By Shaylyn MacKinnon
The Drew Acorn staff has gone abroad! Okay, only three of us have, but when you have a staff of 12, three people feels like a lot. Throughout the Fall Semester, we Acornians in London will be updating you on the international Drew front by giving you access to life in the U.K. from the Drewid perspective: we will review theatre shows and museums we check out, and let you know what studying abroad through Drew really means. This first installment comes from Co-Editor in Chief of The Acorn, Shaylyn MacKinnon.
We’re two weeks into the Drew London Semester, and despite the rather terrible wifi, I can say that this is shaping up to be my most exciting semester since I’ve come to Drew. London isn’t my first abroad program through the Center for Global Education. Last year I took part in the Barcelona Short TREC, living in a homestay with an 80+ year old woman named Ramona, attending classes and class-oriented events almost every day of the four weeks, and finding myself clinging tightly to the other Drew students participating in the month-long program. It was intense — we were exhausted every night, and the few days that we didn’t have any planned events were as jam-packed with our own personal sightseeing tours that we really didn’t waste a minute of our time in the city.
London is different. Two weeks was half of the Barcelona shorTrec. Two weeks is barely a dent in the semester. We’re a group of 23 students split up between three flats—eight per flat plus a sort of RA (a former student named Lily who acts as a trip planner, liaison to our professors, maintenance, and everything else we could need). Within our first two weeks, we’ve seen three theatre productions—Hamlet, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succor, and Road. We had the opportunity to meet the director of the Hamlet production, Robert Icke, personally as he came into our British Political Theatre course to answer any questions students may have had after seeing the show. As a group, we’ve attended two museums, and those in the Art and Architecture course attended another gallery together. We spent the past weekend staying in a hostel in Edinburgh, where we visited the city’s castle and had the chance to see an amazing 360 view of the coast and the city by climbing Arthur’s Seat. We’ve had group dinners, walking tours, attended classes, and yet, through all of this we’ve still managed to find more free time than most of us know what to do with. Where Barcelona needed to cram everything into a single month, the London Semester gives us the luxury of time to explore through Drew-facilitated programs and through our own planning and interests.
We’ve adjusted to living the Flat Life. Even the least experienced cooks have begun to see the appeal of cooking for themselves when the alternative would have been the daily Commons meals (sorry guys). My flat is still working on the whole cleaning thing, but we’ll get there at some point.
The greatest thing about the London Semester so far is how easy it is to make it unique to your own interests. Yes, we all take the same classes and participate in a lot of the same events, but when we’re on our own time (which is really often), we’re able to literally do whatever we want. I may have splurged a bit on food these first two weeks, but when you stumble upon a market that just so happens to be open on Thursdays when you finish up class, it’s kind of hard not to try that artisanal cupcake. With our weekends free, I’ve already booked a spot for a writing workshop in Jane Austen’s (yes, that Jane Austen) house two weeks from now. We’re still looking into the cheapest way of travel, but once October hits, it’s likely we’ll all be going beyond the borders into continental Europe for even more exploring, because we can. The London Semester—at least in its first two weeks—really is as great as you probably imagine it to be.
With all of that said, I won’t lie, I do get a little jealous of the Snapchat stories I see of my friends who couldn’t come abroad living back on campus. Knowing the rest of The Acorn staff is sitting in the office editing this, probably laughing and taking way longer than they should to read 500+ words, makes me a little homesick. Getting a Snapchat from my suitemates from last year of them playing Mario Kart without me makes me want to get home that much faster so I can win (probably lose) against them again. Reading the messages in my lacrosse GroupMe as everyone plans where to meet for offseason workouts gets my hands itching to be back in the Forum passing around with them. I miss my friends, I miss my team, and I never thought I’d say it, but I miss the Forest. It can feel so small when you’re there, but getting a taste of life without it beyond the normal summer break is a little scary and a lot more unnerving.
Week two and I’m ready for so much more in London, but the knowledge that I’ll get to return to Drew in the spring is a welcome comfort during my time abroad.