School and stuff
So the thing they never tell you about studying abroad is that you actually have to study sometimes … It’s rough. No, really it’s not too bad; I’m actually taking an Art and Architecture class and a Theatre class, and they’re both incredibly enlightening. You may think to yourself, “My, what’s that got to do with a dietetics major?” But I guess that’s why no one asked for your opinion.
The best thing about Art and Architecture class is the professor–Michael Douglas Scott. They say you can’t trust a guy with two first names, so what do you do with a guy with three? He is funny as heck though, I must admit. In one of our first classes we were talking about classical columns as we were analyzing different classical buildings in Trafalgar Square. He hugged one of the large marble columns affectionately, saying, “There’s nothing like hugging a column; it’s much better than hugging a tree. Go on, try it.” He was looking at me. I said, “You seriously want me to hug that column?” “Yea,” he replied, “Give it a try!” So, being the fool I am, I hug the column with all the affection I can muster. I really do appreciate the sense of humor though. Moreover, I appreciate his wealth of knowledge.
For all of our classes we meet at a different museum or landmark around London and he basically takes us on a three-hour tour. He’s one of these guys that seems to know everything about every building or piece of work housed in London, including interesting and entertaining back stories behind the architects and artists. It’s really an interesting framework to acquire historical knowledge about England. Definitely much more interesting than anything printed in a history book. As I’m also finding, there is a great deal of insight that can be gained through the study of theatre as well.
While I enjoy theatrical productions, I can’t really say I’ve ever been passionate about the art of theatre; I just rightfully assumed it would be an interesting topic to study in London. It’s amazing how much practical knowledge and insight into a culture can be gained through theatrical productions. Through the study of plays ranging from the 18th century to the present, we’ve focused on topics including masculinity and gender roles, race struggles and UK immigration policy, the nature of language and how it relates to life, and Thatcherism. As a bonus, we’ve also gotten to attend a number of highly acclaimed theatre productions as well, including one called The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, which chronicles the rise of Hitler, but through the story of a 1920s Chicago gangster’s rise to power. Then we just have these insightful discussions, which explore topics both humanitarian and historical. It’s been an effective way to place world events in context a bit, as the UK’s history is so richly linked in with world history.
Just a quick little end note: the class structure is much different here than in the U.S. There’s less evaluation and more independence and student responsibility. Most courses have one or two big assignments through the semester, and it’s up to the students to keep up with the material and organize their time. I must admit, it’s quite gratifying to turn in a polished 10-page paper with all of the proper footnotes and referencing on a topic that seemed totally obscure just weeks before. That’s college for you, I guess.
Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in London.