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“Castles, Witches, and Kings” – Summer term in Harlaxton with MA student Katie Stutz!

“Castles, Witches, and Kings” – Summer term in Harlaxton with MA student Katie Stutz!

This past June, I embarked on a magical and thrilling trip to the U.K for a Literature class with Dr. Tarter.  As I look back on my journey now, the entire trip seems like a dream because it was truly extraordinary.  Along with my fellow classmates, the student chaperone, and Dr. Tarter, I expanded my knowledge of British history, culture, and literature while visiting major landmarks and places relevant to our studies.  While our class and itinerary focused mostly on Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Harry Potter, we also saw three Shakespeare plays, and traveled to nearby cities or countries.

Our home base during the trip, however, was Harlaxton Manor, which looked like a fairytale castle from the inside and outside.  The castle was so vast that you could roam around the castle admiring the elegant rooms and finding new nooks and crannies. The “Gold Room,” our classroom, had angelic paintings on the walls and ceiling, all bordered by gold and huge wall mirrors, so it was difficult not to gaze around at the intricate artwork during class.

The English countryside is absolutely beautiful because the green grass stretches for miles and vivid yellow flowers dot the landscape like the Yellow Brick Road.  Located in the countryside of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle was probably my favorite castle to visit because the Harry Potter broom riding lesson scene was filmed there.  Our class actually took broom riding lessons at the castle from an eccentric, comical wizard.  Even though none of us managed to fly, the experience proved magical.

Other exciting Harry Potter field trips included the Official Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, England and The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The Harry Potter Studios was overwhelming because there were countless sets, props, costumes, and designs from the movies.  Standing right next to Privet Drive and the real Hogwarts model used in the films was incredibly exhilarating.  Our class also enjoyed lunch at The Elephant House where J.K Rowling famously wrote Harry Potter on napkins.  As I ate lunch, I grabbed a napkin and a pen to write a note myself, channeling J.K Rowling and the wonderful world she created.  Just thinking about how I could be sitting right where she was when she first began The Sorcerer’s Stone was eerie but inspirational.  While in Scotland, we also climbed Arthur’s Seat, the highest peak in Edinburgh, to experience a breath-taking view of the city.  While I took many pictures on the peak, I felt like I simply could not capture the beauty or mood of the view with my camera.  It was one of those moments when you just have to gaze out at the landscape and enjoy feeling insignificant amid the vastness of the world around you.

I also visited Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare and an adorable town that takes you back to the 1600s.  I toured Shakespeare’s home, marveled at his original First Folio, and enjoyed Titus Andronicus and As You Like It at the theaters in town.  Our trips to Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s extravagant abode, and Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, meanwhile brought famous historical figures to life in a way I had never imagined.  I experienced the opulence of Henry VIII’s home and his fascinating life as a king married six times while I got goose bumps looking at the red ivy snaking across the front of Hever Castle, an eerie reminder of the bloodshed at her beheading.

One weekend I traveled to Paris with classmates where I fell in love with the glittering Eiffel Tower at midnight and went to a mass spoken in French at Notre Dame the following morning.  The lock bridges near Notre Dame added to the city’s romantic ambience as well as the delicious crepes and baguettes.  While I enjoyed Paris, I loved the historic atmosphere of London because the city offers countless opportunities for exploration and learning.  Even though I would have been thrilled to extend my trip longer, this trip was an unforgettable journey with new places to see and new things to learn.  I’m incredibly lucky to have experienced this study abroad opportunity during my Master’s Program.  The trip was my first graduate class right after my undergraduate graduation so it was truly a memorable excursion.  Since this experience pushed me to become more adventurous and take full advantage of my time in Europe, the opportunity made me more comfortable travelling and eager to travel again in the near future.  The trip held personal meaning because I have always been fascinated by London’s history and landmarks; therefore, enjoying my travels while acquiring graduate credit at the same time was beyond amazing.  Dr. Tarter set the parameters for my paper and presentation, but I had the freedom to choose my own topic and discuss it with Dr. Tarter.  Although the class was wonderfully travel-intensive, I did apply literary theory to literature on a graduate level and presented my analysis to the entire class.  Even though I was a year older than most of my classmates on the trip, age was irrelevant; our class got along well together regardless of the gaps among grade levels.  I will definitely be returning to England in the future, and I highly recommend the Harlaxton trip to anyone, undergraduate or graduate student, who is interested in the years to come.


For your convenience, you can find more information on the Summer 2014 travel courses at the following pages:

For more information on these Study Abroad Summer 2014 courses, please contact Dr. Michele Tarter (