COLUMN: Study abroad: not too cool for school

Tessa Duvall

HARLAXTON, ENGLAND — Before I got on a plane for London a few weeks ago, I sat in Chicago International O’Hare Airport quietly daydreaming of all the places in Europe I would see in my semester abroad.

School was not one of those places.

However, school is the whole reason for my European adventure.

I am currently studying abroad at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, which is where I’ll be until the end of April.

While here, I’m enrolled as a full-time student, taking 12 hours of courses. This includes a six-credit-hour British studies course, which is entirely foreign to me – no pun intended.

When I first arrived at the manor (Oh yeah, Harlaxton is basically a castle, by the way), I was excited to buy my first legal beer, not textbooks. I was ready to meet students from other universities but not my professors. I didn’t take the time to familiarize myself with my course syllabi. Instead, I wanted to familiarize myself with the manor and the locals.

But then the first day of classes came.

I discovered that I would have to learn thousands of years of British history, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I thought, “I have all semester to learn, but the first few weeks is for making friends.”

Class has been in session for more than two weeks now, and I still refuse to admit that I’m in school. “I’m not in school, I’m in England,” I tell myself.

When professors speak with British accents and use stereotypically British words and phrases like “bloody hell” and “cheers,” it’s easy to forget you’re in class. It seems more like television than reality.

I just took my first quiz of the semester. Did I study? Not really – I went to the coast instead. Did I do well on my quiz? Probably not.

I mean, I tried to study in a pub one afternoon when my friends and I had time to spare before our train, but I found myself lacking motivation.

“In 1066, the Normans invaded England. In 2011, I don’t care about the Normans,” I thought.

But the truth is I need to get my act together or it’ll be a royal pain in the neck to try to save my grades at the end of the semester.

Grades are and always have been important to me. I’m a self-described nerd, and I cherish my 4.0 grade point average.

But studying abroad presents me with a predicament: Are grades as important as the life experience I could gain while traveling around Europe?

That’s something I will constantly have to weigh this semester, and I hope I can muster up the willpower to be a good student. But until then, I’ll be checking train tickets and making plans for weekend trips.