The post trip reflection: (written in 2019)
This last summer I was excited to be the only Juniata student attending the Leeds International Summer School (LISS) at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Two planes, two trains, one bus, and a 10-minute uber and finally I was at Uni. During ice breakers (yes, they happen everywhere), I realized less than a tenth of the program consisted of Americans. When someone asks me about my trip, I always like to jokingly but also honestly say “I learned more about the political tension between Hong Kong and China than I did about England in my Brontë’s and British Culture class.”
I had been abroad prior to this trip; however, never by myself. Previous trips were with family or friends and only for 2-3 weeks. I was going to be in England for over 4 weeks and all by my lonesome. I have never been one to be afraid of an adventure; however, I did not have a support system aside from myself.
During the month-long program I took two classes, British Comedy (a surprisingly dark class) and The Brontë’s and British Culture. During the program, I made a few best friends who were not in either class; I met them in line for registration on the first day (Rachel, Henrietta, Samantha, and Janey). Not one of them was from the U.S. I found that there were only eight Americans in the program, each more obnoxious and annoying than the one next to them. The girls I met in line were the friends I ate meals with and would sit with on the bus rides to different excursions. But for the remainder of the program, I was by myself.
Below are photos from my travels related to the classes I took. I was lucky enough to visit the home, town, and graves, of the Brontë family. I even walked the same paths they wrote about. You also can see pictures of the first variety store in England.
July 5, 2019:
I am jittery as I finally get to sit in my seat on the plane. I take out my handmade journal from Rome and make a list of the things I want to accomplish while at Leeds Uni. The list I come up with ranges from places I want to visit (Platform 9 ¾) to personal goals like learning new dishes to cook and navigating trains. The man next to me smells like cheese. I look down and see that it’s because this lovely man took his shoes AND socks off his feet. I crinkle my nose and rest my head back preparing for a long flight. I settle in and rest my eyes.
About an hour later I wake up, yet again feeling jittery and smelling cheese. I peek at the lovely man’s provolone feet again and see that a toe has gone astray. I repeat a toe has gone astray. My backpack which houses my water bottle in its side pocket is stowed beneath the seat in front of my own. Cheddar’s toe is resting on the lid of my water bottle! A little vomit escapes from my throat. I excuse myself to the bathroom to breathe a separate strain of cabin air. Only six hours I think to myself.
July 13, 2019:
I’ve been living in Leeds for a little over a week and have visited five separate places, three of which were by myself. I think I’m getting used to this traveling on my own thing. I just make sure my camera and kindle are charged and I feel set for a day of adventure. Today, I am going to Ilkley, a small town only about a 25-minute train ride from Leeds. It is one of the hottest days in Leeds’ history, so I figure why not go to a nice lido?
I walk the mile and a half from the train station to find the lido is over-capacitated and I am not able to swim. I head to the nearby river, shoot some photos and walk in the clear water. Families of ducks putz around me in circles. Two hours later, I decide I’ll go home early to do some laundry. I walk over to the station around 5:30.
My original return ticket is for 6:45 but I figure maybe I can catch an earlier one. To my great luck, a train was waiting on the platform headed to Leeds. I hop on and settle in with my kindle. Five minutes later, I pull out my ticket for the conductor. He says, “Miss you’re one lucky lady! The 6:45 train to Leeds was just cancelled making this the last train of the day.” My anxiety builds at the same time as it releases. Phew
August 7, 2019:
I am flying home today. Over the course of my stay in Leeds, I explored five different cities, eighteen different towns, and two nations. About 75% of my adventures were completed alone. I had many many mishaps, including missing three different trains, getting lost five times, and getting on the wrong train twice.
However, I never felt lonely. Throughout all my travels I carried my kindle, so I made sure I always had my books with me. It may sound silly, but those characters can come to life for me. I would be sitting in a restaurant eating at a table for one but feel like I needed at least four more chairs when reading a book.
Moreover, I was so occupied with immersing myself in the British culture, all worries about being shy flew right out the door. I quickly learned that if I have a question, then I need to ask someone. I learned that it isn’t weird to sit next to a stranger on a train and say hello and ask about their day. I learned that had any other Juniata students gone on this trip, I would have missed out on turning hundreds of strangers into warm smiles and friendly faces.
A lot of photos of art, nature, and joy