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Allison Holbrooks

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Journalism and History (Majors) Classical Humanities (Minor)
Program: King's College London
Location: London, UK
Term: Spring 2020


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Going into the process of studying abroad I knew that I wanted to study in Great Britain. My AP European History teacher, who is one of the most influential instructors I have ever had, instilled a strong admiration for the complex history of Britain in me. In its timeline, Britain has encompassed most of the world we know, risen to unmatched power and influence, seen the pitfalls of nationalism and expansion, survived wars of mass destruction, and more that I could not possibly list here. Their history is complex, titular, and ties to cultures outside their immediate borders today. It is a nation that shaped the history of the one that I call home, and has produced some of the worst and greatest national leaders time has witnessed. It is impossible to even attempt to compare another nation to Britain, because no single country has left as big a mark on the world, and at the center of all that influence today, lies London. London is known as a hub of cultures, language, politics, and history. So many of the significant decisions that were made to place Britain on such a global scale were made in that city hundreds of years ago, and that same level of importance is still upheld today. Walking around the streets of London must feel like walking through the streets of many Londons, the London of today, the London of yesterday, and the image of the London of tomorrow. At the center of this cultural melting pot is King’s College of London. As I was deciding between which university I could possibly call home for a semester I was radically impressed and drawn to King’s College. What genuinely struck me and drove the final decision home was their History Department. As I read articles about the many prominent people who graduated from the college and was impressed with their achievements and rankings, none of this struck me as hard as what their history department had to say about the pursuit of historical knowledge. In an introductory video to the program Dr. Alice Rio begins speaking about her field of medieval history and she says, “The reason that I do Medieval history, is that it confronts you with people who think so radically differently from us, and yet there is still something recognizably human about them.” Within this quote she bridges two extremely different time periods, the past and present, and recognizes that this field is the study of people just like the people out there today under different lenses, time, and circumstances. My love for history and its preeminent beauty, is the applications that arise from investigating our pasts and more importantly different pasts. I walk towards Great Britain and Europe after learning its diverse history and admiring people such as Vera Brittain who wrote, “There is an abiding beauty which may be appreciated by those who will see things as they are and who will ask for no reward except to see” (Testament of Youth). In the spirit of discovering as a history major and the ability to study in London at the heart of so much knowledge I had hoped to see a new culture and new world outside of the pages of a textbook, but inside their story that is still being written. I can attest that this experience, even in the short time I spent abroad, offered all of this and more, pouring thousands of diverse perspectives, and new cultures over me and enveloping me in a diversity I had yet to experience before.


What did you learn about yourself?
In a more obvious tone I learned a new sense of independence and confidence. Many days I was left to my own resources to find people and places to entertain myself, and London has SO much to offer in this department. I spent days walking the city on my own, meeting new people are cafes and stores, trying to envelop myself in the culture as best as I could. Outside of this, I definitely learned how to adapt in a drastic scenario. Obviously, with COVID-19 hitting halfway through our program, a lot of things occurred at a rapid pace. I went from trying to stick it out for as long as I could, to the last flight out of London. All during this, my phone was stolen and I lost all communication with everyone I knew. Needless to say, that moment was a low and a very unique situation to be stuck in a foreign country, without a very pinnacle device in our day-to-day life. The lessons gleaned from those two days alone I can honestly way have been the most powerful and most transformative. I was taught a deep sense of patience, and understanding that certain elements in this great world of ours are out of my control. I learned to adapt, and accept flexibility with open arms. When the world begins to fluctuate as quickly as it did this past spring, personal rigidity was no longer an option. Allowing that force of chaos to not control me, but guide me properly and smoothly was a very difficult but necessary lesson to learn. So much of everything that happens is out of our control, it sometimes just takes an earth-shattering event to point out that staunch reality. Outside of these lessons gleaned from negative externalities, I also learned the art of joy and confidence within myself. I was gifted with extended amounts of time, as mentioned above, to explore and learn from the unique culture around me. I am immeasurably blessed for the time I got to spend in London and regret nothing, other than the lasting effect Corona had on my trip.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
It was a hum-drum evening. Nothing especially stood out about it, just the air of potential. I had been itching to go on an adventure. I had spent months pouring over London. Endless museums, exhibits, grand buildings, the warmth of pubs, and the cool evenings of the streets. It was everything I had dreamed and arguably more. But to fly across the world and find yourself living in a radically different city leaves your mind to wander: what else exists on this hemisphere? London was pinnacle in my understanding of England, but there was so much more to this culture that had become my primary interest. I was hearing from new friends in class, the quaint beauty of their hometowns, and the mystery of the English countryside. Aligning with these accounts from new friends and a deep longing that had been able to develop since I had first heard of the location, I undertook the task of convincing my two friends Matt and Jack to venture outside of the city and visit another gem of the United Kingdom: The White Cliffs of Dover. The Cliffs are featured in a plethora of films, images, and historical books, all trying to capture the inherent beauty of the feature. I knew that before I left I had to see them for myself, and realizing how gratifying it was to already have explored the unknowns of London, I had to capture the unknown of the Cliffs. So, what was an average afternoon, quickly transitioned into a logistics meeting, the setting of a date, a purchasing of tickets, and an absence of an itinerary. In the spirit of spontaneity, we would get off of the train in Dover station and walked wherever our hearts and feet would carry us. We had no inclination of where the Cliffs were, or how to get to them, but we just set out walking (an eventual theme of our trip). Our first objective was the water. I knew the great white walls rose out over the sea and knew if we found water it was only a matter of time before we discovered the Cliffs. We looked briefly at our maps set out in a direction and quickly found ourselves surrounded by the exceptionally quaint town of Dover. Kids in bikes and scooters flooded the streets, families strolled, and huddled from the cold. It was beautiful and exactly that small-English-town feel that I was longing for. History plaques littered the streets, retelling of the events the town had survived, breathing life into its resilience. After our brief stop in the town we kept our pace and quickly found the shore of the harbor. Grey is the only word that can do the scene justice, but it’s not the bland grey we are all familiar with. It is a million shades painting the shores, large ships, and clouds littering the sky. Truly amazing to see a color known for its monochrome mildness, light up an environment as if in technicolor. And then to our left we were met with the formidable friend we had come so far to see. To say that image lives in my mind rent-free is an understatement. Rising over the water in all its grandness were these vast cliff faces painted with every bit of clarity in a staunch white. To spare you the monotony of the remainder of our day I leave you with a quick summary of our further adventures: we walked a total of 10 miles (probably more), wound up in St. Margaret’s (next town over) by accident, ate in a creepy lighthouse I am sure many people have visited, found plenty of cows, made new friends in an old pub, and watched a futbol match with a bunch of old Englishmen, and were approached and then challenged? If that is a word by a group of kids that can only be described as an English scooter gang. Yes, scooters. The day was highlighted by laughter and chaos, and will forever remain the highlight of my time abroad.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
When you face uncertainties, do not be afraid to ask for help or ask other students about how they are doing. I bonded and learned so much from my peers in my study abroad group and even from other study abroad students from other universities. Most likely, these students are experiencing very similar feelings to yourself, so reach out and establish connections through those shared uncertainties and do not be afraid to speak up. It is always better to ask for help and have someone walk alongside you as you navigate those emotions. You are in a naturally isolating position, so finding community in that is a beautiful thing. I know I am exceptionally grateful for the friendships that blossomed during my time abroad and some of those came from shared experiences and emotions we were facing together. Even through the stresses of COVID-19 and the pandemonium that ensued, other people in my program and I navigated that experience together, leaning on each other for reassurance and support and I am forever grateful for their presence and help in those moments. Everyone experiences uncertainties no matter who you are, it is just a matter of being willing to face those uncertainties and being willing to do so with others so that you can navigate those together.


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