EIU student Jen Hindes used to live in nineteenth-century English manor.
That is, Hindes — along with 17 other Eastern students — took up residence this summer at Harlaxton College, a 100-plus-room mansion nestled in the bucolic countryside of Lincolnshire, England.
Under Eastern’s partnership with Harlaxton College, Eastern students can live and study at Harlaxton for either a full semester or five weeks during the summer. Hindes opted for the shorter course offered through Eastern’s Department of English, which has been running the six-credit course, entitled “Literary Landscapes,” for fifteen years. Many other Eastern students of virtually all majors opt to live and study at Harlaxton for a full four months—especially after being surprised at how affordable it is.
Hindes found her Harlaxton experience so life-changing that she decided to blog about it. The result is half photo-essay and half diary, a travelogue where Hindes confesses having been anxious about the prospect of leaving her husband for five weeks.
“Did I balance our budgets and wish we had a little more to put away for a working car? Yes,” she confesses. But at her partner’s urging, she went, and had what she calls “an experience of a lifetime that can never be taken away.”
Indeed, many Eastern students have come to Harlaxton through “Literary Landscapes,” during which students read major works of British literature and travel to locales associated with the texts.
“This year we’ll be reading Wordsworth and Coleridge while spending three days exploring the unspeakably gorgeous Lake District that provided those poets inspiration,” says English Professor Chris Hanlon, who will lead this summer’s course. “We’ll also follow Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway’s footsteps through London, where we’ll also take in a play by Shakespeare at his very own Globe Theater.” Another overnight field trip will be to the seaside village of Whitby, where much of Bram Stoker’s Dracula takes place.
But as much as he enjoys the summer program, Hanlon points out that students interested in a full semester receive the incentive of Eastern’s discount under the partnership. In fact, students who take up residence at Harlaxton during the Fall, 2012 semester will pay only about $1900 more than they would have paid to live and study at Eastern those four months.
Katelyn Pfaf and Tim Gurnig are among seven EIU students currently studying at Harlaxton. Both are in the process of recording their experiences through blogs (Pfaf’s will be taking shape here, while Gurnig’s is found here). In her first entry, Pfaf writes, "I am living in a castle." Continuing, she adds:
"And as I sit in the library, preparing my first presentation for British Studies, I begin to realize how collective an experience this really is. Around 150 students, all broken down into groups, working on similar presentations at the exact same time, clustered into corners of the house, whispering excitedly about their first impressions. All meeting at 8:30 every Monday and Wednesday morning together in the Long Gallery for lecture. All making plans to visit Ireland and Paris and Italy. All so terribly excited for the trips to be planned, the adventures to be had, the friends to be made, all waiting for those long weekends when we can really get out and stretch our cramped American legs. There are so many miles to walk, all across this vast continent, and I, for one, am ready to explore."
During the semester-long program, all students at Harlaxton register for a common class in British Studies. “Essentially, it’s British political, intellectual, artistic, literary, and even environmental history from prehistoric times to about last week,” says Hanlon, who describes it as “an amazing course taught by Harlaxton’s amazing British faculty.” An honors version of British Studies, open to students of Eastern’s Honors College, provides those students still further opportunity to deepen their understanding of their temporary home.
“The thing about this course that is so wonderful,” explains Professor Francine McGregor, also of the English Department, “is that it is so interdisciplinary, so engaged in pulling together the insights of different fields in order to truly enrich the students’ experience of Britain.” Part of the integrative approach of British Studies at Harlaxton, McGregor specifies, has to do with its hands-on approach. “One day the students are learning about the Roman occupation of pre-Saxon England,” she says. “The next day, they’re in nearby Lincoln, visiting the medieval cathedral there and literally touching the arch over the street that Roman soldiers touched on their way to fight Boudicca. The sense of pause that kind of experience produces in students—and the kind of learning that can happen when one is on that sort of mood—is really indescribable.”
But beyond British Studies, Harlaxton offers courses for virtually all majors. Next semester, Harlaxton faculty will offer 34 other courses in areas such as exercise science, environmental science, marketing, studio art, communications, literature, genetics, history, cinema, political science, psychology, drama, and archeology.
Because of its beauty and location in the English countryside, many students luxuriate in the experience of living at Harlaxton. “There is a magic about Harlaxton that is very, very real,” says Dr. Gordon Kingsley, Harlaxton’s Principal. “It’s not just in your head; it gets into your soul. You are around people who are lively in their minds and their spirits, so you’re learning every day; you’re around faculty and students who are truly outstanding. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”
At the same time, many take their weekends to travel. With many European cities less than an hour’s flight away, Harlaxton students take time to explore Rome, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Prague, Dublin.
Eastern sends students to Harlaxton every semester, and this year’s five-week course in Literary Landscapes will run from June 2 to July 7. Students interested in either program can visit the Office of Study Abroad at 1207 Blair Hall, or call at 217-581-7267. For further information on this year’s summer Literary Landscapes course, contact Department of English Chair Dana Ringuette at email@example.com. You can also take a look at these program brochures: