By Sarah Hasselman
Leaving Lewisburg, with a population of just over 5,000 people, and heading to London, one of the world’s largest cities with over seven million people was nerve-wracking and exciting. I had always wanted to go abroad for a semester, but it hadn’t yet seemed to work out with my schedule. The Bucknell in London program was the perfect solution, as it emphasized civil engineering and economics while studying the Olympics.
Who could have known that the group of engineering, economics, psychology and English majors would become so close with one another? Our group dynamic was something to be proud of. We did everything together, including eating, traveling and living in flats in Russell Square which was conveniently part of “Museum Mile.” We were within walking distance of all the major landmarks of London, including the London Eye, the Tate Modern, Parliament and “Big Ben.” We even walked past the British Museum every day on our way to class.
Even in a city as large as London, University students seemed to be everywhere. Not only were there 25 of us in the Bucknell in London program, but the alumni network in the greater London area was pretty amazing. One of my favorite memories of my semester was the alumni event at the Winston Churchill War Rooms. We had the opportunity to meet the alumni and show them what we had been up to in London during the semester. We highlighted some of our favorite memories including an American-style barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers at Ron and Lynn Peterson’s estate in Wendover; both are alumni of the University.
The semester was a whirlwind, to say the least. Our group sure got a taste of the European part of the world. We all traveled to Paris, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Brighton, York, and Manchester (to name a few). We had a 10-day break where our professors encouraged us to travel some more. I was able to go to Venice and Rome in Italy and then to Prague in the Czech Republic. In Barcelona, Spain we learned that a three-star hotel was much different than a three-star hostel. I also got to practice my high school Spanish while ordering paella at a restaurant and ordering a chocolate croissant at a café. I rode a gondola in Venice while the gondolier sang “That’s Amore” in Italian. I saw the genuine Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris, and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome. I even got to eat pasta for every meal while in Italy.
Exploring didn’t stop even when we would head back to London. My courses had a platform of civil engineering but were anchored by courses in theatre, and art and architecture. Every week our entire group saw a different British-style play and went to a different museum with our classes. My favorite play was “Faust,” where some of the stage was above the audience’s head on a netted platform and the actors were extremely acrobatic. We discussed all the performances in our next classroom session, which taught me that there is much more to theatre than New York’s Broadway musicals. The learning experiences didn’t stop at the theatre; Professor Richard McGinnis and Professor Jean Shackelford, with the support of Professor Jeffrey Evans, established an amazing learning environment where the entire city of London became our classroom. We could discuss something in class such as the structure of Parliament and then go take a tour of the Parliament building and meet with a Member of Parliament, or MP, to discuss her duties in her career. Clearly, learning became more than punching numbers into a calculator and writing papers; it was a holistic experience where everything I visited and everything I saw enhanced my learning.
All in all, my time abroad was incredible, interesting and necessary. I could not have imagined a better experience, nor could I imagine making better friendships with the students and professors that were there to share the experience with me.