— Indiana University
Spring Semester 2004-05
My travels began with a seven hour flight on the ninth of March. I left the States at three in the afternoon and arrived to London, England at seven in the morning. Upon landing, I immediately felt the distance between myself and America. In an ignorant attempt to locate the bed and breakfast I had reserved, I hopped on the tube hoping my map reading skills were stronger than they had ever been before.
In the pouring rain, I was indeed in England, with my luggage and a bit of exhaustion, I roamed the Bloomsbury area in search of the Langland Bed and Breakfast. I stayed for one night, ate at a traditional fish and chips pub, and traveled back to the airport to journey to the Netherlands. I spent my first weekend abroad in the Netherlands.
My first stop was to the Anne Frank House. I had just finished teaching a unit on the Holocaust in Indiana and also have some family members who are survivors, so my visit to this tourist attraction was very personal. Counting the number of canals I had passed and weaving between the cyclists, I guided myself to this great house packed with history. There was quite a lengthy cue, for it was Saturday, but I had my heart set on entering, so I waited.
The tour was well worth the wait. I walked all through the house, past the bookshelf, and into the home where the Franks and another family were hidden for years. I explored Anne Frank's room with caution and with hundreds of strangers that day.
After my long weekend in Amsterdam, I returned to England to begin school. I taught at a single sex language school called Millais. It is located in Horsham, West Sussex. The girls there and in England are required to wear a uniform. At Millais the uniform consists of a green jumper, a green knee-length skirt, green tights, and black shoes. The staff and students were all very welcoming and my experiences will never be forgotten. Teaching in England is very different from teaching hi the States. It was very interesting to compare the education systems and teaching strategies of England and America. We both have the same desire end result but go about achieving it in different ways.
After two weeks of teaching at Millais, Easter Break rolled around. Easter break is similar to Spring Break hi the States, the schools close for two weeks. I took these two weeks to travel. I embarked on a tour which began in London, went to Paris, and ended in Rome. I met so many people on this tour and experienced so many things in such a short time.
In London I saw the musical, "Blood Brothers", drove up to Bath and toured the Roman Baths, toured Windsor Palace, went to three art museums, explored Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Canterbury, visited the Globe and watched a performance of The Tempest, and took many photographs of Big Ben. On our journey to Paris, we took a coach thru the English Channel. Paris was a complete culture shock for me.
I speak no French, so communicating within those first days was very difficult. I quickly learned some basic catch phrases which indeed helped me get along. In Paris, I visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triumphee, the Louvre, Museo Rodin, Museo Dorsay, Palace of Versailles, the Opera house, the Moulin Rouge, and Napoleon's tomb. The city of Paris really struck me because of the symmetry found all throughout it. Their lack of traffic laws were disturbing and the public transportation was a bit more complex than the other cities I had been to.
I had impeccable timing while in Rome. I just happened to be at the Vatican the evening the Pope passed away. After a fifteen hour train ride to Rome, our travel group consisting of nine women, immediately traveled to Vatican City. We went to the Sistine Chapel and climbed all the way up St.Peter's Basilica which was just gorgeous. The views from the Basilica are remarkable. The view from the top ring of the Basilica was amazing. It was very spiritual to be in the Vatican when the Pope passed. Thousands of people gathered outside in the piazza's to mourn and celebrate his life and his death. The following day, I ventured to the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, the Colosseum, and all the other main tourist attractions. Gazing up at Ancient Rome from the outside grounds of the Colosseum was breathtaking. The history in these cities is unlike anything I've seen or experienced before.
After Rome, I boarded a plane to Scotland. I arrived in Glasgow and took a bus to Edinburgh. Not knowing what to expect in Scotland, I was very pleased. Surrounded by gothic architecture and green country-sides, I explored Edinburgh castle, Holyrood Palace, and a couple cathedrals. The people in Scotland were all very friendly and helpful. I was also quickly able to distinguish the differences between the British accent and the Scottish.
After my two weeks of exploring, I returned back to Horsham, back to my host family. My host family was just fantastic. I lived with a family of four, Denise, the mother, Simon, her boyfriend from New Zealand, and Denise's two children, 10 and 12, Alice and Tom. I am an only child, so I was thrilled to live with a family larger than my own. Staying with the Bennett's really allowed me to become a part of their culture.
My time spent abroad went so quickly. I know I will always remember everything I have done during my short stay. I also know that it has shaped me more into the type of person I will work to be for the rest of my life. I am more aware of my own culture and more prepared to deal with cultural differences as well as similarities. In my professional career as a teacher, I hope to bring students abroad. I also hope to set up an exchange program with Millais.
I feel as if this fourth of the July will be the first time I am truly celebrating the holiday. I understand what it is to be an America and what America stands for. I appreciate the way America is so vast and so accepting of all its' people. When I read in my past history books about how America is a melting pot of all peoples it never meant as much to me as it does now. Traveling Europe made me realize how ethnocentric certain cultures are and how they are dedicated to preserving their culture and traditions and not letting other cultures influence that. I was extremely happy to return to America, to hear the voices of other Americans, and to be at home once again.
I certainly plan on returning to England and continuing to travel. Thank you for supporting me in my travels. I am very lucky to have had this opportunity and to have done as much as I have during these past ten weeks.