From about third grade on, when I stumbled upon a history of Shakespeare in my elementary school library and I saw my sister’s class reading some of his plays, I was hooked on Shakespeare. I have since acquired the complete works of Shakespeare, a little book of the Love Sonnets, and another book of all the sonnets, as well as acted in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, and a reader’s theatre presentation of Twisted Tales of Shakespeare, specifically Macbeth. Shakespeare has been supremely influential upon my academic career and in terms of how I think about writing. Shakespeare believed that he could immortalize his lover, by writing him (this is controversial, however since the sonnets are written to a young man and it is assumed that poetry is mainly autobiographical unless stated otherwise, I will stick with my male pronoun). This idea of making someone, or an idea last more than a lifetime has always intrigued me. It is safe to say that studying and visiting where he worked and lived had always been a fantasy of mine, but never something I thought would actually happen.
It did occur to me when I was deciding to study abroad that by choosing London, I would be walking in some of Shakespeare’s footsteps, and living in the city where his life’s work took place. In fact, most of my applications to study abroad mentioned this detail, and how much this would actually mean to me. Yet again, I failed to realize what this actually means. I am studying Shakespeare where he lived and worked. Because London has changed in the last 400 years (and no one can blame them), it was difficult to see this detail behind the large skyscrapers and efficient public transportation. I was happy to be here nonetheless, but lifetime of fan-girling over a dead playwright had not struck me until we, as a class, visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown.
Staying in a quaint bed and breakfast and going to see two of his plays, Antony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet, I felt connected to the past and where it stands today. We walked the streets of the small town of Stratford that seemed to be locked in a time-capsule, and for the first time, it did actually feel like we were walking in his actual footsteps. It struck me on the second floor of his childhood home, that I had only imagined what it would look like on the inside, and there I was getting ready to walk into his bedroom and then into the room where he was born. I was making a pilgrimage that the likes of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams as well as important poets and writers had made before me. Suddenly, it made perfect sense why I had chosen to leave Hollins, which has become like a home to me, and spend one of my last semesters in a foreign country away from the women, who have become my sisters. That moment I was standing in place where I had never actually thought I would have the ability or the means to get to. I am eternally grateful for that moment, and if the rest of my experience abroad had been terrible (which it hasn’t, it has been splendid—more blogs to come on just how wonderful), this moment would be worth it all on its own. Study abroad is full of those moments; it provides those opportunities, through the classes offered and the trips made available. Sara, the director of the program here, works so extremely hard to both provide these opportunities and to let you be independent and learn what it is like to live abroad. Anyways, I am off to my Shakespeare course now to discuss King Lear and to study for my mid-term next week! I will write soon about living in ISH and the weekend markets—two of my most favorite things so far!