Road Trip: Postcard from England

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On the beach at Lindisfarne – the first beach I’ve ever visited.

Last summer Christopher Queen, an honors English major from Sherwood, Ark., chalked up a few important firsts: first plane trip, first visit to a beach, and first time to completely immerse himself in another place and time. He hopes to use his firsthand experiences of England’s great cathedrals and the Globe Theater to bring Chaucer and Shakespeare alive for high school students someday. Here is an excerpt from his post to the Honors College blog:

Salutations from London, England! My name is Christopher Queen, a soon-to-be junior at the University of Arkansas, and I am writing to you from the beautifully temperate United Kingdom.

Very recently, I realized that I have learned in a way that most people will never get the chance to experience. I have been immersed in a culture, and more importantly, an entire time period.

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Bridge into Durham town center with Durham Cathedral in the background.

 

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Stained glass interior of York Minister.

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York Minister exterior reaching far into the sky.

Dr. Quinn, my instructor for this trip, has taken the utmost care to bring a period mistakenly called “The Dark Ages” into plain, bright sight. Classes were centered on texts from the Middle Ages and were bolstered by in-depth class discussion. Interspersed between our discussions, we would take trips to historically relevant sites throughout the United Kingdom. My personal favorites were Canterbury and York, each with their own magnificent medieval cathedrals. Under the soaring Gothic ceilings and with the ornate reliquaries of various saints in sight, I gained a sense of wonder not unlike that of a medieval pilgrim. Armed with the contextual knowledge of the Middle Ages, we were able to put ourselves in both the physical and mental positions of cloistered monks and typical medieval citizens. I’ll never be able to replicate such informative experiences, but I’ll hold those instances very dearly.

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Durham Cathedral at sunset.

Incidentally, this trip marked a few firsts for me as well. It is the first time I have ever travelled via airplane. It is also the first time I’ve ever stepped foot on a beach of any kind. The medieval fortress at Lindisfarne provided the very first beach and ocean I’ve ever had the chance to see.

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Stained glass inside Canterbury Cathedral apse.

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The intricate exterior of York Minister.

I hope to attain my teaching license within the next few years and teach English in secondary settings. Having participated in this study abroad, I am now prepared to teach the period literature with firsthand experience of its locations and contexts. This is the most invaluable part of this trip to me. Now, I am able to say that I walked through the very same halls that the pilgrims of Chaucer’s opus sought so desperately. I am able to say that I’ve watched Macbeth on the (reconstructed) stage of the Globe Theatre. I’ve gotten as close to the Middle Ages as is humanly possible, and I plan to teach it with that same sort of attitude.

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