England. For an American, it is a dream vacation spot. To see the history and the beautiful landscapes! It seems like a fairytale, learning about the kings and queens and the knights and the monks and the crusades. It is all a mystery to us, who have just a very short history.
I was given the opportunity to travel abroad and live in England for a semester. My school owns a manor house that we send students to every season of the year. This place is called Harlaxton Manor, and it is a dream. I've been here a month, and it is still amazing to drive or walk up the mile driveway and see the huge manor in the distance in all of its glory. To the right, you can see a picture of the manor from Google. It is filled with 4 State Rooms and many other magnificent rooms from the original house. It even has a wide range of secrets hidden within the walls. From secret doors that bring you from room to room, to a hidden passage under the conservatory, this place has got a lot to explore.
But, what is it like? Is it nice? Is it worth it? What are the challenges? And are there any tips I have for anyone planning on coming to this amazing country? Well, that is what I plan to help with. So let's get started.
◉ The Mini Culture of the Manor
The school is very much on its own from the little village of Harlaxton or the local city of Grantham, so we do not get much culture shock from the different country, but we do end up building our own that is a mix of American and English. We all grow comfortable with each other and have learned the ins and outs of the manor. We only ever are seen in Grantham at the town shopping center or at the train station, so the local no nothing about what goes on on the inside.
The students inside only get a taste of the culture difference when they take trips around the local area on day trips. And even then, we do not stay long enough to experience the culture of the area. We were warned about culture shock when they were preparing us for the semester, but I hardly even notice that we are not in a normal setting.
When coming, I was actually pretty worried about the culture shock and need for adjustment, but I was pleasantly disappointed to not have to experience the shock. However, I fear I will when I get home, since I will be moving less and traveling less than I am here.
◉ Travel Madness
On the idea of the trips, they happen quite a lot over here. I am not much of a traveler, but just in this first month, I've been to London, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, and I am going to North Wales this weekend. When you go traveling, be sure to pack a jacket, a water bottle, and food. If possible, pack your lunches. They will save you lots of money. This was a mistake I made. I spent a lot of money on lunches and burned through my money quickly this way. If you stop by a Morrisons or M&S and grab something to just pack in your day bag, then you're set. You can even get a packed lunch from the Refectory(dinning room) at the Manor if you want! It wont be very good, but it will be free to you.
Back home, I hardly ever even leave my house or my dorm room. So being out almost every weekend this first month has been hectic. I'm tired and just want a weekend to relax and catch up on some sleep. And this will be the same for many people. The first month is the craziest, then you start to travel less and less. So as a tip for anyone planning on coming to Harlaxton, please pace yourself to how you know you can handle traveling. If you need every other weekend to rest and get all your school work done, then do that. And if you can travel basically every weekend and be just fine and get all your work done, then do it.
One last thing, before we move on. Be sure to plan at least one solo trip. Just you and the place you’re going. I did this going to Scotland. I had already gone and I had no need to go with the school, so I had a Hostel in Edinburgh and then traveled the Friday and Saturday to two different cities. On Friday, I went to St. Andrews, which is the Home of Golf and has old castle ruins and a cathedral ruin. It was very peaceful and nice to just walk around the city at my own pace and to get to talk to the locals without seeming intimidating in a group. I got to know many nice people when I went off on my own on trips. The second city I went to was Dunar, they had another castle ruin. When admiring the castle, I met someone from Canada and we walked and talked for a while before going off on our own again. It may seem scary, but walking around on your own is actually very nice!
◉ British Studies
The class that is unique to Harlaxton. The class that everyone has to take. The class to end all classes. Okay, now that we got poetry out of the way; this class takes you through the history of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and how the culture is and for the past couple years, Brexit. That will certainly date this blog in the future.
This class is set up much like the classes over here. We have a Lecture in the morning at 8:30 and then we have an assortment of Seminars with different Professors for them. We have 4 Profs and two Seminar times, one at 9:40 - right after the Lecture - and one at 11.
In general, this class is not hard. as long as you attend the class times and study before each minor and major unpleasantnesses(quizzes and exams), you should do just fine. And there are Quizlets for every quiz, plus they post all the past quizzes and exams long before we have them. They do not list assignments in the course handbook, but they do have the quizzes and tests, so, you'll need to listen for any assignments they want you to do during your seminar.
During the Lectures, you will not have much luck trying to take notes, and there is not much need to since the post the powerpoint and the handouts online after each one anyway. Their words are not very helpful, but if it helps you could always record the lectures to listen to them later.
Now, I've said a lot of things, but I have not yet said if it was worth it. And I say, of course it is worth it. When I tell people back home about this, they get super jealous, because how many people do I know who have enjoyed Ice Cream in a cup by the Eiffel Tower? Zero! You will have experiences that will follow you for the rest of your life! You'll grow and learn more about yourself! Traveling abroad is totally worth it. Coming to Harlaxton is 100%, without a doubt, the best thing I will ever do. A final piece of advice I have for you, is to take a lot of pictures, remember, you will probably never return to Europe and no one you know will ever go in the first place! Make sure you get pictures with you in them, even if you don't feel the nicest or look the nicest, you will be happy you have them so you can look back and know that you were there and had a good time. I also suggest making folders in the cloud of on your laptop for each trip to save the photos to so that you don't lose track of where you were. And you can even write a diary or journal of your adventures, or do what I do and make videos of the adventures and describe what all you did over your photos. Below, I have written a bit of poetry to close this with about the Manor itself.
An Ode to a Dream
never before have I seen such beauty,
and I will never see this beauty again.
It is certainly a dream to be in you and I miss you when I leave.
thank you for being sanctuary for a tired traveler,
I can lay my head down and you will be there,
locked up and safe for us to come home to.
Warm in the Winter and cool in the Autumn,
you welcome us in to lay and stay.
the mile is worth seeing you again.
The buzzing of bees in the heat of the sun, cannot keep me from you.
Your trails are serenity and love for me, but I must return,
for I will miss you if gone for long.
Thank you dream for being a home in a land of mystery for the tired travelers.