Academics: A Semester Abroad in England
Prepping for and Arriving in England
by Vanessa Malanga '10
It was August 22nd. I had just returned from spending a combined week living out of a suitcase in New Jersey and at Catawba only to be faced with the prospect of how to cram my entire day-to-day lifestyle into two large suitcases and one that I could carry on. If anyone knows me, they will cringe at this: I am a great fan of shoes, clothes, and accessories; not so much a weight limit of 50 lbs. per suitcase. Somehow, I made it all fit.
I waited until the last day to really begin packing because none of it still felt real. The prospect of me flying out to live in England for nearly four months was still so completely bogus that my mind simply couldn't fully comprehend. Studying abroad is something that I have yearned to do since sampling my first taste of Europe in high school. I had spent all summer sharing with friends, family, and co-workers, more excitedly as time passed by, that I was going to England, yet the full realization of it all hadn't truly hit me. I can now check one more thing off of that lifelong to-do list.
I said goodbye to my mother before passing through airport security, but my father had just flown in from Memphis, Tenn., a couple of hours before and had planned to stay behind the gate so that he could say a more lengthy goodbye. I found him on the other side of the crowd, and together we set out to track down another student, Bridgette Branham.
Bridgette and I had connected over Facebook, that website particularly beloved by college students. Luckily, there was a detailed flight list included. Bridgette had noticed that we were going to be on the same flight, so we had exchanged phone numbers. It was extremely exciting to meet my first fellow student. We were both very energized and chatty. She was wonderful to pass the time with.
The plane ride was long, but I was able to stretch out a bit, as I didn't have a seatmate. Upon landing, Bridgette and I had to navigate our way through the crowds, through Customs, and around the foreign airport, searching for the orange luggage tags identical to ours.
Kali, Kevin, and Katie had all flown into Gatwick Airport as well. My flight was only a little delayed, but some students had to wait until the next day to arrive — there had been a tornado scare in the Chicago area. Eventually, we all boarded two coaches (buses, to Americans) and began the long, trafficked drive to Grantham, Lincolnshire.
As we came upon the manor, the air within the coach was filled with excitement. We weaved through the streets and finally through the large iron gate and up the drive to the manor. It was breathtaking. I couldn't believe that we were actually going to live in what looked like a castle!
My dorm room actually happens to be in the Carriage House, which is not a far walk from the manor. All of my classes and meals take place in the manor. It's exceptionally difficult to concentrate during a history class when the ceiling above you is decorated with gold, family crests, or portraits of angels. The manor also holds a few "secret" passages, a couple of grand staircases, and many religious works of art leftover from Jesuit inhabitation.
In short, I am in awe. I am awed to be here and to live here, and I look excitedly forward to the next few months.
Vanessa does not consider herself to be a native of any one town, but she has spent portions of her life in New Jersey, Arkansas and most recently, North Carolina. She is a musical theatre major who intends to minor in English. She enjoys singing, dancing, fashion, writing and reading poetry. She has previously visited England, Scotland, Italy, Greece, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.