I don’t even know where to begin with this reflection. There were so many absolutely amazing things that I got to see and experience while studying abroad in London: Buckingham Palace, the British National Museum, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Bath, Stonehenge, Durham and York and Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter Studios, just to name a few. The places that I have been to and the people that I have met along the way have left such a profound impact on my life and I am extremely thankful to have had those experiences. However, if I were to reflect back on anything, it would have to be on the experiences I had participating in the Drumbeat Program unique to the London Global Gateway, the immersive nature of the classes and special trips, the personal growth and sense of community/belonging that I felt within the city.
Immersive Class Trips
Street Art from the Inside London - ‘East End Walking Tour’: East End, London
The time I spent in London was absolutely amazing and was made so in part because of the unique and immersive nature of the classes that I took. From the moment we touched down in London the program staff and instructors made sure that we got and explored the city and learned its history and layout by experiencing them for ourselves. The first three weekends were dedicated to going on walking tours of the city and really getting to know our environment. I toured the edgy East Side of the city, went on a walk to discover the ancient Roman ruins and learn about their influence on the city’s structure, and event got to visit the Royal Courts of Justice and the famous Inns of Court all while learning to love and appreciate the many aspects of the city that make it so dynamic, legendary and absolutely unforgettable. I got to experience the diversity and inclusive nature of one of the world’s largest metropolises. Even better than this was the fact that the immersion experiences didn’t stop after those first few weeks, they continued on throughout the semester in my English Catholicism (history) and London in the Literature of the Fantastic courses, each of which was committed to exposing me to even more sides and ways of looking at the city and its influence on the greater culture of the country.
Last day with ‘Zebra Class’ at Drumbeat School and ASD Service: Lambeth, London
While studying in London, I had the opportunity to observe and act as a teaching assistant in a class a Primary school class at Drumbeat School and ASD Service Center in Lambeth. Beginning with that first day at Drumbeat School almost eight months ago, I have since learned so much about what it is like to be the one to actually work with young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Special Educational Needs. I have experienced firsthand some of the challenging behaviors expressed by children with ASD and learned about some of the possible origins for those behaviors, the hyper- and hyposensitivities to sensory stimuli that they deal with on a daily basis, the difficulties that they face with the hidden complexity of what most people consider to be simple, everyday communication, as well as the diversity of professionals that all come together to ensure that these children have a safe place where they can grow and learn to the best of their ability and how each professional has his or her own niche that makes obtaining that goal possible. Working with these students has definitely given me a better appreciation for all of the effort that teachers put in to help prepare their students for living in the “real world” and for the effort that such students put in everyday as well. It is amazing to me how, in just a few short weeks, the children and professionals I worked with were able to leave such a lasting impact on me and how I think about people with ASD and other Special Educational Needs; it’s incredible! Based on the possessive and protective ways in which I talk and think about these kids, I am sure that it is safe to say that my perception of Special Educational Needs has become even more positive than it already was. Before I was quite indifferent towards SEN; it was just something that was always there for people like my mom (a teacher of children with SEN) to deal with, but now that I have had the chance to work with people with SEN, I see it as an important aspect of the educational sphere that needs to be addressed in a larger context and of which more people need to be educated and informed about. My peers and I in the Drumbeat program have had the chance to see the direct impact that educated and supportive people can have on the lives of these students and we have come to understand that there is always more work that needs to be done and more hands needed to do it. We have become invested in these children and I am sure that because of them, each and every one of us have changed. And in some way we will take that change with us into our various careers and it will inform the way in which we deal with others and how we teach them about ASD and people with Special Educational Needs.
Roots & Ruins Trip
The Ruins of Fountains Abbey: North Yorkshire, England
One of the most remarkable extracurricular experiences I had while studying abroad was to go on a road trip with the rector, his wife, and a select group of other students from the program to tour northern England and learn about the history of some of its most beautiful and well-known monasteries, cathedrals and religious sites. This trip was not only educational but it was also very enriching in that it exposed me to the physical beauty of these places but the beauty of the culture and peaceful solitude that one finds in rural northern England. I got to explore ancient ruins and form deeper, more meaningful relationships with my friends and peers while doing so. On that trip we created memories shared inside jokes that will stay with us for many years to come. The time spent away from the hustle and bustle of the city was refreshing and helped me to experience what life is like for the average English person living outside of the city and to get a glimpse of the famous English countryside that I had read about for so many years.
Independence & Community
Me (far right) with my five ‘flatmates’ on our last night in London: Nelson’s Statue, Trafalgar Square, London
On a more personal note, living and studying abroad in London afforded me the opportunity to garner for myself a sense of independence and autonomy that was necessary for my growth as an individual and sparked the desire to travel more and to continue seeing the world through different lenses. It also afforded me the opportunity to live and become friends with five of the most wonderful and adventurous women I have ever met as well as many other wonderful young men and women; all of whom played an enormous art in making my time in London meaningful and lively. These are the people with whom I have grown close and with whom I continue hang out and share experiences with here on campus. In reflecting back on my time in London, I have come to realize that my understanding of London, both past and present, has dramatically changed. Prior to coming to the United Kingdom, my understanding of the richness of the history and diversity within the city was basically non-existent. I was unaware of the resistance to the Roman conquest and occupation, how the governmental and educational systems there worked, the distinct characters of the various boroughs, and the dynamic ways in which the city has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, just to name a few. Now I am very aware of these few aspects of its history and so much more of the things that makes London what it is. I came to the city with a blank slate and now I have left it with one that is full of an array of images and memories permanently etched on its surface of the things I have learned and experienced whilst there. I am grateful for every moment that I have spent within that amazing city because living there has taught me much about being a part of a diverse and global community and has most definitely changed me for the better.