floors. The views are great! Especially when a storm front is moving in, it's snowing, or at sunrise and sunset. Another favorite spot of mine is the center of the Great Hall under the chandelier. I could lay on my back and stare into the shiny crystals for hours. While hand washing my laundry I have also become very familiar with the wall behind my sink. There is a blue spec and I have named him Charlie.
Anyways, It is finally time for spring, which means that England is beginning to warm up! I honestly thought that I might never be warm here in England. I am shedding layers of clothing and it is miraculous! I don’t have to wear three shirts and two pairs of pants anymore to class!
I have been waiting for what seems like a lifetime to leave the manor and explore all of the grounds and Harlaxton Village by foot (it was too cold before). My Meet-a-Family lives on the property of the original manor house and their garden is beautiful. Hopefully I can walk to their house and give them a surprise ring at the door! Did I mention that we had the opportunity to see a solar eclipse just recently? I can’t wait to see what else the springtime weather has to offer!
As we are approaching the end of the semester, it feels as if we have let go of the rope and are freefalling into summer. There are only a few weeks left until we politely get kicked out of this beautiful place and I personally become homeless (I am going backpacking for a month). It's a really scary thought. Just as we are settling down and accepting what we can of the British culture, we will soon be yanked out of place just to start the process of reverse culture shock. Until then, we shall continue studying for our British studies final (ha!) and making memories that will last a lifetime!  

Lauren Wirth

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Literary Holy Ground: A Trip to Stratford

"We know what we are but not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV Scene V) In 1564, Mary Shakespeare gave birth to the most internationally renowned poet and playwright to ever walk the planet--William Shakespeare. When people think of important English historical figures, Shakespeare usually places near the top of the list.  So, Shakespeare enjoyed a life of blissful fame, right?  Not exactly. A look into his works reveals a deeply troubled man that used writing to question the core ideas of life, love and death. His works have been translated, adapted, referenced, and performed for centuries.  With humble beginnings, I doubt that he or anybody else expected his works to survive and achieve the recognition they have.

Stratford-upon-Avon boasts as the birthplace of William Shakespeare.  A small village nestled in the English countryside, it has become a tourist destination for literature lovers.  I fall into this category.  I came to appreciate Shakespeare in my high school English class when we read Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet.  Although I'm not an English major, I knew that I wanted to study more Shakespeare at the university level.  When I got accepted into Harlaxton, I immediately looked into taking a Shakespeare course.  What could be more English-esque than taking Shakespeare in England?  Luckily, not only was Shakespeare being offered, but it involved a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon on March 7.  This would be a full immersion experience!

On Saturday morning, I collected my packed lunch and boarded the coach.  A two-hour journey to Stratford, some people decided to read, some people decided to listen to music, and I decided to sleep.  I had a full day ahead of me, so I needed to be well rested!  Upon arrival, we each received a ticket that allowed us to enter a number of Shakespeare properties--including his birthplace and Holy Trinity Church (his burial site).  

I decided to visit his birthplace first. Before entering the actual house, I walked through a series of museum exhibitions.  There were copies of his original text and some artifacts from Shakespeare's time.  This made the whole experience more real.  I was really about to enter the home of this literary legend.  The home itself was much larger than I expected.  It had two stories, and each room was furnished as it would have been in the sixteenth century. Volunteers dressed in costume were located in different rooms around the house, explaining the role it played in Shakespeare's childhood and answering any questions.  My favorite room was the upstairs room where Shakespeare had actually been born.  There was a window on display inscribed with the names of visitors, including some famous writers.  As I left the house, a woman dressed in costume recited Shakespeare plays to visitors.  They could name any play, and she would recite a monologue from it.  Talk about memory!

The next stop was the Holy Trinity Church.  Located on the Avon River, it was a nice, scenic walk through a park--well, after fighting the crowds of tourists lining the street sidewalks.  I need to mention that the day for the Stratford trip could not have been more perfect.  The sunshine filled the cloudless sky.  People strolled through the park without jackets.  Families had picnics.  Couples walked their dogs.  Walking along the river filled with swans made getting lost acceptable.  I accidentally wandered to the opposite side of the river, thinking that there would be a connecting bridge farther down near the church.  But, once I discovered I was wrong and the only option to cross included swimming, I turned back.  

The Holy Trinity Church dates back to the 800s, becoming the stone structure in Norman times.  Inside lay the bodies of William Shakespeare, his wife Anne (Hathaway) Shakespeare, his daughter Susanna, his son-in-law Dr. John Hall, and Thomas Nash.  It is also the church where the Shakespeare family attended services.  William was baptized and probably married there as well.  As Dr. Walsh said, "I've never felt so close to Shakespeare as when I'm within two feet of his DNA."  I couldn't have said it better myself.

Later that evening, everybody on the trip attended a production of Love's Labours Lost performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.  This is THE professional theater group of England, and they did not disappoint.  Even though our seats were in the nosebleed section, there wasn't a "bad" seat in the house.  I could see all actors performing (one of them even acted in the James Bond Skyfall movie!).  The plot was set in Edwardian England, so around the time of World War I.  I had never read the play, but I have never seen a play of that standard.  The props were magnificent, the actors were effective, and the emotions were delivered.  The audience laughed and cried.  I'm so glad I got to see that performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.

Our coach arrived back at Harlaxton just after midnight.  Even though it was a long day, I am able to cross yet another thing off of my bucket list.  I believe that Shakespeare knew he was a successful poet and playwright, but I don't believe he ever guessed the fame his works would bring him centuries later!  I would recommend Stratford to anyone visiting England, even if you aren't a Shakespeare fanatic.  There's something for everyone--even the UK’s biggest tropical butterfly farm!  There's truly something for everyone.
-Mackenzie Amundsen

Lake District

This weekend was one of many adventures!

I started my Friday morning at around 8:30 am, and got ready to go horseback riding in the beautiful English countryside. I was going with nine other Harlaxton friends. I ate the hostel breakfast and then waited for our cab outside. It wasn't as cold as I thought that it would be. The view from our hostel was amazing! You could see the snow capped mountains across the lake, and there were ducks waddling around the dock. When the cab arrived we hopped in and drove 30 minutes or so to the equestrian place. The driver drove so fast and I could barely take in the views of all of the mountains and green pastures that we were passing. When we arrived we paid our fare and went into their office to sign some waivers and to get suited up to ride. We went outside so that they could assign us horses. I was given "Indie", a beautiful black Gelding. I hopped up and was told to ride him into their riding barn. I rode him in and tried to get him to stop, but he was so stubborn. Someone finally helped me get him to stand in one place while the other 9 from our group were getting saddled up. Once everybody was in the barn the staff went over the basic commands and movements that you need to know while riding English saddle. We began to warm up starting with a basic walk circling the barn. Indie was first. He had to be first. He just wanted to go! So I led the group around the barn. We were instructed "stop", and to begin trotting. I love trotting! Everything that I had learned from prior lessons came back to me so quickly! We did that a few times and then split up into two groups and headed for the trail. It took about 20 minutes down the paved roads to get to the trail. Our guide kept saying "Mind the drain" so that we wouldn't ride over them. Also a few cars passed by us while we were on the road. It was a little frightening. The view on the way down was spectacular. When we got to the trail we trotted a little bit. Then one of our group members fell off of the horse while we were trotting and fell into the mud. We stopped and the guide told me to block off the trail with Indie while she went back to make sure that she was ok. She was fine, just very muddy! We rode back up the hill and dismounted. I knew that my legs would be hurting in a few days as soon as I swung my leg to the other side of the horse. It was totally worth it though! Two other friends and I took a cab back to the hostel to find our other friend and prepared to go into downtown Ambleside and to go on a short hike through the forest to find Stock Ghyll Force Waterfall.

We walked through town and stopped in a few shops. We asked the concierge in the Best Western how we could get to the waterfall. We found the road and hiked up the hill until the trail started. The first water fall that we saw was pretty cool even though it was sort of a short one. I got really close to the edge of the bank in order to get a good shot, and it was worth it. As we hiked further up the trail it began to get muddier and muddier. There were mini waterfalls dripping down the steps we were climbing. I was happy when we finally reached the waterfall after slushing through all of the puddles and mud. The falls were beautiful. We took some pictures and then decided to go back down on the other side of the falls. This was a mistake. It was even muddier on that side. We slid down the trail and tried to avoid the really deep mud puddles.

We finally made it back to town and sat down at a local pub for a quick snack and a nice break for our legs. Afterwards we found the local Tesco and purchased groceries to make our own dinner back at the hostel. We purchased items for two dinners and between four people we spent around 5 pounds for two dinners! We would be having chicken and pasta for the first night, and tacos and quiche for the second night. We went back to the hostel, relaxed and then began cooking our meal. It was delicious.

The next morning I went ghyll scrambling. Ghyll scrambling is basically climbing up waterfalls. I walked outside of the hostel and the guides instructed us to put on the layers and helmets that they were distributing. Then we got on a small bus and drove about 20 minutes into the countryside. As we approached the side of a mountain the guide turned around and told me that that was what we would be climbing up. I was already really intimidated and nervous about climbing a waterfall, and then I saw the enormous rocks that we would probably be climbing. We split our group into two groups of about 10 and made our way to the cold water. Our guide got in, and somehow I was in the water right behind him. The water was so cold because of all of the melting snow! He told us to try and make our way up the stream. Stepping carefully on the rocks at first, I embarked on this great adventure. As we got further upstream I became more confident. We approached a waterfall that was at least two times bigger than me, and the guide decided that we would be free climbing the rock without water running down it. I was so scared, especially because I was the first one to climb it. I made it to the top, and looked down at everyone, and they looked terrified! I told them that it wasn’t that bad. I waited for everyone to make it to the top, and then the guide told me to lead everybody until we got to the next waterfall, he would be bringing up the rear. At the next waterfall he told us that we needed to step with confidence and walk right up it. Once again I was the first one to go. I literally just walked up the waterfall, it was amazing! I waited at the top until the whole group made it up, and we continued on. The next crazy thing that we did was climb a long tree trunk across a deeper part of the stream to the bank. We climbed many other smaller waterfalls until we made it to a stopping point where we exited the stream and had to hop a fence. Did I mention that there were sheep all over this mountain that we were climbing up? We walked the rest of the way up on the trail and saw the biggest waterfall and then walked all the way down on the trail back to the bus. Ghyll scrambling was such an adventure! I wish that I could go every weekend! I have not had that much fun in a while!

When we got back to the hostel, we had about an hour until we had to be back outside to go canoeing. Our groups split off into threes and we began our next adventure out on Lake Windermere, the lake right outside of our hostel. We ventured out into the lake stopping often to create our own little “canoe island” (hooking up 6 canoes to each other). Then two of my friends and their other canoeing companion decided to take a nice little swim in the freezing cold lake. Our canoe was too far away to see what happened, but we saw the aftermath. Their canoe was completely upside-down in the water, and three little dots were in the water. The two guides rushed over and spent about 10 minutes trying to get them out of the water and drain their canoe. When they were finally resituated they all paddled back over to the group that was holding onto a nearby dock to keep from drifting too far away. I could see the look of terror on my friend’s face. We finished up our excursion and brought the canoes back onto shore. The girls that fell into the lake were told to run inside, take everything off and to hit the warm showers. I was really concerned that they were in that cold water for so long! They were all fine after a couple of warm showers and a nice nap in warm blankets. We cooked our dinner and then went back into town for the night with most of our group from Harlaxton. 

On the way back we briefly stopped in Manchester. There were so many people still wearing Manchester United Jerseys and Scarves despite their recent defeat. We didn’t do very much in Manchester, everybody was sore from our adventures in Lake District.

Even though I was sore from all of our Adventures, I still wish that I could have my experiences from the Lake District every weekend. If you ever have the chance to go Ghyll Scrambling, do it!

-Lauren Wirth

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Visiting the Wordsmith: Stratford Spring 2015

On a surprisingly balmy Saturday, I set off with Harlaxton’s Shakespeare class and my visiting boyfriend on a journey to Stratford—the birthplace of the famous playwright himself. I’d heard really wonderful things about the city, and I have to admit it was every bit as lovely as I’d hoped.  The drive to Stratford was approximately two hours (a.k.a. a nice nap)’s distance away from the Manor and we arrived just before lunch.  The day was left open for student exploration, but every student received a voucher that would get them into five different Shakespeare attractions: Shakespeare’s birthplace, Harvard House, Hall’s Croft, Holy Trinity Church, and Shakespeare’s grave within Holy Trinity Church.

In order to avoid the mass bus exodus to Shakespeare’s birthplace, my friends and I decided to try to find Harvard House first. On the way there, we somehow made a wrong a turn, and accidentally ended up at Hall’s Croft instead. Hall’s Croft, home to Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna Hall, and her husband, Dr. John Hall, is a 17th century house that has been furnished with period accurate 400 hundred year old furniture. A garden at the back of the house was particularly nice to see in the sunny (yes, sunny) weather.

            After Hall’s Croft, we walked to Holy Trinity Church. The graveyard in front of the church felt very old; many of the tombstones were so eroded that the names were illegible, but it was oddly picturesque.  Inside the church the graves of William Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway were set into stone and surrounded by colored glass windows.

            The river Avon abuts the church and we were able to eat lunch next to the church and watch an assortment of adorable canines parade by with their owners. The next stop on our adventure was Shakespeare’s birthplace. We were able to walk through the same house as the great poet and stand outside it and listen to live performances given by actors and actresses. The lovely Cat Lopez and Neil Brookhouse were actually brave enough to perform a scene from Much Ado About Nothing as Beatrice and Benedick.

Harvard House rounded out our Shakespeare site-seeing, and we ended up in Anne Hathaway’s Tea Room. While drinking Hathaway tea, music from the The Lord of the Rings started playing in the background and it was pretty glorious. Some more exploring and an unfortunate drop of my phone in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s royal toilet bowl filled up our time until the 7:00 showing of Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theater. The acting was spectacular and the sets were incredible. It was the perfect way to end our time in Stratford and despite getting lost once more on the journey back to the bus, the trip was an overall success!
-Danielle Gillespie
Photo Credits: Tyler Gorin photo one, Cat Lopez (all others)


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Bath & Stonehenge

             I spent this past weekend looking at bathtubs and rocks. Granted, these baths were over 2000 years old and the rocks were built somewhere between 3000 BC and 2000 BC.

The Roman baths in Bath were the first stop we made on our trip. This was probably my favorite part of the entire weekend. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that these beautiful, 2000 year-old baths still hold water. They’re a must see for anyone who enjoys architecture, history, or looking at pretty things.
Almost as impressive as the baths were the streets of Bath. On nearly every street in the city center, one can hear the sweet melodies of buskers playing guitar, singing, or even playing the piano.

As a shopping fanatic, I obviously had to check it out in this city that has been praised for its shops! The first day, I only spent about £10 (the second day is a completely different story)! After shopping and exploring the city, we ventured back to our hostel, the YHA Bath Hostel. My friend and I reunited with the other half of our group and made tacos in the hostel’s kitchen for supper. Being one of the first times I’d eaten Mexican food while being here, the food tasted especially amazing.

We started Saturday bright and early (thank goodness the hostel had a nice – and free – breakfast). The school had planned a half-day trip to Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. Wells Cathedral was absolutely gorgeous; I can’t get enough of visiting gorgeous cathedrals while I’m over here. The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey were especially exciting for me. For those that enjoy a bit of Arthurian legend (*cough* me), Glastonbury Abbey is one of the many places that claim to have had the remains of King Arthur. As the sign on the ground states, “In the year 1191 the bodies of King Arthur and his queen were said to have been found on the south side of the Lady Chapel. On 19th April 1278 their remains were removed in the presence of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor to a black marble tomb on this site. This tomb survived until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539.” So for all of you Merlin, Sword in the Stone, or King Arthur fans, these would be an exciting stop for you! Our tour guide was also decked out in a costume. So there’s another plus. We stopped for lunch in the town of Glastonbury, which is an interesting city to say the least. While looking for lunch, we passed no less than five magic shops. And I’m not talking about magic wands, decks of playing cards, and those stupid interlocking rings. There was a magic crystals shop, a shop called Cat & Cauldron that smelled terribly of decomposing animal, and Man, Myth & Magik which was sadly closed – it looked the most interesting. We popped into Cat & Cauldron and quickly retreated. If you enjoy all things Wiccan (oh dear I hope that’s the right term), you would definitely enjoy poking around in these shops! If you’re like me…well… there are some wonderful cafes that didn’t smell like decomposing animal!

Upon returning to Bath, we realized we were in desperate need of something sweet. While walking back into the city center from where the coach dropped us off, we saw a tearoom advertising what looked like the most delicious cupcakes we had ever seen. For about the past three weeks now, my friend and I had been craving cupcakes. The Hands Georgian Tearoom was an elegant tearoom where a pianist serenaded us while we savored our cupcakes and cake. The rest of the day was spent continuing to explore the city center….and shopping. I spent nearly £100 in just this one day!

On our way back to the manor, we made our final stop at Stonehenge. As impressive as it is, I’ll admit, it can get a little old after looking at it for 20 minutes. Learning about the people who built it is interesting, however they are still unsure of its purpose. Popular theory is that the stones involve some type of ritual. Stonehenge is a great stop to make, but not really something that you spend more than an hour at. That’s why the school trip was so great! I never would have gone to Bath if it hadn’t been for this school trip and it is now one of my favorite cities and a must see for those studying in the UK.

Happy travels,

Kristen Buhrmann

Harlaxton Rated #1 Study Abroad Program

                 Harlaxton College, the British Campus for the University of Evansville, recently received first place in Best College Reviews’ “The 50 Best Study Abroad Programs in America.”

                Criteria for the list included at least a semester study period, fewer than 500 students, faculty involvement abroad, and a specific location internationally.
                A typical semester at Harlaxton will include students that hail from 12 to 15 different universities, with an average of around 200 students at a time.
                “It’s a full service campus,” said Earl Kirk, Study Abroad Director at the University of Evansville.  Kirk said that part of Harlaxton’s success comes from its amenities.
Few study abroad locations can claim a school nurse, student development office, traditional housing and a gymnasium. The fact that this package is wrapped in a 19th-century manor house doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s beautiful to look at,” Sophomore Stephanie Yurks said. Yurks, a history major at the University of Southern Indiana, chose Harlaxton for its scenic location in the English countryside as well as the rich cultural background which she is fond of.
                One of many aspects that draw students to Harlaxton is its British Studies program, which counts for six credits and integrates British history as well as culture into the classroom. Although American professors teach at the manor, British instructors give the British Studies lectures and lead seminars.
                “The British Studies lectures are very expansive,” said Derek Dahlk, a senior from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Clarie.
                All students who study at Harlaxton are required to take British Studies. It involves two lectures a week as well as smaller seminar groups that meet directly afterward.
“Let me just assure you that this British Studies program is outstanding,” Kirk said. Kirk feels that it is not often that students get excited about a six-credit class that is mandatory, but this is an exception.
 “It receives rave reviews at the end of the semester,” he said.
                Travel and bonding with peers are crucial to the study abroad experience, which is where Harlaxton’s Student Development Office comes into play.
                Kristin Eberman, Dean of Student Development, wants students to build relationships in the manor but also step outside the “Harlaxton bubble.”
Student Development offers an extensive travel program including smaller day trips around Harlaxton and larger excursions to places such as London, Ireland and Paris. The majority of trips aren’t mandatory but are recommended and fairly independent if the student chooses them to be. Most school weeks are only four days long, which allows for school trips and independent travel.
The Meet-a-Family program gives students the opportunity to interact with members of the Grantham, England, area. Students are assigned a local family and get together periodically, usually at the residence of the host.
                As far as on campus activities, the Student Development Office offers intramural sports teams, student government, and various other clubs to help students connect with one another. Classmates are even divided into four houses that compete in competitions throughout the semester. The winning house receives a coveted key to the manor’s front door.
                Harlaxton’s first place rating on Best College Reviews’ seems to come as a pleasant, yet hardly shocking suprise to many students and staff at the college.
                “It’s picturesque and an ideal version of what the British experience would be,” Dahlk said.
                Although the rating is very positive for Harlaxton, perhaps the most important PR campaign for the college is the hundreds of students and staff it has dramatically impacted through the years.
-Patrick Henry