A Hop Over the Pond
For ten days during this year’s Spring Break, twenty Atholton students embarked on a journey across the pond to explore the historically rich cities of Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England. Led by two Art teachers, Mr. Brenfleck and Mr. Titford, the students participated in a variety of activities such as touring the symbolic Edinburgh Castle, cruising down the scenic Thames River, visiting the legendary Globe Theatre, and even seeing the Queen drive past them.
“It was fantastic,” said Mr. Brenfleck. “Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great time.”
Before boarding their overnight flight to Scotland on April 16, however, the students had to prepare themselves well enough not only to go live in a different country with a five-hour-ahead time zone, but also to expect the unexpected. While Mr. Brenfleck was rather familiar with the cities, most students had never been. After landing in Scotland’s largest city of Glasgow and then staying overnight in the Edinburgh region, the students realized something: even with the five mandatory information and/or orientation sessions that they attended during the weeks leading up to the trip, they still found the “unexpected” to be surprising. Junior Christina Eshelman had never been outside of the United States before, making these first-hand experiences in the two foreign countries fun, fulfilling, and even scary.
“The way they drive there is so weird,” said Eshelman. “They drive on the left side of the road, and they go crazy. Our group almost got hit by like, 5 cars—it was so bad… and our bus was huge compared to this tiny little side of the road. They were literally driving on the sidewalk and running into people.”
On the other hand, what the participants did expect ended up exceeding their expectations. For the next several days, with the help of punctual and well-prepared tour guides, the visits of attractions and historical places in the two countries proved to be both educational and memorable. In London, the group took advantage of London’s major underground transit system, popularly known as the Tube, as a convenient mode of transportation to and from famous tourist attractions. One such attraction was the award-winning and iconic Tower Bridge Exhibition in London, featuring interactive computers, full-size steam engines, and the inner workings of the over 100-year-old bridge.
“I’d been to London a bunch of times, and one of the things I’ve never done was the Tower Bridge tour—it was really cool,” said Mr. Brenfleck.
In addition to the walking and bus tours throughout Scotland and England, students had a chance to attend an evening theater performance in the West End in London. The city “has over 80 mainstream theaters—the largest array in the world—featuring everything from traditional classics to cutting edge works by new writers,” according to their EF Educational Tour’s itinerary.
Although no language barriers exist, England and Scotland remain as foreign as countries in which different languages are spoken. One exceptional difference that participants agreed on was the laid-back, polite, and courteous attitudes of the Scottish and English, as opposed to that of typical Americans—despite the reckless driving habits , which are expected of bustling cities.
“They may hate you, but they’ll still be nice to your face, whereas Americans are just rude,” said Mr. Brenfleck.
Mr. Titford expressed similar sentiments.
“The English and Scottish aren’t as loud as[Americans] are to the general public. People in England and Scotland have a very good sense of history, because it goes back so far, so there’s a lot of history obviously visible.”
By the time the group had to board its flight for Chicago on the tenth day of the trip, not everyone was ready to leave.
“I did feel a little disappointed I couldn’t spend more time in the places that I’d visited and places that I wanted to visit before we left,” said Senior Ethan Dudderar. “But by the end of it all, when I was riding the elevator down to the lobby of our hotel, I knew that I was ready to come home and sleep in my own bed with my own curfew. It was a slightly bittersweet feeling to be leaving such a great place and experience.”