Study Abroad in Canterbury - Week 8

November 11, 2019 | 4:03 PM
Peyton Spitzner '20, Biology (Pre-Physician Assistant) Major

As I reflect on the past two months in the MacMurray Study Abroad program and look forward to the next and final month, I realize now that this trip has opened a door within myself that I did not know needed to be opened. This open door revealed to me true friendships, a newfound identity and a sense of independence. I will forever be thankful for this group of students and for their help making this experience everything it could be. I admire everyone’s willingness to step outside their comfort zones to try new things and travel to new places, and it pushes me to do the same. For instance, I went ice skating for the first time in London! Without this study abroad experience, I would’ve only been able to dream of going to places like Ireland, Amsterdam and Paris. I’ve unleashed my inner traveler and I’m not certain that she can be stopped now!

Not only have I learned about myself these past two months, but I’ve also learned so many things pertaining to life and history. For example, this week in our Sites and Sights class, we had to find three pictures of items during the Victorian and Edwardian Periods as well as the 1950s. I chose to have a theme of children’s toys and, while searching for pictures of toys in the Edwardian Period, I found the “teddy bear.” During my reading about the toy bear, I learned that it wasn’t given the name “teddy” until 1937 when President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt went on a hunting excursion and refused to shoot a bear cub. The people found his compassion noteworthy and deemed the name “teddy” to the toy bear. During my time here, I’ve enjoyed learning why we call things the names we call them and use the words that we do; it’s been very interesting learning things that are not taught in American schools.

This week we visited the museums in South Kensington and were challenged to look “beyond the glass.” Our lecturers gave us the option to explore three museums – the Victoria & Albert (V&A), the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum – and sent us with the task to criticize the exhibits and the museum as a whole. They challenged us with the notion that museums have been exploiting information and ideas instead of using them to educate. I found this to be an interesting way to send us into those institutions as I feel we tend to look past the element of exploitation to admire, with innocence, the art, clothing, jewelry, architecture, etc. that are on display in museums.

We spent hours wandering through the V&A museum’s exhibits and the items in them without really getting to experience the depth of it all. We could’ve spent all day there and still not have made it through all the areas of the museum. This is one thing that I’ve grown to dislike about museums of such a large size – there is too much information packed into one building. I learned that if I’m going to a crowded museum, I must take the time to figure out what exactly it is that I want to take away from my visit there. We, as human beings, have a hard time taking in a lot of information in a short amount of time, but we don’t want to miss out on anything. We want to read every description of each item on display but can’t take the time to read about everything because, if we do, we will only see one small portion of the museum.

This week the MacMurray group also had the opportunity to see the Verdi classic opera, Rigoletto, at the Marlowe Theater. The directors and performers spun the original story into an early 1900’s setting with the same plot and almost the same ending. I was in awe of the singers’ ability to express themselves as the characters in the opera, evoking emotional responses from the crowd. The language in itself is beautiful enough to move one to tears, but the orchestra-accompanied vocals made it much more compelling; however, in addition to the emotional tragedy side of the opera, there were also some parts that were comedic. Because of their historic setting, I feel like the plots in tragedies are no longer looked on as a serious matter, but rather as a romantic comedy.

Overall, my Study Abroad experience has been the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to explore new possibilities for myself and grow from them. With this, I’ve also gained an education in areas such as using transportation systems, the varying education systems and different cultures. Every day is a new adventure here and when in London, please “mind the hammer”… I mean gap.


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