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Did You Spend Your Summer in an English Castle?

If you were anywhere near the Alumni Grove on Wednesday, Sept. 12, from noon to 3 p.m., you might have seen the Study Abroad Fair being held there. Many programs in various countries were represented, but as far as I know, only one table had a stuffed dalek straight out of the British cult sci-fi show Doctor Who and a Hufflepuff pendant bought at the Harry Potter Studio Tour right outside of London.

My Hufflepuff pendant.

This table was the Harlaxton Program table. The Harlaxton Program is a TCNJ faculty-led study abroad program in which you get to go to England, live in a castle, and visit literary landscapes of British Literature. I participated in the 18-day Harlaxton Program this past summer, and it was one of the best experiences I will ever have.

The program is led by Dr. Michele Lise Tarter, English Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Studies here at the College. The assigned reading, to be finished before the trip or else you’ll find yourself reading on the train to London (Oh no!), were the classics Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Mists of Avalon. Fittingly, we visited the Brontë Parsonage, the English Moors where the Brontë sisters grew up, and Merlin’s Cave and the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, among many, many other sites.

English major or not, it was amazing to visit the birth sites of legends such as King Arthur and classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. We were able to see the environment that the Bronte sisters grew up in, the setting of their youth that inspired the settings in their novels. Our weekends were free to visit Paris (!!!!) and Dublin, and one Wednesday afternoon, we went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour near London and got to see some real movie magic. Actually, let me tell you about my experience on the trip, day-by-day.

We arrived at Heathrow in England on a Thursday morning, after spending the overnight, seven-hour flight watching movies, reading books, and maybe sleeping a bit as well. We had our first class on Friday, and then ten of us departed for France via the Chunnel, a train under the Channel from London to Paris. After a weekend of hanging out by the Eiffel Tower, eating real French Onion soup, and trying Escargot, we returned to Harlaxton Manor for a week of classes, site-seeing, group presentations, and late nights bonding over last-minute papers. The day after the HP tour, we went to the local town of Grantham for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Olympic Torch. It rained buckets that day, but the sun finally came out for the torch as it passed us.

For our second free weekend, we went to Dublin and saw the legendary Molly Malone, the campus of Trinity College, and a Pride Parade! We finished our stay in the castle with a stately banquet just for our group. We spent our last three days in England exploring the beautiful views of Cornwall, trying traditional Cornish pasties, and learning about England’s historic and contemporary witchcraft.

The trip was overwhelmingly busy at parts, but it was wonderful being in England and seeing its literature brought to life, making lifelong friends along the way. It’s been two and a half months since we came home, and I still miss it.

Whether you are obsessed with literature or not, you should definitely at least consider going on the Harlaxton Trip next summer. I got to see England, live in a castle, visit Europe, and receive credit for a course in just 18 days abroad. But the Harlaxton Program is just one of many opportunities to study abroad offered here at TCNJ. Check out more at the Center for Global Engagement’s homepage.

So, if you’re interested in having a life-changing experience abroad, it’s not too late to learn more! (I mean, it’s only September.) Be sure to visit the STUD on Wednesday, Oct. 10, during meal equiv for the next Study Abroad Fair! Cheerio!

Rachel Chlebowski is an alumna of The College of New Jersey, where she sang with I-Tunes A Cappella, created props for TCNJ Musical Theater, spread literary cheer through Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and wrote for Her Campus TCNJ. She enjoys reading novels and watching Netflix when she isn't editing manuscripts and media.
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