Study Abroad in Canterbury - Week 12

December 10, 2019 | 1:30 PM
Dr. Joseph Squillace, Director and Associate Professor, Social Work Program

We will all be home in less than a week, and we look forward to reconnecting with our friends and families! Canterbury is most known by Americans for Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in which a group of people travel to Canterbury on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett and, along the way, they engage in a storytelling. We, the Mac Fam Study Abroad group, have also incorporated the idea of pilgrimage into our experience. In these final weeks, we’ve begun processing “the return” to life back “home” in the States. I asked the students to reflect and process the experience as a whole and what it feels like to be returning home at the end of our collective pilgrimage. Below I outline some of the main themes that have been described by the students as well as all that they have gratitude for:

  • They’ve all grown intellectually, not just from textbooks, classes and lectures, but through interactions with culturally diverse people. The relationships formed here will never be forgotten, whether with one another as the Mac Fam, with other study abroad students, or with our friends made in Britain and throughout the world.
  • Canterbury became like “home away from home” – a familiarity with life here developed, and there was so much to see and do. However, we’ve learned to be more attentive to all the things that our native home in the States has to offer – things we may normally take for granted – history, architecture, art, people and social relationships. Students are going to miss “learning new things” and experiencing new places on a weekly, and even daily, basis.
  • Everyone feels a sense of being blessed, lucky, privileged and/or honored to have taken the opportunity to study abroad. We laugh a lot about how apprehensive, anxious, nervous and concerned we all were back in the summer about being away from “home” (including friends and family) for so long. But then again, “time flew by.” Access to good technology allowed everyone to stay in close touch with family and friends and will do the same with those new relationships we’ve made.
  • They have all learned to be both more critical and appreciative of the things we have and those we encounter in the United States. They’ve learned that they are ambassadors of the United States and MacMurray College.
  • Lastly, they have all learned some very critical life skills, in particular, the ability to perdure, to not quit, to have confidence when tackling a project, and with these, gaining a sense of independence in life. Whether it be due to getting “lost in Paris” or learning to navigate the Tube system in London, things in the past that may have normally given them anxiety or encouraged them to quit early in an endeavor, they now can, with joy, see something through to the end.

In the end, Study Abroad has strengthened each of our commitment to MacMurray College. It helped us appreciate the opportunities it has provided for higher education, and helped us grow in appreciation of the value of the liberal arts as well as the value of relationships formed by attending a small college. As in Canterbury Tales, I’ve had the pleasure as “The Host” in mediating among the pilgrims and facilitating the flow of the tales – each one of our MacMurray students taking part in this initial study abroad has brought their own personality and have had their own unique experiences, whether it was the chivalrous Luis “The Knight” Carbajal telling us tales of his worldly travels or the quiet Ashley “The Prioress” Wittekiend telling her tale through beautiful pictures. Each student decided to go on this pilgrimage for their own reasons, and they’ve been able to get a deeper understanding of themselves and what they seek in and from life.

From the General Prologue, Canterbury Tales:

12         Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
               Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
13         And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
               And professional pilgrims (long) to seek foreign shores,
14         To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
               To (go to) distant shrines, known in various lands;
15         And specially from every shires ende
               And specially from every shire's end
16         Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
               Of England to Canterbury they travel,
17         The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
               To seek the holy blessed martyr,
18         That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
               Who helped them when they were sick.


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