I was excited to undertake my first study abroad experience in the summer of 2013. Though I had traveled extensively in the U.S. and Canada and had traveled abroad a little with my family, this was a different experience. I participated in a month-long program through Georgia State University in London, England.
This program was different from many study abroad programs in that it was a single GSU course, with the professor and all participants coming from the same school, but instead of being taught in Atlanta, the course took place in London. The class was Victorian Literature of the Underworld, and by being in London, we not only had the expertise of Dr. Melissa McLeod and our texts to learn from, but we gained hands-on knowledge as well. We were able to visit many of the locations where the literature was set and/or written, and got to walk the streets that the characters frequented. Through walking tours, museums, and libraries, we were able to better comprehend the texts and garner cultural knowledge not available from simply reading and studying a text. During this course, I created and presented a class lecture to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students on Sherlock Holmes. I also contributed daily to our class blog with reflections from the day's class meeting and outings.
This experience solidified for me the link between travel and education. I hope someday to design and teach my own study abroad courses in which students read and study the poetry of a place in that place. I believe that through first-hand exposure to the sensory details of a place or experience related to a text, students gain a better understanding of the context in which it was written, and thereby of the text itself.