This past weekend I took the train from London to Oxford. I am taking an English Literature course this semester that requires the class to read a variety of books by British authors and then take trips to literary sites that accompany the books. Throughout the semester we have visited a variety of authors’ homes as well as the settings of many of the books that we have read. When we studied poetry we visited John Keats’ house, went to Canterbury when we read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and even went on a literary walking tour around London that took us to a variety of the literary landmarks of history.
Before heading to Oxford, we read all seven books in C.S. Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia as well as the first book of the Harry Potter series. My class was meeting on Saturday to go on a tour of to C.S. Lewis’ house and discuss his books there. A few of my friends and I decided to go a day early and explore Oxford. We found a free walking tour to go on so that we could see all of the sights of the city. We joined a group of German tourists on a tour around the city with a very eccentric tour guide, who told us stories about the history of the city as well as stories from his own life that he found amusing. He definitely had some funny stories and it was one of the most “unique” tours that I have been on so far, to say the least. During the tour we saw sites such as the Radcliffe Camera, Christ Church, and various locations that inspired the Narnia books. We were also able to see where some of the scenes of Harry Potter were filmed!
On my second day in Oxford, I went on a tour of The Kilns, which was C.S. Lewis’ house. It was by far one of my favorite places in England and I encourage you to go I you are ever in the neighborhood. Most famous houses that I have visited so far have felt like museums, but Lewis’ really felt like a home…. because it still is! I was quite surprised to find out that two scholars actually live there and give tours while they are studying and teaching at Oxford. After talking to the man who gave us a tour I came to discover that he was actually the professor of one of my friends who studied at Oxford for a semester last year! It really is a small world! After the tour, my class was able to have tea in Lewis’ house and discuss literature. It was such a cool experience because it was the same thing that Lewis, Tolkien, and their friends used to do in that house. It is moments like these that show me that people of the past really are not that different from you and me today. One of my favorite parts of studying abroad would have to be this type of experiential learning, in which I read literature or study history but I also get to experience it on my own. It is such an amazing way to learn and really allows me to get the most out of my semester abroad!
Lisa Valentine, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Veritas London 2013