Podium


(April 24, 1997, Gazette)

I spent a semester at Harlow:

Why having a campus in England

is worthwhile

By Tracy Spracklin

This past fall I had the opportunity to spend the semester at MUN's campus in Harlow, England. This amazing experience has left me with many fond memories of both the people in my class and the places that I visited. I would like to share some of my experiences in this commentary in the hope that more people will be educated about the unique experience that this campus provides to MUN students.

Until last July, the only thing I knew about the Harlow campus was that education students could go there. As an arts major, I thought the campus was off-limits for me. I have since been proven wrong. Since the Harlow campus was opened in 1968, the number of university programs that it accommodates, like the actual size of the campus, has continually increased. The programs that currently give students the chance to sample British life range from the Faculty of Business Administration to the School of Physical Education and Athletics to the Faculty of Arts. The latter faculty, which is how I found myself spending a semester in England, is actually quite new to the campus in England. I believe there could be endless possibilities lying ahead for arts students in Harlow. One example is the students from Fine Arts and English, who have been over there to study theatre and then experience it in London, one of the richest cities for the dramatic arts in the world. What better way to learn?

The curriculum that I studied while in Harlow was a collaboration between the departments of History and Folklore. The course was designed to give us a broad overview of British social history and architecture. This was achieved not only through class lectures, but also through weekly field trips to different towns, galleries, museums and cathedrals. Part of these trips was recording everything we saw in our field books. Thus same book was to become our nemesis when we found ourselves on weekend excursions, noticing architecture and furniture while wishing that we wouldn't! It was impossible not to learn the subject matter of our course. No matter how much we tried to rebel against the architecture and furniture that we were endlessly studying, it was pointless -- we were living the course.

Our studies were very interesting, but for me, they represent a minimal part of the overall experience of living in England for three months. I felt like I had a whole new world at my fingertips. My friends and I could dress in our best clothes and take an evening train to London to go to the theatre. We could go the opposite way and end up in Cambridge, punting down the river, then staying to hear a boys' choir sing Evensong at King's College chapel. Or we could venture further, boarding a plane in England and then landing less than an hour later, not only in a different country but also in a completely different culture.

I enjoyed my trip so much that part of me didn't want to return to Newfoundland. But I eventually realized that it was the people that I would miss the most. Living in a quaint little 17th-century house in the middle of a foreign country represented so much more than residence life for me. I felt like the nine people I lived with, as well as the rest of the class, were my family. Naturally, there was no shortage of pranks, and even some minor disagreements. But we all had a lot of everyday fun together, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, pulling all-nighters to finish our papers, and of course, frequenting the three nearby pubs.

So if you haven't gathered by now, I would definitely recommend a semester in Harlow to anyone. I think my Harlow experience taught me a lot about relationships with other people and about living away from home, but it also taught me a lot about Canada. It is very humbling at times to live as a foreigner, and it helps you realize everything you take for granted at home.

Tracy Spracklin is a fifth-year French major from Paradise.