More than 20 students from The University of Texas-Pan American were able to gain a better understanding of 19th century life in rural Britain during their 14-day study abroad trip last month.
The study abroad program allowed students the opportunity to complete two undergraduate and graduate English courses - Transatlantic Women Writers and Thomas Hardy's Dorset Writing - while visiting London, England and Bath, England.
UTPA undergraduate and graduate students were required to read several novels which were either set in or related to London or Bath as a course requirement and were then able to visit some of the places they studied.
"Our goal was to take the students in the footsteps of the authors and characters they had read about," said Dr. Rebecca Mitchell, assistant professor of English at UTPA who taught the courses abroad with Dr. Caroline Miles, another UTPA assistant professor of English. "Instead of simply holding classes in a classroom, we decided to do all teaching 'on site'; we were thus with the students a great deal more and feel they were more immersed in the places we visited."
Mitchell said one of her favorite moments during the trip abroad was at the British Library, where the students participated in a workshop and reviewed manuscripts.
"On the handwritten manuscript, they could see that Thomas Hardy had crossed out his original title for the novel, and crossed out other lines as well. I think this was surprising to many of them - to discover these famous writers, that we so often consider geniuses, did in fact have to revise their work," Mitchell said.
Carolina Medina, a master's student in English literature, said every student should take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad because it breaks down the walls of the traditional classroom and allows students to see the world.
"Study abroad offers the type of education that a student is unable to achieve in the classroom - immersion learning," said Medina, who completed two graduate courses while abroad. "Our professor could have spent days lecturing me on how prominent the Roman influence was on the city of Bath, while a moment standing in front of the Roman Bath's six grand columns left me in awe. It was instant comprehension."
Adriana Lopez, master's student in English literature, said studying literature in England added a level of excitement to learning that would not have been achieved in the classroom.
"One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Kingston Lacy House, an enormous mansion which dates back to the 1600s. It is very much like the typical setting of many of Jane Austen's novels," Lopez said. "To see something like that, to actually stand there in all its vastness, and to see firsthand just how magnificent these mansions were was breathtaking."
Lopez said having two professors who were familiar with the area was also an added perk.
"Having Dr. Miles, who is from England, and Dr. Mitchell, who studied there, was extremely advantageous. Not only were they both extremely knowledgeable about the history, culture, architecture and literary significance of the area, but they were also both full of suggestions of places for us to visit on our evenings off, and overall travel advice to first-time travelers to London."
For more information about the UTPA study abroad program, contact the Office of International Programs at 956/381-3572.