Last Updated on December 17, 2018 by Cat Rogliano
I always thought it would be hard to walk in London- you’d be bumping into ghosts and stories and legends on every street corner. England doesn’t have the wide-open plains, mountains and sprawling expanse of America so they have to make everything, even the small stuff, special.
America has cities that are legendary, but England transforms mere furniture or accessories, like wardrobes or umbrellas, into something significant. A bar in London, any bar, could have the writing desk of William Shakespeare, a forest could hide hobbits and elves, a dirt road in the moors could wind up to a mansion straight out of a Bronte novel. Even the animals, the squirrels and mice and badgers, have medieval epics written about them!
But England isn’t just the setting of musty books. It crackles with history of every kind. A cavernous basement could still echo with the screams that propelled four mop-haired boys to international stardom and a castle could hide intrigue that still resounds through the plots of movies and television. I’ve always thought the United Kingdom condensed all the history and wonderfulness of the United States into an area the size of Oregon. And London is the epicenter of it all!
Going to England this summer does meet a requirement for my English literary major but, to be honest, this trip is for me. It’s a chance to walk the streets of London and keep an eye out for Daleks or peer down alleyways in search for a certain pipe and tweed hat. It’s for the little kid who was captivated by Tolkien, whose bizarre sense of humor was born from silly walks and depressed robots; the kid who lived in London through books and movies and music.
It’s a chance to go home, in a way. Since I never had a real home because we had to move so much in the military, London was one of my true “hometowns.” No matter how far I moved, if I had old friends or was just the “new kid,” London’s streets, characters, and stories were only a page away. And after I discovered music, it was the source of my favorite bands. I could imagine the sweat dripping off the walls as the Beatles roared through “Twist and Shout,” I could practically see Jimi Hendrix tearing up the stage with Clapton in some unknown bar, I could feel the streets of London under my feet as Mick Jagger strutted through my headphones. England may be the stage of my childhood but London was the main and most captivating performer.
Speaking of players, I’m not just excited for extracurricular studies and trips to visit the various rude mechanicals of London. My course, Shakespeare and His World, is one of the most anticipated things of my trip. I’ve always been a fanatic of The Bard and the opportunity to study him within sight of the Globe feels more like a religious pilgrimage than a college class. I can’t wait to hammer out papers on him on the bars that stood when he was alive, to stroll through the streets he passed by, to stand on the stage where he first presented his masterpieces to royalty and riff raff alike. I know it’s not THE Globe Theater but, gosh, just being there will be like walking through a particularly pleasant Midsummer’s Dream. It’s like this trip to London has been handcrafted for me.
The fact that if I get bored in the Shakespeare and His World class and stare out the window, I could have a glimpse of the Globe instead of just the same brick walls I’ve stared out for years says a lot about the benefits of studying abroad. I mean, learning about Shakespeare is fun but learning about Shakespeare where Shakespeare wrote his stuff isn’t work at all.
It’s living, breathing history.
It’s the plays come to life and no teacher, no matter how good, could ever compare. Just being there makes all the difference. I think of studying abroad, of traveling in general, as an adventure and who else is better at being a guide for a new place than the people who live there? I can’t wait to bug my teachers about the best music clubs, the best places to grab a bite to eat and a beer, and all of London’s hidden gems. There’s something to be said of being a tourist in a new place, but to be an explorer, to charge out on your own with a hand drawn map from a local and the promise of treasure around the next corner, is like something out of a story.
Going overseas to study is more than cut and paste tourism. It’s an adventure, one that you make up, that you plan, that is perfectly suited to you and whoever you decide to drag along. It’s so much more exciting than those glamorous travel guide photos of people laughing because it’s something that only you can take pictures, spots that only you could have found, things that only you thought were cool. Studying abroad is making memories that no travel guide could have possibly imagined or planned.