London Calling: Studying Abroad in England

Alison Trautmann

I am a devout Anglophile. Everything that I love comes from England. The books I read the music I listen to, the movies I watch. During the spring semester, I had the chance to study abroad in London. It was a beautiful experience that is hard to describe. The week before I left was a flurry of packing and repacking ending with a long flight to (what I hoped) would be my favorite place in the world.

Alison Trautmann in Liverpool with John Lennon. Photo credit Alison Trautmann.

When I arrived in London, the first place I dashed off to was the British Library and British Museum. The British Library was English Major Heaven. I saw the original copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion written in her own hand, a manuscript copy of Handel’s Messiah and the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” written by John Lennon on the back of a birthday card for his son Julian.

I visited many of London’s museums over the five months I spent there but my favorite by far would have to be the Cabinet War Rooms which is where Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet met during World War II. The rooms were built underground and were sealed up after the war so when the rooms were opened back up for the museum’s use they actually found lumps of sugar that a general had stashed away in his desk.

I saw many plays while in London, courtesy of the famous West End. There were many movie stars treading the boards throughout my visit James Earl Jones was performing in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Matthew MacFadyen and Kim Cattrall were in Private Lives and I saw Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope.
But it wasn’t all plays and museums. I also had to contend with British universities. Throughout the semester, there were far fewer assignments. My grades rested on a final paper or exam and possibly a midterm. At the university I attended, students were also provided with “readers” which contained all of the articles that would be read during the class for probably half of the cost of a normal textbook.

The great thing was you knew that the teachers would be sure to use the reader because they had made the books themselves.

One of London’s iconic red telephone boxes and a bus. Photo credit Alison Trautmann.

Throughout my five months, I traveled all around England. I visited Stonehenge and toured the Roman Baths. My inner fangirl came out in Liverpool when I visited John Lennon’s house and kissed the kitchen floor in Paul McCartney’s childhood home. (They were the original tiles…what can I say?) I saw the secret wartime tunnels in Dover Castle, walked down a haunted underground street in Edinburgh, and visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Heaven on earth.

I’m surprised I didn’t have to be dragged onto the plane at the end of my stay but, nevertheless, I came home. I wish I could sum up in a sentence or two what I learned during my stay, but somehow that doesn’t seem sufficient. I could never explain what kind of impact my time in London had on me but I do know that I am changed.