Greetings from Wroxton, England! I’ve finished my first week of living and teaching in Wroxton as one of the faculty leading the summer study abroad program. It’s been an incredibly full, fascinating, and wonderful week, and I still have three more to go! I thought I’d give some general updates on the blog, and also, to keep in blog theme, do some separate posts about food/workout stuff (more on that soon).
First, get a load of where I’m actually living:
Wtf, right? I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for what I’m about to say, but I am actually not super excited about the abbey itself. Like a lot of historical castle-like buildings in the UK and Europe, I’m a little grossed out by the ways in which they represent massive, disproportionately distributed wealth. I have never been one to ooo and aaah about gold trim and chandeliers.
That said, it’s an incredibly interesting experience to be housed in such a place. And I will say I am smitten with the grounds outside the abbey, both on the campus and in the town right outside it. Wroxton is a truly idyllic proper English countryside.
This is the local pub we frequent after a day of classes. The locals are incredibly warm and friendly.
We also take a lot of day trips to other cities throughout the country. We’re quite near Branbury, Oxford, and Stratford-upon-Avon, all charming and quaint little towns.
On Saturdays, we go to London for the day. In contrast to the serene and distinguished spots I’m in during the week, I wanted to spend most of my time in London exploring the opposite. After a week of Downton Abbey and Harry Potter-esque scenery, I was ready for the gritty, contemporary reality of a decidedly unique urban area.
But, of course, I made sure to snap some photos of the big tourist attractions as well:
I’m spending the majority of the class I’m teaching (Intercultural Communication) discussing the state of contemporary British society, and am largely focused on London. We’re discussing gentrification, the ways in which British socialist-influenced policies (like socialized healthcare) are being compromised by austerity and global capitalism, the debates surrounding multiculturalism (and how this is being coded as racist, anti-immigrant sentiment), among many other things. It’s been really fascinating to learn more about this country during my preparation for teaching, and also being immersed in it.
I already feel like this trip is transformative. I’ve had to adjust and adapt as a cultural outsider. I’ve had to find peace with the spaces outside of my comfort zone. I’ve had to figure out how to be the “grownup” on the trip, considering I’m responsible for sixteen students, ages 19-21, both in the classroom and during our excursions. (For example, when you are on a bus trip back to campus and a student on the bus is going to throw up because she had a pint in the middle of the afternoon and you have to get the bus to pull over and make sure she has a place to be sick and then help two other students find a bathroom to pee and all the while you are like, “OMG I am the one ‘in charge’, what is this, when did I become the adult?!”).
It’s been pretty wonderful. Can’t wait to experience more and share more. Stay tuned. <3
Have you spent any time in England (and/or do you live there)? Any recommendations on other things I should check out? xoxoxoxo