Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Perceptions of the United Kingdom vs. Reality

Before coming to Harlaxton, there were a lot of things that I thought I knew about the UK. After living here for over 3 months, I’ve learned which of these perceptions were true and which were false.

1. It does NOT rain all of the time.

Although the weather has been dreary recently, it does not rain most days. Sure, it has been cloudy for at least half of the semester, but it is only occasionally accompanied with rain. I had heard that it rains or at least mists in England most days. I’m glad that was a misconception.

2. Potatoes ARE an essential part of every meal.

From chips to hash browns, almost every plate I get from the refectory has included potatoes in some form. I’d been warned about this ahead of time, so it didn’t surprise me that I’d had potatoes for dinner most nights the first week at Harlaxton.

3. Mexican food DOES exist in United Kingdom.

The UK and Ireland do offer Mexican food. The food may not be as authentic as local restaurants in the US, but at least they try. Before arriving in England, I thought Mexican food was the type of ethnic food that I would miss most. Fortunately, I can say that I’ve had a burrito in England. Also, if you were wondering, there are a few Taco Bells in England, but none close to Grantham.

4. England IS diverse.

I thought it would be uncommon to hear American accents on the streets in the UK, but I was mistaken. In London, language and accents vary. Although the city is large, it’s not too difficult to feel at home amongst the multicultural crowd.

5. The United Kingdom is made up of distinct groups of people.

Before British Studies, I didn’t fully understand the connections between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is not as happily joined as I had thought. Some residents argue for breaking away from the European Union to enhance their national identity. Even Scotland may one day break apart the United Kingdom. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom isn’t committed to staying together.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Our Home Away From Home

I never imagined that watching a slide show of portraits of English monarchs, scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry, paintings from the Industrial Revolution, and photographs of momentous events in British history, while listening to Rule Britannia, could make me tear up. In fact, if you told me at another time this semester that I would be sad to leave the last British Studies lecture, I would not have believed it. After 28 lectures, we all know much more about British history than we did when we arrived, but this semester has taught us so much more than that.

We were strangers at orientation, rivals in house competitions, classmates in British Studies, a support system after the attacks in Paris, but most importantly, we are friends who share an experience unlike any other. Spending a semester at Harlaxton is a unique experience in itself, but this semester that we have shared is unlike the semesters before or those to come.

We have learned what it means to be global citizens. We have learned how to think critically about a nation’s identity. We have learned how to plan travel. We have learned to have empathy for other people and cultures. We have traveled and laughed and danced and studied and lived amazing lives this semester.

To think of the sheer number of miles we have collectively traveled is incredible, but we all know that it’s not about how many miles or even where we’ve been. This semester is about the memories we will cherish, the journeys along the way, and the people we have shared them with.

I can vividly remember the first time we all walked through the front door and up the staircase to the Great Hall, to sit underneath a beautiful chandelier in a 19th century manor house. If that isn’t a fairytale, then I don’t know what is. Since then, we have returned on every Sunday night to the same view of our Harlaxton Manor, but something changed about it as the semester went on. Harlaxton became our home, and no matter how badly we may want to go back to America, a part of us will always be here in our home away from home.

Written by: Casey Rice