A group of 14 Emporia State University students recently crossed the pond to venture through the streets, museums and restaurants of London.
English Professor Mel Storm has a long history of taking student groups abroad, initiating the annual Hornets in London program 11 years ago.
“I wanted to help ESU provide a study-abroad experience for its students, and London seemed just the place to go,” he said. “It’s a city of inexhaustible opportunity that I know well and love, and I enjoy nothing more than introducing people to it.”
Throughout the spring semester, the students met with Storm to learn about how to travel internationally, what kind of sightseeing opportunities London offers and English culture. Each student will take time over the summer to work on a project of their choice about their experience in London.
Graduate business student Yifang Hao said he joined the program because he enjoys traveling.
“I usually travel by myself,” he said. “This program offered me a chance to travel with my friends, [and] that was really attractive to me.”
Hao said his favorite memory is the amazing sunset he and his friends saw on the London Eye. He will be doing a photography project on the diverse culture of London.
Senior Secondary Education major Braylea King said she signed up for the program to satisfy her obsession with history — in addition to her general historical curiosities.
“I was also doing some genealogy research and found out many of my ancestors were from and were buried in London,” she said. “While I was unable to see the burial sites of my favorite historical figures and my ancestors, being in the city itself was enough. Every step you take has historical significance, when you think about it, and to a history nerd like me, it was overwhelming.”
Jase Buck, senior Political Science major, said the architecture was one of the most impressive historical features. A few places where current buildings are were formerly graveyards.
“The living build upon the bones of the dead, leaving onlookers to wonder whether it’s the cathedrals or Starbucks that are the anachronism,” Buck said.
"Imagining London," one of the books students were asked to read, described London in a maze-like fashion. On one block, one might find a 17th-century pub and an 18th-century graveyard, and on the adjacent block on either side, there could be anything from a posh boutique to a cave-themed Turkish restaurant.
Buck and Linzi Garcia visited Bolton to attend a Walt Whitman Conference at the University of Bolton, about 200 miles north of London. Garcia presented at the conference, and, afterward, they visited the 900-year-old “Ye Olde Man and Scythe” tavern, where they sang along to a live English band playing “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Most of all, I want my students to learn how to be travelers; that is, to learn how to research a place in advance, to plan, to explore, to be ready for the unexpected,” Storm said. “I hope they feel when they return that they haven’t just been led around a great city, but that they’ve encountered it in the spirit of personal exploration.”
“Go ask your best friends to join this program,” Hao encouraged fellow ESU students.
For anyone interested in London, junior elementary education major Cameron Munk recommends going to the British Library and getting a library card.
“It was one of my favorite parts of the trip,” she said.
Storm aims to give students the “travel bug” by showing them that travel is within everyone’s grasp and that this trip is only the beginning of a life of travel.