“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” –St. Augustine
I must confess that up until this summer, I had a very limited number of pages in my book – I’d traveled a great deal throughout the US, but never abroad! This summer I had the chance to study at SMU-in-Oxford, my first great adventure across the pond.
One of my favorite classes was Class and Gender in Ancient Societies because, rather than looking at pictures of the Athenian marbles from the Parthenon or ancient Greek and Roman clothing, we took a class trip into London to a plethora of museums to look at these artifacts in person. In addition, instead of thinking about what the Roman understanding of “Londinium” was, as a class we walked (and may or may not have touched – shh!) the remaining ruins of the London wall, built in 200AD.
I anticipated the opportunity to explore London, but even more exciting was the opportunity to travel out of the UK on the weekends. As soon as classes were over, students would pack up and travel to Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, Venice, or Amsterdam. In order to get the most out of my “Great Adventure Abroad”, I visited Paris, Wales, and convinced some fellow students to venture to Barcelona with me on a three-day weekend. I loved the opportunity to expand my horizons and learn about different cultures – the SMU-in-Oxford program allows you to take two classes, a class with an SMU professor, and a tutorial with an Oxford professor, and then pack up and explore another city of interest. Ironically, though SMU-in-Oxford does not have a foreign language requirement, every trip I took involved a language I had never studied, and much adventure and hilarity ensued. In Paris I negotiated dinner at a small café utilizing my few French words and hand gestures, and ended up accidentally ordering three desserts! In Barcelona I looked forward to feeling competent and practicing mi Español, as I consider myself a fluent conversational-Spanish speaker, only to realize too late that everyone in Barcelona speaks Catalan! When we ventured to Wales I didn’t even think that they would speak anything other than English, and discovered that signs in Welsh are a little more difficult to navigate. It was a wonderful experience, as I learned while travelling that people are gracious if you are willing to learn – wherever I went I would ask questions and loved immersing myself in the vastly different cultures of the English, French, Spanish, and Welsh.
My absolute favorite part of the trip, though, was visiting some important cites for any Theatre or English major. I explored the Globe theatre and saw what a production would look like in Shakespeare’s time, as well as visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and burial cite at Stratford-Upon-Avon. We toured the city of Bath, and I thought of Jane Austen (who hated Bath, apparently) visiting herself and writing about Catherine’s adventures on the same streets in Northanger Abbey. In London I saw Richard III with Kevin Spacey, and to show true theatre-kid devotion, had to buy standing tickets only and stood for 3.5 hours! One standout moment was visiting C.S. Lewis’ home, the Kilns, just a few minutes away from Univ College at Oxford, and sitting on the same bench he and J.R.R. Tolkien would relax and smoke their pipes and dream about Narnia and Middle Earth, respectively.
SMU-in-Oxford was an incredibly defining moment that added chapters and chapters to my life’s Book – and I encourage you all to travel abroad while at SMU!