Junior English major and French minor Zoe Rom traveled to England last summer to study with the Medieval England faculty-led program with Dr. William Quinn. In addition to visiting England’s storied Gothic cathedrals and world class museums, Zoe also experienced the centuries-old mystery plays enacted on the streets of York, paid her respects at Jane Austen’s grave, and ate a lot of Nutella sandwiches to save up for a splurge: high tea at Kensington Palace.
I studied abroad in England through the Medieval England program, headed by Dr. Quinn of the English and Medieval and Renaissance Studies program. The program was based out of the University of Durham, where we attended daily lectures on medieval literature, art, architecture and religion. The lectures were excellent preparation for the many day trips to interesting places such as York, Lindisfarne, Winchester and Dover.
While in York, I had a chance to see the York Minster, a famous Gothic cathedral, and the York Mystery plays, a centuries-old tradition still upheld by the townspeople of York. Stories from the Bible are enacted with elegant verse throughout the city. The plays were a fusion of contemporary interpretation and medieval tradition. I didn’t expect to enjoy medieval morality plays so much, but the people of York brought the stories to life.
The Holy Isle of Lindisfarne was the original resting place of St. Cuthbert, before his body was carried to Durham and buried at the cathedral. Lindisfarne is inaccessible for most of the day when high tides cover the only road to the island. There is a quaint village surrounded by chilly pebble beaches and pastures of sheep. The ruins of a 14th century abbey sit on a small grassy outcrop pointing to the sea. The lectures on architecture and religion made exploring the abbey ruins so interesting and brought new meaning to lessons learned in the classroom.
Winchester is home of yet another famous Gothic cathedral, and the famous final resting place of Jane Austen. Winchester is an adorable hillside town with winding streets and leaning shop fronts filled with tearooms. Afternoon tea is wonderful in Winchester – you can enjoy sultana scones (filled with raisins and orange zest), an assortment of tiny tea cakes, and two cups of Yorkshire black tea. If you’re feeling especially fancy you can get salmon or cucumber finger sandwiches, the perfect afternoon snack.
I wish I had known how expensive everything is! The food, while not as bad as I had been warned it would be, is still very expensive. London in particular is notorious for its overpriced food. I minimized my costs by buying bread and Nutella for sandwiches and saving up for nicer meals on the weekends. At the end of my trip I splurged and got high tea at Kensington Palace. For 25 pounds [ed. note: about $X], you get three finger sandwiches, two scones, and five tea cakes with clotted cream. It was delicious.
While in Europe, I also visited Scotland, France and Spain. Scotland was beautiful and rainy, which provided ample opportunity to explore its many castles and art galleries. Paris was warm and sunny, and I spent most of my time wandering its many street markets and gardens. Spain was hot and offered a wonderful departure from the chilly gloom of northern England. These side trips and weekend excursions offered so much learning outside of the classroom, and gave me amazing opportunities to see some of the best museums in the world that enhanced what I had been covering in the classroom.
Study abroad was great because being able to interact meaningfully with classroom knowledge in a real world setting makes education all the more real, and all the more applicable. It fleshes out many of the things I already knew, and exposed me to many things I have yet to learn.