Students, faculty spend spring break in London

As the Erie weather begins to turn the corner toward spring, a group that included about 20 Gannon University students is wishing they could rewind to spring break.

Led by Gannon faculty members Douglas King and the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, the group traveled to London over the week-long hiatus from class and was submerged in the intricacies of the British culture.

According to King, an English professor, the group included current, graduate and even former students, as well as a Mercyhurst University student and several other individuals who are loosely connected with Gannon.

Sarah Miller, a sophomore biology/physical therapy major, said that the trip provided an opportunity to meet people outside of her major.

“You’re with the people in the same major all the time, and it was nice interacting with people you wouldn’t normally meet,” she said.

King also said that he saw a lot of new faces when they set out for London in early March.

“It was neat getting to know a bunch of different people,” he said. “I had to learn everybody’s name – it was like having another whole class.”

Both King and Clerkin, a professor in the theatre/communication arts department did, in fact, each have an additional class that was organized in conjunction with the trip. King’s was a leadership seminar, and Clerkin’s, a theatre elective.

The classes were not required by those who went on the trip, but did provide the opportunity to earn a credit.

The group did not need a tour guide once they arrived in London, King said, because Clerkin has been there so many times before and has a good sense of things to recommend and places to go, that “having a guide would have almost been a detriment.”

Nicole McAllister, a sophomore biology/pre-med major, said that she had never been to London, but had always wanted to go.

“I love traveling, and that was one of the places on my list,” she said.

Miller also said she enjoys traveling and that

Gannon provides good opportunities for its students in the way of spring break and service trips.

King said that one of the many benefits of the trip was that people were able to break away from the group to ensure that they were seeing everything they each personally wanted to see.

“We could start out as a unified group as people got their feet wet, but as the week went on, these sort of splinter groups would form and people could find their own way,” King said.

Some of these divergent excursions included seeing shows – which was a requirement for those taking the theater elective – going to the British Library, the Warner Bros. studio tour of the real Harry Potter set, and a day-long trip to Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle.

McAllister said that she was able to purchase her ticket to see “Singin’ in the Rain” for half of the list price at a half-price booth that sells tickets that haven’t been purchased by a certain point in advance of the show.

King said that for those who were enlisted on the Harry Potter trip, the experience was an emotional one.

“Every one of us that went, I think, teared up,” he said. “It was so powerful. If you grew up on this, you just go there and think, ‘This is where they did it.’ It isn’t like a Disney theme park, a re-creation of something – this is it.”

King also said that the British Library had something to interest everyone, from original letters written in the perfect calligraphy-style handwriting of Queen Elizabeth I to handwritten pages of lyrics by the Beatles.

Miller said that her favorite part of the trip was the excursion to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath.

“How often can you say that you sat in front of Stonehenge?” she said.

King said that by the end of the trip, everyone had become well-accustomed to using the London underground – or the Tube, as it is referred to by locals – so that he never worried that anyone would get lost if they forged out on their own.

“And I have to make the joke that everybody mastered the language very well,” he said.

While the date to sign up for King’s next trip to Europe this May has already passed, King said people interested in signing up for the trip to Italy and Greece in May 2014 still have plenty of time to secure a spot for the “insane” itinerary that centers around Rome and Athens. There will also be an opportunity to sign up for the trip’s extension, which will include a cruise around several of the Greek islands.



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