While the United Kingdom is across the Atlantic Ocean, once in Great Britain the London Tour led by lighting designer and technical director David Groupe covers most if not everything you can think of seeing and several you probably have not considered. Most of the tour is within the city boundaries of London – unless students decide to take advantage of optional day trips at additional cost. These include Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare’s birthplace (most likely included in original tour), Canterbury or Bath, Oxford or Cambridge, and Hampton Court (most likely including in the original tour as well), and even a day in Paris if that be your desire. One bit of advice that Rebecca Sherman, a junior who went on the 2015 tour, gave was, “if you’re going, be sure to always pack for and dress in layers, because London in March can get pretty cool and damp.” Sherman enjoyed everything about the tour except having a middle seat on the flight home and recommends it to other students especially those who have not been outside the United States since it was her first time abroad the lack of a language barrier allowed her to quickly adapt to being in a new environment and “experience theatre productions from a non-Broadway perspective.”
Journals written during the tour are always a good idea Director Groupe has stated that upon return from the tour, “one of the four papers will be due every two weeks while classes will be infrequent it is in every student’s best interest to write a careful log of their experiences to use later as reference material.” For all those interested in looking at this tour as an option, the deadline for applications is Nov. 17. After the deadline, space is determined by remaining availability. Final deposits will be collected on Feb. 3, following return from Winter Break. When thinking about this trip, Sherman reminds students “London is like New York City”, because “it is consistently expensive,” so think wisely and remember to budget your money so that you have enough to last. On a personal note, if you are leaving the country be sure to inform your bank so that when you go to swipe a debit card halfway around the world they know it is you accessing your money any not someone else. Having a valid passport is a critical item you should apply for now and having your theatre tickets on your person during the scheduled itinerary.
How each group member spent his or her free time in London was up to them. Anna Duke said, “Two of my friends were studying abroad in London at the time, and a third flew over from Denmark to surprise me, so I spent my free time wandering around the town with them. We went to a few different markets, went dancing in England, and hit up a house party full of authentic British people.” Whereas Sherman “enjoyed learning to navigate around the city on the Tube [London’s subway system], try out pubs and pub fare and compare shopping in department stores with shopping in the US. It was also a great chance to get to know St. Mary’s students who I had not previously known from around campus.” Anna Duke, “loved the entire trip but [her] favorite part of the experience came from getting to visit the castle where Winston Churchill spent his summers.” While there, she got to see an exhibit by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, “interspersed throughout the lavish furnishings.”
“It was interesting to learn about British history; the plays we get to see were fantastic; you hit up every British landmark you may be thinking about seeing, and even if you don’t, the day off gives you plenty of time to explore. It’s a special opportunity,” said Duke. Sherman is spending this semester away from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, while the location is unknown, the motivation behind it is certainly no secret. The London Tour provides students with a gateway to experience international education and entice them to go for other available opportunities during their time here at SMCM. Stay tuned for the next installment of Around the World: The St. Mary’s Way, where we’ll be discussing the upcoming student-led tour to Nicaragua.