Letters from abroad

Oxford – Fall 2020

Different, but no less exciting

Studying abroad at Oxford University in a pandemic was not a decision that I took lightly. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done—beyond the intense academic environment, I left the United States for the first real time, traveled by myself, quarantined for fourteen days, and now I am living in a busy city, constantly wondering if I will get sick. I am incredibly fortunate to get to study abroad this year and have this experience, but there are many risks involved.

In the United Kingdom, new restrictions and lockdowns are being implemented every day. However, the responses are very different from what I have heard back at home from my family in Appleton and my partner and friends at Lawrence, whether better or worse. For instance, Oxford is only testing students who have symptoms, relying on the hope that people will come forward and get tested. Given that many people can be asymptomatic, it’s worrying. Each college determines their own rules, so some are more extreme and protective than others, though many have students divided into households. Many people wear masks in stores and on public transportation (it’s the law), but rip their masks off when they step outside. Pubs and restaurants are still open though all must close by 10, clubs are closed, groups of six people are allowed to meet, and many tutorials are in-person. Libraries are open but everyone must book a slot, wear a mask, sanitize their stations, and stay two meters apart. Traveling outside of the area is both discouraged and risky. Oxford is dictated by government guidelines, the university’s rules, and each college’s restrictions.

Obviously, this is not the experience I expected when I applied in November 2019, but it’s just different, not less exciting. I have been able to visit museums, shops, libraries, and walk in meadows and in the city. I am still getting an incredible education, and though lectures are pre-recorded for viewing online, my one-on-one tutorials can meet in-person, which certainly adds to the experience. For now, I could travel to London or Blenheim Palace or Stonehenge (where travel is not restricted) if I want to. The difference is just that I need to wear a mask, use lots of hand sanitizer, and remain cautious so I can come back home in December without having gotten sick. I guess being sent home for Spring Term prepared me for video calls, being far away from my loved ones, and missing Lawrence (even though I was only ten minutes away). All of this being said, I am very glad to be in Oxford and I hope more programs will run in-person soon.

[Lauren Kelly is a Lawrence University student who is currently abroad at Oxford University.]

London Centre – Breaking New Ground

Over the course of its 50 years, the Lawrence University London Centre has never been afraid to adapt to meet new challenges. And, that hasn’t changed with Coronavirus.

When Covid-19 forced the closure of the London Centre in Spring Term 2020, and again for the upcoming Fall Term, an idea was born out of the crisis. If students could not come to the London Centre, then the London Centre would come to the students.

London Centre Director Christine Hoenigs in London in time of Covid-19.

So, for the first time in its history, the Lawrence University London Centre will be offering remote instruction from London for any Lawrence University student interested in signing up. This not only will allow students whose overseas plans were disrupted to regain some of what they have lost, but it will also allow students who may never have considered an off-campus program before to experience one for the first time.

This Fall Term, the London Centre will offer five classes: Urban Anthropology, British Life and Culture, Impact of Empire on Great Britain: 1815-1914, Shakespeare in London, and Diversity on the London Stage. All classes will offer six credits, except for British Life and Culture, which will offer three credits.

Naturally, turning to a purely remote model of instruction offers its challenges. “The London Centre thrives on the experiential learning happening in London itself,” states Christine Hoenigs, Director of the London Centre, “[Covid and online instruction] requires a didactic rethink of our class subjects, how we get students actively involved in each class session. We are all keen to have students back in London and use London as a classroom, but for this term, we will have to be creative, inventive, think outside the box.”

Hoenigs says she and her colleagues, Dr. Kate Connelly and Dr. Nicholas James, plan to pull out all the stops to modify their online classes so students can still connect with London and the U.K. While students attending the London Centre in person would typically enjoy concert and theatre performances, museum visits, and walking tours, for example, remote learning will utilize films, recorded theatre performances, documentaries, Q&As with guest speakers, interviews, archive material and more. “We will … find new ways to connect students with this amazing place and hopefully use the online classes as a foundation for a term when students will be back in London again.” 

One positive outcome of offering online instruction this term is that London Centre instructors will get the chance to work with students whom they otherwise would not have met, and they are thrilled at that opportunity. “We hope the Fall Term classes will give students an idea what London and the London Centre has to offer, and that some of them will consider studying at the London Centre when it is possible again,” Hoenigs said.

Online classes will be a unique and potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students, regardless of their major or level of interest in study abroad, to experience the London Centre for themselves. “Working with students online will bring its own rewards for them and us, and we see it as an opportunity to move on; deal with [the current situation] in a constructive, creative way; and connect with students on a different level.”

London Centre classes will be offered in a remote, synchronous model, and is open to ALL Lawrence University students.

To learn more about the classes that will be offered, including class descriptions, go to our Lawrence University London Centre Academics & Courses page.

Down the rabbit hole

During Winter Term 2020, I studied abroad at Lawrence University’s London Centre for ten weeks. By the end of my study abroad, however, the world was shifting drastically every day in response to COVID-19 and, thus, each day meant re-evaluating and rescheduling plans in a new global context and moral lens. Back home, we were hearing about all the worry, precaution, and panic that was setting in. Yet, in London, with tube lines remaining open and streets still bustling with people, I felt distanced from that panicked mentality. Of all the surprises and challenges you find yourself met with on a study abroad, a global pandemic was not one I had thought I would encounter.

Author in London.

Returning to campus for Spring Term was something I had been looking forward to. Amidst the emotional tidal wave that comes with returning home from a study abroad experience, I was looking forward to grounding myself in the comfort and routine that Lawrence, the place that I now considered home, had always held for me.  However, that stability was soon to be taken away due to Spring Term moving online, and all the anticipation of coming back was completely disfigured as COVID-19 took hold of the world. The reunions I had imagined with friends were now gone, and in their place was a huge hole where uncertainty and anxiety lingered. 

Like always, Lawrence was there to offer support, and as a community, we all looked to each other to lean on in such a time of uncertainty. I think we all knew that the London Centre was looking out for us, and paired with the skills that living abroad had given us—like the ability to adapt and face challenges head-on—we were all able to tweak our plans and adapt to the pandemic’s effect despite being caught off-guard by it all.

Facing the task of reimagining what Spring Term was going to look like was especially hard for students who were looking forward to studying abroad in the spring, like Caroline Garrow ‘21, who was in London Winter Term and planned to continue on at the London Centre into the spring.

When asked about how she went about dealing with the sudden changes, she paid tribute to her incredibly supportive advisors who helped rework her courses and find a way to supplement the internship she was going to participate in initially. “I will admit that I spent many days trying to see how my “puzzle” would fit together again, as my London courses were a key part of my self-designed major. Hopefully I will get Humpty Dumpty to fit back together again,” said Garrow.

Reimagining Spring Term became a task that we all faced, students and professors alike, and for people like Christine Hoenigs, director of the London Centre, not having students for Spring Term certainly took some readjustments. “I have been focusing on producing more and new class materials for the new academic year, as unfortunately London Centre Spring classes couldn’t be taught online.”

In all of this, however, there is hope of a return to normal. “London will wait for you and will be here for you to explore when you are ready,” said Hoenigs. “See this as a time to prepare for a future visit, rather than time lost.”

The same holds true for all of the amazing programs that Lawrence offers. Those places will still be there waiting for you at the end of this all. In the meantime, finding new ways to engage with the place in which you expected to be living during your study abroad is a good exercise in flexibility and open-mindedness – one that will be invaluable once you finally do have the chance to go abroad.

Lawrence University London Centre Celebrates 50 Years

The Lawrence University London Centre turns 50 years old today!

On July 6, 1970, Lawrence students began classes in London as part of the very first Lawrence University London Centre. Housed in the Arden Hotel, students were able to take classes in a private classroom on the property, while sharing residential facilities with regular hotel guests, mainly tourists. Teaching was done solely by faculty visiting from the Appleton campus, and the first London Centre semester consisted of two 10-week sessions separated by a three-week travel break between.

According to the formal proposal submitted by the Subcommittee on Foreign Study, the London Centre was initially envisioned as a way to provide students with a “broadening and humanising experience” as they gained exposure to a cultural environment other than their own, and, since its inception, the London Centre has done just that – offering students the chance to continue their Lawrence education through academic coursework and experiential learning that utilizes London itself as the classroom. It continues to be a favorite study abroad choice for Lawrence University students.

This year marks 50 years of the Lawrence University London Centre, and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with you all throughout 2020-2021!

Learn more about the London Centre at https://www.lawrence.edu/academics/off-campus/london_centre.

Picture of Arden Hotel