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Transforming Dreams to Reality: My Time in Cambridge

Written by Kristin Lyons

The time I spent in Cambridge was life-altering and eye-opening. Walking around England, it is easy to note differences between American and British culture. Our living arrangements made it easy for UT students to converse with and learn about people from the British Isles. The other students and I were completely immersed in another culture, and every day, we noticed more about British customs and history. Throughout the month, we witnessed some of the loveliest buildings and gardens England has to offer.

As England was in the midst of a drought, their famous lawns are browning, but the city was still picturesque with its detailed buildings, lively shops, and immaculate botanical arrangements. Every day, we walked through the bicycle-covered streets, through the local market, past the great King’s College Chapel, and through alleyways to cross the River Cam, which was always alight with boisterous punters. We also traveled throughout England, touring wondrous cathedrals, visiting ancient burial grounds, and visiting London. While in London, I experienced the hustle and bustle of the city’s public transportation. I also fulfilled two of my lifelong dreams of watching a Shakespearean play at The Globe Theatre and seeing first drafts of my favorite authors’ most famous works at the British Library.

This trip also allowed us to broaden our horizons, as we were allotted “free” days to sight-see. Some students chose to visit Barcelona, Paris, Switzerland, Edinburgh, and other areas of England where they witnessed even more cultures and historic monuments. While they explored Europe, I opted to spend time exploring the literary areas of Cambridge. The first weekend, I took the train with another student to attend a music festival in Gunnersbury Park in London. We also saw Platform 9 ¾ from the Harry Potter series, another of my childhood dreams. The next weekend, I found the antiquarian bookshop G. David Bookseller and saw first-editions from Joyce, Brontë, Byron, and many more. I also visited Newnham College, where my favorite writer, Sylvia Plath, attended school and wrote her most famous poems. I visited the famous Fitzwilliam museum and saw its vast selection of art, both old and new, from countries around the world. As the annual Shakespeare festival was in progress, I also decided to watch The Taming of the Shrew in St. John’s gardens in Cambridge. It was a magical experience, packed leg-to-leg with other audience members, watching Petruchio and Katherine’s quick-witted banter as the sun set.

The University of Tennessee’s 1794 Scholars program has allowed me to have precious experiences that reignited my childhood feelings of wonder and amazement. By imbuing me with an appreciation for others’ values, studying abroad has allowed me to experience new cultures and explore ideas paramount to my personal growth. The 1794 International Experience Grant aided me immensely in attending Cambridge, witnessing such lovely sights, and learning about England’s rich history and traditions while expanding my love for English literature and art. I am so appreciative of my time studying abroad, and I am positive I will carry the lessons I have learned both in and out of class in Cambridge to Tennessee. I look forward to using my Cambridge experience in my own academic, personal, and creative endeavors, as I litter stories and anecdotes about my experiences in England throughout my own writing and, hopefully, share the lessons I learned with others.