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Next Stop: London

Natalie Torta, C'24

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Hey Mounties! Welcome back to the My View of MSMU blog! We’ve just finished eating all the pasqua bread from Easter – I definitely overestimated the amount of bread doubling the recipe would yield. Next year, we’re sticking to a single batch.

My roommate from last semester, Claire, had always been excited about the study abroad trip to Dublin that the Mount sponsors every other year. I hadn’t really looked too much into study abroad opportunities when I was choosing a college. It’s not that I don’t want to travel, I just figured I would go eventually, so there was no reason to hinge anything major (like a college selection, for example) on it. No rush, right? Well, since she’s an education major, Claire has had her eye on the Dublin trip since before she even applied at the Mount. I could see the appeal, but I just thought it was a cool opportunity to travel and see another part of the world, take some cool pictures, have some fun stories to tell. Nothing life-changing, just a fun addition to your college experience. I remember doing homework at my desk while Claire attended the informational Zoom meetings for the trip. Dr. Solar, an education professor and the Dublin trip faculty leader, spoke to the participants about what an enriching opportunity studying abroad was. This piqued my interest since his perspective seemed to offer much more than mine.

Claire let me listen in from across the room as Dr. Solar detailed all the wonderful benefits of the Dublin trip – immersion into Irish culture, exploration of deeply historical sites, plus having a necessary education credit fulfilled. The benefits for education majors specifically were enough to convince Claire, but I was intrigued, even as a business/communication major. I have never really experienced the benefits of traveling first-hand, having never left the country myself. Once, when I was probably around 13, my family visited Niagara Falls, but the closest I got to crossing the border was the Canada side of Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist ferry. Still fun, but certainly a waste of a passport. With six of us in my family, plus most of our few relatives being within six hours, we opted to drive. Even when went to Disney World in Orlando, we took a train. I’ve hardly been out of the state let alone the country. I’ve never even been inside an airport! Anyways, to sum it up, I’ve had very little experience traveling to places different enough from my hometown to provide any kind of enriching experience. So, I thought as I listened to Dr. Solar, maybe Dublin was my chance to change that.

Claire was excited when I told her I was thinking about signing up for the trip since she had been nervous about spending a whole semester with people she didn’t know prior to the trip. I was excited, too – I was finally going to go somewhere! Not just a long car ride to the grandparents’. Real traveling to a real destination where I could get a whole new perspective on our little corner of the world. I was looking forward to discovering for myself just how big the world was, especially alongside my best friend. The semester was shaping up to be a fun one. However, that was before new strains of COVID-19 started appearing in Europe, making the trip instantly riskier. We had been warned of the volatility of the trip’s occurrence, but we were hopeful that the university would safely be able to go through with it. Ultimately, the trip was canceled and Claire and I were deflated, but understanding of the danger we could put ourselves and others in by traveling. To combat the disappointment, we began planning our next adventure: London!

 london-savings-jar320x427My parents were a little shaky on letting me go to Dublin in the first place, but they were surprisingly very supportive and even excited for me to travel to London. I'm sure they were just happy they would only have to miss me for a week instead of three months. My birthday was in early April and I recieved a few gifts in anticipation of the London trip. My mom was the most excited to give me a savings jar so that I could begin puting away money for the trip (I suspect her excitement was less about London and more about the prospect of me paying for it). I also received a calendar featuring the most famous sites in London. Hopefully I'll get to see some of them for myself!

The spring break trip to London, though not as appealing to education majors specifically, made more sense for us for a few reasons. First, it’s only a ten-day trip, so the shorter window makes the chances of encountering a travel ban or other COVID-related issues less likely. Second, the trip doesn’t take place during instructional time, so Claire and I will be able to participate in the on-campus extracurricular activities we have been looking forward to continuing, plus we won’t have to deal with the frustrations of online learning that I have become so familiar with this semester.

For me, there was also another reason to be excited about the London trip. In 1980, my dad was part of a programlondon-program-cover320x427 through his high school that went to Leicester on an abroad trip. On this trip, he was housed by the family of a Leicester student of the same age, who he still exchanges Christmas cards with today. The boy, who my dad refers to by his nickname “Jugs”, ended up being just as interested in soccer as my dad was, so they bonded over their mutual love of the sport. Jugs even introduced my dad to the English Premier League and the team from Leicester City that he had supported since he was a child. Even now, my dad still tunes in to watch the games, following the league stats and investing in various merchandise. When I turned 16, the same age my dad was when he took the trip, I received a blue and white striped Leicester City scarf that resembled the one he had worn at that age in support of the team. Aside from the obviously meaningful friendships my dad made while in England, he also fondly remembers seeing the crown jewels, watching the changing of the guard, and playing basketball and soccer with the English students.

 

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Though I don’t anticipate coming home from the London trip with a life-long friend, I do hope to make some of the same memories that my dad remembers so favorably. He smiles as he tells me how bad the UK pizza was, laughing about how he and his friends ate fish and chips almost every night because that’s all they could stand. I hope I like more than just fish and chips, but I want to be able to remember the trip with the same fondness. Another cool opportunity I could take advantage of is to recreate some of the photos my dad has from the trip, standing in the same spots over forty years later. I would also like to try the pizza, just out of curiosity, to report back on whether or not the conditions had improved since my dad last tried it. I’ll be sure to let you all know, too, Mounties. Until then, Go Mount!

Natalie Torta, C'24