Studying abroad. It was a term I had heard all of my life– and it was supposed to be the experience of a lifetime. All of my friends from my hometown had experienced going abroad at least once. I just never thought it would a possibility for me.
I was sitting in my room one night when I had received an email from the Office of Study Abroad: “Theater in London: Spots still available!”
Something in my head clicked. But a voice of ambivalence also began to ring. This is the experience of a lifetime, but how could I put my parents through that financial burden? I could negotiate to pay a portion or all of it myself. But, how could I do that and manage my course load?
I didn’t know what I was going to do. All I knew was that I just wanted to go on this trip– to experience Shakespeare in a light that was separate from high school character analysis papers and an underfunded theater program. I wanted to see Buckingham Palace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, Blenheim Palace, and so much more. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask my parents. If they said no, it would not be met with hostility because they do everything they can to ensure that I have the best education.
The next thing I knew, I was en route to Heathrow Airport with a class of ten students, eager to begin their journey to London. My parents enthusiastically encouraged my decision to study abroad in London, despite the extra costs. The generosity of the Humanities Division provided me with a tremendous scholarship to further my study abroad journey– a journey that was once considered “a distant possibility.”
Once, we reached our hotel in Wembley, I noticed an immediate change in atmosphere. Suddenly, I could feel the history and culture running through the environment, and my excitement immediately catapulted into infinite.
We began our adventure at a local restaurant in Trafalgar Square, a short Tube ride from our hotel. (It’s the Tube over there; the Subway to us.) Of course, I had to order the Fish and Chips– a British delicacy. Our professor, the wonderful Anne Pluto, encouraged us to try their beer. To my surprise, they served a warm, barley beverage. It’s a known practice to not refrigerate the beer because it is believed that the temperature brings out the flavor. It was this instance when I knew I was going to be exposed to a different culture for the next eight days, and I had never been more excited for anything.
The rest of the trip was like a dream. Visiting the Globe Theater and seeing Richard II played by a cast of women of color was a reality I never thought could happen. When studying Shakespeare in high school, I only saw faces like Kenneth Branagh and Leonard DiCaprio. Seeing the faces of Adjoah Andoh and Lourdes Faberes, speaking of a divided United Kingdom, really showed me how malleable Shakespeare’s work can be. Anyone can make it into their own story, just by transforming a time, place, or character.
The same realization was enhanced when we saw Taming of the Shrew at the National Theatre. This play had a very particular twist– the cast was gender-swapped. This means that the story portrayed a world where women held dominance over men. This change gave the play a darker tone. The gender-swap provided an insinuation about gender, claiming that women who hold oppressive power is something that humorous in comparison to men. Seeing this rendition, as well as Richard II, really showed me that theater is political, whether it is modern or archaic.
The aspects of the trip that focused on London’s landmarks always placed me in a state of disbelief. I had only ever saw places like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben on post cards and TV. I never thought I’d be standing right in front of them. I remember seeing London’s Eye for the first time and thinking “hmm…it’s not as big as I’d thought it would be.” Nonetheless, being in its presence, as well as many others, was breathtaking.
The places were beautiful. The theaters were amazing. But the one thing I will always take with me is the bond I made with my roommates. I was lucky enough to have the three best roommates in the world, Sade O., Sadie P., and Cat. Without them, this trip wouldn’t have been half as amazing as it was; and I am so grateful to have shared it with them.
My study abroad experience is one that I will remember for a life time. It furthered my global perspective, advanced my love for theater and Shakespeare, and also instilled a passion for traveling in me. If I could have this experience all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat!
For more information about Study Abroad programs, their website is: https://lesley.edu/students/academic-resources/study-abroad