Study Abroad in Canterbury - Week 2

September 30, 2019 | 2:30 PM
Dr. Joseph Squillace, Director and Associate Professor, Social Work Program

Starting next week, the students will resume writing weekly blogs based on the locations they are visiting. So it’s Dr. S’s turn this week!  Since I’m a social scientist, let’s start with some data:

  • 10 of us left Chicago-O’Hare, 10 of us landed!
  • 1 had never flown on a plane before – he survived.
  • 9 had anxiety about everything, and were non-stop texting others at every opportunity about it; 9 have settled in, and are greatly enjoying their experience.
  • 0 have had to be bailed out of jail (to date).

Senior Social Work major Megan Evans wrote about the students’ experience the first week here, which was officially Orientation Week. [Make sure to check it out at]

From my perspective as the Advisor, I’m really proud of the perseverance our Highlanders have shown. From the moment we landed, it had been go-go-go from the airplane through Customs to dragging luggage through a very busy Heathrow, a 2.5 hour wait for our bus transfer at a very busy small terminal, then check-in at the dorms (with lots of anxiety about who their roommates were, the size of small British living spaces, etc.), then immediately off to registration and obtain ID’s. They toughed it out through the jetlag and we finally had a common meal together and began to settle in. We learned almost immediately that there was a group of seven from Cazenovia College, and 20 from St. Louis Community College, and they have all become friends already through the sharing of common experiences at home and abroad. Our colleagues here at Canterbury Christ Church University have been extremely accommodating and run an excellent program. The beautiful city of Canterbury, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with things to do – great history, shopping, and places to “grab a cuppa” or some food. It’s a city where one is able to walk everywhere, and we have done a lot of walking!  The students have come to enjoy the exercise and realize how vehicle dependent we are in the Midwest, even on campus! Everyone here at Canterbury Christ Church University has gone out of their way to make sure we have everything we need, so it has been an excellent partnership thus far. Since we had some free time during Orientation week, I was able to bring the #MacFam around to some historic sites, and it allowed us to bond and gel more as a group.

Classes began this past week. Everyone has been to their classes once. It was great to see seniors appear as “freshmen” again, scrambling to find their buildings and classrooms. All of the Mac students are taking two courses in common – one called Divided by a Common Language, where they will be discussing contemporary politics, and the second is Sites and Sights, where they will be taking 8 field trips to sites around Britain (stay tuned for weekly blogs on these!). The other courses our students are taking vary greatly (business, languages, biology, fine arts, research, psychology), but they are all excited (and anxious) about them. The British call grades “markings,” and the British model is basically one major test or paper for your full marking. It has created some anxiety because ‘all the eggs are in one basket’ (paper/test!), but I can see that the Highlanders have been well prepared by their Mac professors. Also, there is no such thing here as extra credit, so we’ve had some good conversations about not sleeping in for that 8 am…To give you a taste of their readings and homework for this week, they will be reading the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original Olde English, and how pilgrims to Canterbury used to come for the “water mixed with the blood of St. Thomas” – reputed for healing the sick and for miracles.

Brexit is a major issue here we are all confronting, including the MacMurray group. There is one truth behind it all: there is absolute uncertainty as to what will happen. Anything can happen. Similar to the drastic reduction in international students we have seen in American higher education institutions, a number of European Union students and families have not come over to England because they were afraid that if they started the semester, and October 31 rolled around with “no deal,” they could never get home. Similar to us, other students studying abroad here are afraid to take weekend trips to Europe after October 31 for fear of not being let back in. In addition, there has been major “stockpiling” of goods – the expectation is that prices on food and medicine may skyrocket, while the sterling pound takes a beating, thus creating much anxiety about access to basic needs. Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut down the Parliament (legislative branch), and this week, the highest judicial court (like our Supreme Court of the judicial branch) ruled it unconstitutional/unlawful. I thought politics in the USA was crazy these days, but the Brits are at least on par.

Amidst all the contacts and communications our students have had, they have repeatedly expressed one consistent theme about the #MacFam – “we get to know our professors.” Our Mac students know and cherish that is something unique to the Mac experience – faculty who guide, mentor, nudge and challenge. They are making constant references about professors back at Mac that have prepared them for this experience. This is something the #MacFam can continue to be proud of. Lastly, we cannot have had the experience to date without, in gratitude, all the #MacFam and their support. To mention some, for the Business Office for all their administrative support, for OCM in supporting us with ways to communicate together and with Mac, for the President and Provost and Dr. Tierno for supporting this new Mac endeavor, and for my colleagues in the faculty that supported their students in exploring the world.

Go Highlanders, at home and abroad!!

Dr. Joe Squillace

Associate Professor and Director, Social Work Program

Tags: studyabroad canterbury england

View the Highland Happenings blog.