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Second Time = Success

22 Jun

As I’m preparing to leave London for the second summer, I can’t help but appreciate every moment I’ve had in this wonderful city. I studied in London with the same program last summer, so I was a little hesitant to come back. However, my professor worked specifically with me to create a program that filled my requirements and goals as a student going into her senior year. Yes, I was “with” the same program as last summer, but I did something completely different.

I read some of the same texts as I did last year. You may think that this sounds like an easy task, but it was incredibly challenging. I had to look at things I previously read in a new light and focus on the writing to get a new experience from it. Reading things for a second time allowed me to grow deeper as an intellectual. I went to some of the same places that I did last summer, and I got a completely different experience because I was looking at things with a new perspective. In fact, many times I was able to step back a bit and tune into the culture of a place because I was visiting it for a second time.

Studying abroad is necessary for every student to do before they graduate. Not only do you learn about a different culture than yours, but you learn a lot about yourself; there is a lot of intellectual and personal growth in studying abroad. I highly encourage anybody who hasn’t studied abroad or hasn’t given it a thought to look deeper into it. I guarantee it will change your world and open you up for some experiences that you couldn’t get anywhere else.


Stars and Skyscrapers

21 Jun

I’ve posted a lot on my exploration of the city of London, however, I’ve failed to mention one of the best parts of living in London: my flat. I have been living at Nido Student Living in Spitalfields; if you know the city, it isn’t far from the Brick Lane Markets. Nido is the tallest student accommodation in the world with its 33 floors.  It’s practially brand new and stands out from most buildings in London. Every Sunday there was a street market right outside our building, incredible!

My room is on the 18th floor and it offers up the most incredible vantage point. There is a window ledge where I put my books and journal while I read, write, or just enjoy taking in the city. My bed faces the window, so when I go to sleep at night I can look out  and see the stars and skyscrapers. Being so high up in the city makes me feel like I’m on Aladdin’s carpet soaring over the city.

They say NYC is a city that doesn’t sleep. Since I’ve visited both cities, I can say with confidence that London is also a city that doesn’t sleep. Quite literally, actually; the sun rises at approximately 4:45 am. It took some getting used to during the first couple of weeks when I would wake up to the sun pouring in my room and thinking I overslept for class when in fact it was only 5 am. Part of the study abroad experience is making a new home. Not only do I feel at home with my fellow classmates, since we live and study together practically 24/7, but my room in London has become a new home to me. I will miss this view once I get back to The States!

“We few, we happy few, we band of band of brothers”

14 Jun

For those of you who don’t recognize my title quote, it is from William Shakespeare’s Henry V. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings for Shakespeare, but hopefully everyone can at least appreciate everything he did for the theater world. My program assigned Shakespeare’s Henry V for class. We did our usual discussion of the text and related it to how we would teach it as future educators. What was the cool thing about our discussion?  We went to The Globe Theater later that evening to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Henry V! After seeing the play performed at The Globe, my whole class agreed that Shakespeare should never be taught simply using the text.

Shakespeare wrote plays. Why teachers continue to teach Shakespeare by just reading the play is a mystery to me. I realize that it is impossible for every student to see a performance at The Globe, but if students could see any sort of Shakespeare production, or even a movie of the play, then I know Shakespeare would come to life for them. Seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Henry V confirmed my love for his plays. When I studied in London last summer, I saw Much Ado About Nothing at The Globe. That play is a comedy while Henry V is history. However, I enjoyed them both for the differences they offered. I should mention that my class and I stood in the “pit” of the theater. We stood the entire play on the cement ground in front of the stage. This allowed us to interact with the play (as actors extended their stage to the ground during some parts of the play), and it allowed us to experience what is was like for the peasants who couldn’t afford seating back in the day. They were called Groundlings.  All in all, The Globe was an incredible cultural experience for us. In fact, some of us are going back on Friday to see Hamlet performed!

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A Bird’s-Eye View of London

13 Jun

To say that St. Paul’s Cathedral is a staple of London is an understatement. For example, during WWII Londoners looked to St. Paul’s for hope; they knew that if St. Paul’s could survive the Blitz then London could survive as well. St. Paul’s is a cathedral for the people. While there are some memorials for lords in the cathedral, there are many memorials for common men such as soldiers, it’s builders, and people who have worked in St. Paul’s. There is even a memorial area for American soldiers who helped England during the war; pretty cool for us American students to see!

Before my group visited, we read a piece by Virginia Woolf in which she contrasts Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s. Virginia Woolf states that, “No contrast could be greater than that between St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey”. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that there is no greater contrast, but I absolutely agree that St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey offer up their own unique experiences. For me, St. Paul’s offered a more personable experience and Westminster Abbey offered a more inspiring one.

My group and I climbed to the top of St. Paul’s (up and down was a total of over 1,000 steps!). Our journey to the top was rewarding. The bird’s-eye view of London is something I will never forget. I was able to look at over the grand city and see the tiny people below me. The steeple at the top is something people have looked up to for courage and hope, and I saw it up close! Climbing to the top of St. Paul’s allowed me to grasp the significance that this cathedral has for its people and the city of London.

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Red, White, and Blue: A Unity of Strangers

11 Jun

What exactly does “reading” London entail? On the surface level, reading London means reading literature about London. However, “reading” London goes much deeper than simply reading. I’ve been in London for over two weeks now, and I have read London in a way I never thought possible. I have read the expression of my classmate/flatmate, Taylor, as she experienced her very first church service that just happened to be in Westminster Abbey, I have read the way Londoners glorify their Queen, and I have read how strangers come together to form one unity.

“Reading”, as I’ve learned throughout my English Education studies, includes figuring out what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, etc, about a certain “thing” (text, pictures, faces, music…). While I can read various things back in The States and in a classroom at Purdue, studying in London provides a much richer experience. I have been close with Taylor since our paths crossed in Heavilon on Purdue’s campus. That’s why it was incredibly special to be with her during her first church service, and did I mention it was at Westminster Abbey, the Royal Church of London?! Through her expression and conversations with her afterwards, I know that she experienced something that she could never experience in a classroom. Westminster Abbey is full of memorials, and even some graves, of famous poets, authors, Kings, and Queens. Walking among them allowed us to feel the significance they had on people. Reading the way people reacted to the different memorials or burials helped put the significance of Westminster Abbey into perspective for me. The Royal Church of London is not only important for her people, but also strangers.

The past few days have been devoted to Queen Elizabeth II in honor of her 60 year reign. Never have I seen patriotism like I have in London. There are Union Jack’s everywhere, from flags flying to clothing for dogs. There have been cut-outs of the Queen in various places around the city, and some people even “wear her face.” Sounds creepy, but it’s really not: it’s a sign of love and devotion to Queen Elizabeth. Me and a couple of my classmates went to the Diamond Jubilee Concert last night. That was one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my life. Talk about red, white, and blue; those colors were everywhere! People from all different walks of life came together for one purpose: to celebrate their Queen. The dynamic of people’s expressions were an enjoyable read as well. Throughout the celebration, I witnessed and partook in dancing in the streets, laughter and tears of joy with hundreds of thousands of people. At one point, they announced that there were one million people flooding the streets to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. It didn’t matter that not everyone were British citizens, what matter was everyone came together to celebrate the Queen. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of a unity of strangers.

Studying abroad allows me to immerse myself in a different culture. People often give me a second look when I say I’m studying in England because “they speak the same language as you.” While that may be true, to an extent, London is still a completely different culture than I am familiar with. There is more diversity in this wonderful city than I have ever seen and there is the whole monarchy thing. I studied in London last summer, and I’m still learning new things every single day. My professor has come here for many years now, and she still explores new areas of the city. Getting out of the classroom setting enables me to read London in an entirely different light than by just reading texts about the city.

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Student. n. [Latin] A Man Given to Books

31 May

Embrace your word-nerd side: today my group went to Dr. Samuel Johnson’s house (aka, the creator of the English dictionary). While this may not seem interesting to everyone, it was certainly incredible for a room full of college English students. Not only did we discuss how to teach language in our future classrooms this morning, but we travelled to the house where Dr. Johnson first standardized the English language with his dictionary! Going from classroom discussion to holding one of the first dictionaries is an experience I will never forget.

One of the words I looked up in Dr. Johnson’s dictionary was student. As my title says, student is a noun that refers to a man who is given to books. Well, I was given 4 novels, 1 play, and numerous articles, short stories, and poetry for my 1 month trip abroad. I would say that qualifies me as a student. Study. n. Application of mind to books and learning. Since my study abroad program has started, I have devoted infinite hours of immersing my brain in the readings and applying the knowledge I have gained to real life situations. It’s safe to say that, yes, I am studying in London.

If you think I sound like a nerd now, just wait until I tell you about Dr. Johnson’s dictionary library! Ok, I won’t bore you with details, but it was wonderful to see many editions of his dictionaries all placed in lovely bookcases. I am confident that I can at least bring a little life into language when I talk to my future students about my experience at Dr. Johnson’s house.

Living and Studying: A Unique Combination

29 May

Studying abroad makes for an extremely unique classroom. In my case, I live with my classmates, I eat meals with them, and I travel with them. While my Professor does not live with us, we have class with her Monday-Friday and travel with her. This classroom setting is so unique because you form deep bonds with classmates and you get to know your Professor on a deeper level. There is something about being around the same group of people practically 24/7 that allows an experience you can’t get in a regular classroom setting.

This week our group is working closely with Dickens’ texts; half of the group is reading Oliver Twist and half of the group is reading The Old Curiosity Shop. Last Friday, our group went on a Dickens Walk where we literally walked the same streets that inspired Dickens’ writings. Our walking guide was a descendant of Dickens’; his great, great, great-granddaughter! She informed us of many interesting details of Dickens’ life while showing us the sites that were the inspirations of his writings. This walking tour allows the Dickens’ novels that we read to come to life in a way that cannot be achieved in a regular classroom setting. Now, all of us have a unique way to bring Dickens to life for our future students.

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