Hiram College

Written by Danni McDonald ’19

This blog post was written in response to her spring 2017 3-week study abroad course to the United Kingdom led by Professors Rick Hyde and Paul Gaffney.

Before I went to England, sadly I was under the false impression (thanks to what I hear in America) that the British hate us, are very pompous, judgmental and rude. Of course I prepared myself for this possibility but I didn’t think that everyone would be like that- you can’t label an entire population but no matter what I thought, I was in no way prepared for how startlingly nice everyone really was!

Over the course of our trip, I met many incredible people but a few instances and encounters really stick with me.

In London especially, we saw an incredibly wide range of cultures and sub cultures everywhere you looked- it was not only refreshing but very exciting since you never knew who you were going to meet.

At first, in a new country, connections to home are very comforting but who knew we would actually meet people practically from home. Out in the middle of nowhere, we were all on a train to London from Edinburgh, Scotland. Two frazzled women came and sat near us, frustrated over leaving their first-class seats due to some loud and rude drunk men who had sat next to them. I snuck by the two women- my goal was the newly emptied trach can, an attendant had picked up my scraps for me and threw them away but after he left and I said thank you, I panicked because they were meant to be put in my journal/ travel scrap book. They caught me sifting through the trash (luckily only mine!) and had to ask what I was doing. Before I knew it, we had thoroughly talked about my trip, college and my major. They both were from America and one was a Professor here in England so she gave me her email and recommended a lot of schools for grad school and ones that were perfect for creative writing students like me. But somehow even more surprising, the second woman, when she heard we were from Hiram College, she lit up and exclaimed, “I’m from Garrettsville, Ohio!” At this point, everyone I was sitting with and came over to listen to their stories from traveling Ireland and we connected the dots between all of the mutual people we knew, thousands of miles away from us.

On the same part of the trip when we were on our way to Edinburgh, I met an elderly women who came and sat with me in the dining/ lounge car of first class. (The butler/ attendant let me stay there luckily.) I had been writing in my journal so she asked me if I was working or in a class. We discussed my trip and the second I mentioned Shakespeare she got very excited saying how she loved the theatre. Even though she has never seen a Shakespeare show, she launched into talking about her favorite show: “West Side Story”. Her eyes twinkled when she told me about- she has seen it live, four times.

Another group we met actually stayed in the hunting lodge in Braemar, Scotland with us. It was an older group of hikers. They were lively in a quiet, polite way and told wonderful stories full of reminiscing and getting lost in thought. I got to hear them talking at one point- the older gentleman was explaining how he was trying to find something in a store one time. Boots didn’t have it and nor did the other he checked. With a dramatic pause and a sigh he said, “I had to go to a… tourist shop.” in order to find what he needed. Everyone sighed dramatically too saying, “Bah!”.  They had a dry sense of humor about them but it was entertaining when we startled them on accident one evening. I was in the group of students acting out/presenting Macbeth to the rest of our class. In order to do so we had to dress up like witches, smear dark make up over our faces, frizz and tangle our hair and for detail, I even put some stick in mine. We all looked nuts, but that was the effect. The people at the table looked at us and said, “Good heavens, what are you doing?” Then he laughed as we explained, complimenting our outfits.

Over the trip, to me the many people I met were nameless but I remember them all in a blur sort of way. Lots of people who offered help or directions to us. There was a girl who was sketching that I just had to sit down and chat with or others who I met in shops- like two clerks who were my age called me over to make fun of some ridiculous music on the radio. We even met an author of over 70 years who hikes up and down England with her dog, Pearl, while writing about it. Or the random gentleman in a full suit in the mountains who made a quick joke as he suddenly appeared and then was past us. It was nice to be involved and included in a place where I felt that I would feel like a stranger in but honestly, I felt so a part of it. And everywhere there was such vibrant life and more stories to hear and learn.