By Melanie Jennings
Advanced Studies in England (ASE) is a multifaceted study abroad program that offers endless opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. Located in the heart of Bath, a beautiful Georgian city glazed in history and adventure, a student will find themselves wandering the streets with a smile cemented on their face.
What I miss the most about Bath is the ability to try something new every day. A different path on the canal walk along the River Avon, a new restaurant, watching a football (no, not the NFL) match at a pub, Jane Austen dance classes after dinner, or picnicking in Alexandria Park overlooking the entire city, the opportunity to explore is endless. If you are someone who is skeptical about trying new things or may feel anxious about being in an unfamiliar place, you are not alone. Not only will you be undergoing this unforgettable journey with 30 to 40 American college students from various universities, but you will also be surrounded by a close-knit faculty who constantly have your best interests in mind. Professors from universities across southern England will lead small, discussion-based classes ranging in size from 5 to 15 people. While studying with ASE during the fall, spring, and/ or summer term, academic rigor is met with extracurricular enjoyment. Due to the small class size, there is an expectation to come prepared, having done the assigned readings, and present thoughtful ideas; however, the small setting enables a personalized education that is centered around students’ questions and scholarly passions. All of your hard work pays off, though, upon attending the study trips for your respective classes. Every class at ASE ventures to a historical location or event applicable to content of the class. In Myths of Legends of Great Britain and Ireland, for example, we traveled to Camelot, one of the sites of King Arthur’s legendary medieval battles, as well as visited his supposed grave in the neighboring town of Glastonbury. Seeing and touching tangible artifacts of world-changing events centuries, sometimes millenniums, old makes the material memorable, to say the least, as well as worthwhile.
A more extensive study trip are the week-long visits to University College, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace and home of William Shakespeare. Studying in the same facilities of some of the greatest scholars to this day, such as C.S. Lewis, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Clinton, is nothing short of a humbling experience. Not only will you eat in the dining hall that the Great Hall at Hogwarts was modeled after, as well as walk the “shifting” staircases in Christ Church as Harry and Hermione did, but you will also have the incredible intellectual opportunity to hear the President of the college and fellow faculty of Oxford lecture on their world-renowned research. Dating back to 1069, the University of Oxford is considered one of the oldest establishments of academia in the world. In fact, there are 39 colleges that are a part of the University of Oxford. While you reside in the University College dorms in the downtown area of the city, take time to explore these meccas of knowledge. Likewise, the skinny streets and thatched roofs of Stratford-upon-Avon will give you a gauge of what Shakespeare’s life was like before his plays took London by storm in the sixteenth century. Although being in Shakespeare’s hometown may not crack the code on how to understand his complex ideas, seeing the quaint village-like town and the historic home he grew up in will offer insight into influential symbols and his literature and life.
ASE specializes in majors pertaining to the humanities, especially English and History. For English majors or minors, in particular, almost every class offered by ASE will fulfill a requirement. Jane Austen; Mythologizing Shakespeare; Ghosts and the Gothic: The Literature of Terror, 1760-1900; and Irish Literature, 1800- Present are just some of the English classes you could take to fulfill the Historical Sequence, Genre, and/ or Period requirements necessary for the major. ASE also offers Creative Writing classes, such as Speculative Short Fiction, Writing for Children, and Writing Journalism, all of which would be applicable to Clark’s recently added Creative Writing minor. Since you have made the trek of approximately 3,000 miles to study in England, the curriculum of each English class at ASE incorporates the invaluable works of English authors, such as Jane Austen, who is from Bath, so you can truly immerse yourself in the literary and local culture during your time in England. If you are an English major on the teaching track, it would be incredibly useful to your professional development to participate in ASE’s Education in England internship program. As an Education intern, you will visit a school in Bath of your desired grade level once a week for a full day, facilitating classroom management, observing differences and similarities between the American and UK school systems, and eventually creating your own lesson plans to lead a class. You will also enroll in a lecture component of the Education in England course, thus learning about the theory and application of teaching. If you are an Education minor at Clark this course does count for credit. As always, make sure to discuss with your faculty advisor within the department of your major and/ or minor what core courses you have remaining as he/she and the Chair will have to approve what you enroll in while studying abroad.
As wonderful as this antique city is, you are not bound to Bath during your semester abroad. For £18 ($24 USD) you can take an hour-long bus ride to the Bristol Airport and travel within and outside of England. If you plan ahead, you can take a 45-minute plane ride to Dublin, Ireland for less than $45 roundtrip. When not pressed for time, a four-hour plane ride can take you to the south of Spain for the same price. Flying is not for everyone, so if you would prefer to travel by train, the station in Bath is a block down the road from ASE’s main building, Nelson House. From there you can arrive at Paddington Station in London in 90 minutes. The train is a great way to go to London for the day or the weekend; you can even take a train from London to Paris or Bristol to Edinburgh! If you are a fan of Harry Potter, which you’ll be reminded of everywhere you go in England, it is nothing short of magical taking the train through the midlands to West Yorkshire, where the Brontë sisters were born. If you plan on traveling by train frequently around England it would be wise to purchase a Rail Card, a student discount travel card that will save you almost 50% on every train ticket. Also, keep in mind that train tickets in England are not sold at a standard fee, so the closer your purchase is made to departure, the more expensive it will be.
Despite the extensive distance from Worcester, Bath’s proximity to cultural hubs like Bristol, Birmingham, and London will keep you in a diverse environment that offers new perspectives on society and its culture. As mentioned before, Bath is known for its historical significance, dating back to the Georgians who established the city before the Medieval period. The city also shows its scars from bombings during World War II, importation sites of cane sugar from the transatlantic slave trade, and is home to the beautiful Bath Abbey, which is one of the largest examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture in the West Country. With two universities neighboring ASE- The University of Bath and Bath Spa University- you have the opportunity to mingle with students from all over England as well as other countries, such as South Africa, France, and Germany. While out on the town or becoming affiliated with the Student Union at Bath Spa University- a program that gives ASE students full access to Bath Spa’s student clubs and club sports- you will make new friends and learn about different cultures. It has been said that the best way to learn a new language is to throw yourself right into the middle of town, conversing with locals until you sound like one yourself. Although you will find no language barrier in Bath, immersing yourself with the locals is the best way to pick up British lingo.
Studying abroad and being a student at ASE was one of, if not, the best experience so far in my life. It was easy to conquer my fear of traveling to unknown places once I saw how magnificent and intriguing other countries, their cultures, and their people were. The idea of carpe diem embodies my semester abroad, for now I wake up every day grateful for the places I traveled to, the foods I tried, the historically renowned churches I lit a candle in, the new music I heard, the new European style I attempted to sport, and, best of all, the great people I got to learn, laugh, and love with every day of being abroad. Now I wake up thinking about what my day would be like if I could try and travel to some place new as I did in England. No matter where you choose to study abroad, you will not regret a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this.
Melanie Jennings is an English Major who spent a semester in Bath, England with the Advanced Studies in England (ASE) program.