During the month of May, I embarked on a study abroad program to learn all about castles and cathedrals. The Engineering program placed me outside of my comfort zone to observe history throughout the countries of England and Wales.
I started the trip nervous, knowing that I was on a trip with a group of people who had different majors and in a foreign country. Having never been outside of the U.S., the trip led to me having many first experiences: my first check out at customs, my first taste of Marmite, and my first time meeting locals from a different country. I realized that one of the best things about myself is how willing I am to dive into the new and uncomfortable.
Speaking to locals made me realize that we as Americans interact with history a lot differently than locals in countries with longer histories. I come from the city where Francis Scott Key is buried; everyone in the town embraces this small tiny grave with pride. However when you go to a town in Wales, there are large castles at the center of the city, but locals don’t even think to admire it. Before I wasn’t able to appreciate the vast history of the rest of the world and only realized my own.
In the town of Salisbury, the cathedral stands proudly at the center of it. The locals hardly even look at it twice, but rather use its green as space for gathering. When cathedrals were first used, they served as a place for nobles in town to gather and seeing the evolution of its use today just made perfect sense. Us students used it as a place to gather debrief after our days out and about the town. Being able to look at history in a new way is a skill that I was able to develop because of STEP.
One day on the trip other students and I were able to take our knowledge into practice. The royal wedding was being aired while we were in Wales. Being so close, the program was being shown on every television. Since the wedding ceremony was taking place in a cathedral, we were able to identify the different parts that she was walking in. We were also able to understand why guests were sitting the way that they were. We found humor in the fact that George Clooney was sitting in the choir: a location for nobles and important families associated with that church.
Another moment that I will remember for years to come was one hike up a mountain in Wales. I was never one for physical activity. However, my peers wanted to take the afternoon to hike up the hill and see a view of the town. Having seen so many breathtaking views from castles and bell towers, I didn’t quite understand the appeal. Nonetheless, I went. I hike up a mountain alongside sheep to see a view that a picture would never do justice. It allowed me to remember the value in the uncomfortable. Had I not put myself out there, I wouldn’t have been able to experience anything like that.
Above all the moment that was the most memorable for me was seeing York Minster. I had researched the building for almost two months. Seeing a building in person that I had spent so many minutes reviewing and studying online was an experience I will never forget. The Minster is tucked into the town of York, and once I turned the corner to see its large stain glass windows I was in awe. It reminded me of the love I have for architecture, and why I went on the trip in the first place. I felt so fortunate to be in the presence of the minster and to go inside.
Going on the trip truly reminded me why I love to travel. aboutI love being able to take on new adventures. The trip allowed me to have a new perspeconthe places I am visiting. There is so much reward in researching the history of a destination before you visit it. I had done this with cute restaurants before or quirky touristy sights, but never history. Moving foreword, I will definitely pay more attention to the places I am going and how they became the way they are.