The past month has been such a wonderful experience. I made new friends, learned about Victorian Gothic literature, and explored London, as well as Paris and Edinburgh to a lesser extent. I feel that I grew personally and academically. I noticed changes in myself that could have only come from studying abroad. Looking back on all of the memories I have accumulated I have found that words cannot truly express how grateful I am to have been a member of the British Studies Program. Reflecting on some of these memories, I am going to share some of my favorite experiences, both academic and nonacademic. (These are in no particular order).
- How much I learned by hands-on learning: I find it amazing that I feel like I learned more in a month than I have in some semesters. Hands-on learning is usually considered to be the most effective, and after this program, I am a firm believer in this. Not only did we have discussions and lectures in a classroom, we went on class excursions to complement what we learned in class. For example, we read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. To complement our class discussion we visited the Bronte parsonage in Haworth and hiked the moors. This was one of my favorite class excursions because the entire class hiked rough terrain together, and, though it was difficult, we persevered and made it to the Bronte bridge. The experience was enlightening. We were able to see firsthand the climate and environment where Emily Bronte lived and wrote. It gave me a sense of why she wrote Wuthering Heights the way she did. The moors are dark, cold, isolated, and unforgiving, and Emily Bronte incorporated all of this in her book.
- How much I learned the Gothic: Our first blog post had us explain what we knew (or thought we knew) about the Gothic. Although I had a few right ideas (old, creepy settings and monsters), there was so much more to be learned. There were boundaries, abhuman, abject, and, my personal favorite, blurred binaries. My favorite text, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde incorporated all of these themes. I loved how so many ideas and themes came together in such a short text. Mr. Hyde is abject – people cannot stand to be around him and recoil upon first sight of him. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are abhuman, and Dr. Lanyon witnesses their transformation. There is the crossing of the boundary of the self, which is seemingly unnatural. Finally, this story blurs binaries – animal/human and maternal/paternal.
- Being able to explore and navigate London: During our free time, we were able to explore London. From day one, I barely stopped so that I would be able to see as much as possible. Exploring the city extensively helped me grow as a person. I learned how to navigate London. When I got lost, I had to find my way back by learning to read a map effectively and asking locals. In the past, I would have been too shy to ask. But I was forced to go out of my comfort zone, and it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I now know that I am capable of handling unfamiliar situations and finding a solution quickly and effectively. It also helped me learn to think quicker on my feet. Learning these skills was especially helpful when we traveled to Paris and Edinburgh, which had public transportation set up differently than London.
- Reading texts that I normally would not have: Gothic literature has not been something I tend to gravitate towards. I have had Dracula and Frankenstein in my miniature library for years and have never read them. However, after this class, they are at the top of my list. Normally, I read fantasy or science fiction, with the occasional contemporary or history novel thrown in. But thanks to this class, I feel like my reading habits and preferences have broadened. I have an appreciation for Gothic literature now that was not there before. I now love looking for Gothic elements in texts – like that old, creepy building, or blurred binaries, or enforcing or crossing boundaries. Furthermore, I like to look for the Gothic around me – like the Gothic architecture or the abject.
This barely scratches the surface of all I learned and experienced in London and abroad. My gratitude and appreciation for this program is overwhelming. My love for London and its culture cannot effectively be conveyed in words. My gratitude to my professor for making me think critically, go out of my comfort zone, and listening to my thoughts with interest is something I will remember and appreciate throughout my life. Additionally, thank you to my professor for instilling in me the “Spirit of Adventure” and being an enthusiastic woman that I admire. And, finally, my thankfulness to my classmates for embracing me and my nerdiness, going on outings and getting lost and found together, and being the best group of ladies to explore and learn with will always be treasured in my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you.