Yes, before you, oh inquisitive reader, point out my horrible excuse for a title, remember this: you’re probably not stuck at Heathrow airport right now. And, I have nothing but jelly beans and crisps in my system. I feel for those who have been stuck here for days and who may not make it home for Christmas. London, and much of the rest of Great Britain for that matter, have been struck for the last couple of weeks with snow. In the Midwest, we’d consider that something completely normal. Here, however, it paralyzes the entire nation. Heathrow has been canceling or delaying over 50% (I’d imagine it to be over 75% to be honest) of flights over the last three or four days.
*points above* THAT was written on little sleep and a little bit of stress. After worrying that I was going to miss my connection flight to Rome, I found out that my flight from London Heathrow to Rome was only delayed by about 4 hours. I was VERY lucky. The flight I was on via Alitalia was the only flight from the airline that left last Monday. I made my connection in Rome with plenty of time to spare. Of course, the flight itself was only 10.5 hours so needless to say, I caught up on some sleep while I was in the air. On the upside, I flew over the Alps during a full moon (a completely stunning sight) as well as finding out we flew over Greenland enroute to Chicago.
So, I’ve been home about a week now. And what have I been up to? Gallivanting around Dodge County reuniting with family and friends and sharing all of my brilliant experiences? Tearing up the highway with Jude now that I’ve brought him out of hibernation? Ha, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. Lack of funds has limited both, but I’ve been fortunate to see some great friends, and later this week, I’m doing more. Jude caused me some worry for the first couple of days, but he’s on the road to recovery. As an “old man”, he’s not liking the cold weather much, and this may warrant looking at a new vehicle this year. Sigh.
My Christmas was actually exhilarating. I ate and drink a little too much and had a great time at my sister’s in-laws with lottery bingo and a white elephant. They’re already a rowdy crowd to begin with, and add in a little alcohol (now that I’m legal, I can celebrate properly!), and the party just gets crazier. Aside from that, Christmas Eve and day were low key, and that is the way I wanted it.
So, I’ve been back in the States about a week, and I’ve reacclimated to American life as easily as I fell into the British one. But, as recent Facebook statuses and wall posts have indicated, I miss it…a lot. I dislike the fact I up and left at term’s end, but those disgruntlements were hashed out in a previous post. The same post had a lot of reflection in it as well, but here’s a little bit of an overall view.
What have I learned? Academically, I learned a substantial amount. I’m ready to give up on the Plantagenets for a while and return to my Tudors. I miss Henry VIII’s Great Matter and his berating of Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell over policies and wives and other misdeeds. I increased my computer application knowlege of Excel, Access, Dreamweaver, and ARCGis manifold and can navigate my way around my computer better. I realized I still think many English professors, no matter where in the world they are, still evoke the same emotions of hesitant respect and eventual acceptance of their insanity in me. And, pulling a 40-hour span of time to write three essays gives new meaning to the academic term procrastination. I’ve never slept so well afterwards in my life. And finally, conducting agricultural research in northern Wales on the correlation between land usage and population density gives me a headache.
Enough with that boring mumbo jumbo, eh? Onto the travels! Well, my final weekend in England, I ventured north to the Lakes District to stay with my friend Ruth. My flatmate Lauren tagged along for that Friday night (after our finals and exams and essays were completed), and we had a nice night in consisting of chatter, lots of tea and chocolate, and me falling asleep on Ruth’s couch. Before that, I had made sure to spend as much time with my other friends as was feasibly possible. I spent much of that same Friday holed up in one of the computer labs with Kate and Simon (poor Simon, he won’t get to be harassed by this American for a really long time!) as I was typing away about Henry VI. Anywho, for the rest of the weekend, Ruth and I met up with some of her mates, especially the lovely Laura, and we went to Windermere and Burness for Sunday afternoon. It was a perfect final day in England before venturing south to London and home.
As a whole, I do not regret my studying abroad in England in any way, shape, or form. I saw some sights, ate some REALLY good food (including sticky toffee pudding, leek and goats cheese lasagne, and fish and chips), made a lot of great friends, and learned a tad about myself and history as well. But far beyond that, I realized even moreso how extremely fortunate I am to have had this opportunity. I’ve berated myself constantly about the financial end of it, but as I’ve been told, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. I made the most of it and cannot let the small things get me down. In the long scheme of things, I achieved one of my dreams I’ve held since high school. I’ve had the chance to ride the Tube, climb ancient castle towers in Wales, experienced a genuine English dinner and homestay, have enlightening discussions with various Anglican pastors about religion and the Anglo-Saxons in Stratford-upon-Avon and Heysham, walk along Morecambe Bay, walk along a country lane with my flatmates singing Christmas carols on our way to food, study under one of the foremost Scottish historians in the world, and on top of it all, realize Americans and Brits really are not all that different. In the end, the only things that really separates us are some really funky accents, dialectical differences, fish and chips, and the Atlantic Ocean. We all still scream at the tv when Desperate Housewives leaves us with a cliffhanger. We all go out clubbing and sometimes have a little too much fun. We all shed tears over boys and stress about our love lives (or lack thereof). We all laugh ’til it hurts, whether at our own or at another’s expense. We all sit around the table at Thanksgiving with a three-course meal and celebrate friendship. We all ogle the bartender because he’s flirtacious and adorable. We all sit on Facebook for hours on end when we should be studying. We all discuss history, procrastination, movies, music, tv, Harry Potter, and how we dislike certain lecturers. We all complain about rising tuition and accommodation costs. And, finally, we all bond with one another, not letting international boundaries prevent us from making lifelong friends. That is what I have taken away from my time in England.
I reflect upon the travels I’ve done so far at uni (or, for my American readers, college). I’ve been to Italy where I climbed a mountain, saw (and shot!) the Pope, had hot chocolate with lime and pine nuts, sketched along the Mediterranean, and learned what real Italian food is all about. I’ve toured the American South for a soul-searching journey about Martin Luther and the civil rights movement. On that trip I bantered with the activist who helped launch the Montgomery-Selma march, made a very close friend or two, walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, had genuine Southern fried chicken, experienced Beale Street, and had a momentary shock when I saw the very place MLK Jr. was shot. And now studying abroad. Needless to say I’ve been lucky, VERY lucky, to have seen and done what I’ve seen and done by the time I turned 21. The next question becomes, what next? Internship at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.? Well, it appears I set my sights high, so why not?
It has just occurred to me I may have rambled on a bit. My apologies. But, if you stuck with reading this entry and this blog for the duration of my travels, I thank you. I leave you with this anecdote:
History Society sponsored Bill Everard, a prominent social historian, who gave a presentation on Western ascendancy and how history can be divided in terms of clusters of innovation. Within the first 15 minutes, I had earned the nickname “Squeak”, and he proceeded to call me that the entire night. And I quote, “You had better find some oil for that squeak”. Dr. Everard was one of those nice older gentlemen until it came to the girls. I do believe that whole “I seem to attract older men” mantra I live with followed me even to England…