Did you have any unique experiences during your time at Harlaxton?
Erica: There were infinite unique experiences at Harlaxton, and the beauty of this experience is how you tailor them according to how you want to spend your semester. I was fortunate to have several friends on their own study abroad experiences who I made I point to meet up with in various countries so that I could share my journey with childhood friends and engage in a bit of theirs as well. This led to several unexpected trips and experiences that I never would have chosen for myself and resulted in some of the best memories of my trip.
Reagan: Harlaxton was a flurry of unique experiences: I rediscovered my love for food in a cheesy mushroom flatbread in Nottingham, felt faux-pas in my Walmart shirts during Paris Fashion Week, traced my heritage to the top of the Wallace Monument in Scotland, and attempted (with much displeasure) to enforce a Meatless Monday policy as SGA president, despite my contractual neutrality in the matter. Probably the best of the lot, however, was when the Girl Scouts came to the manor and sold cookies. I agreed to wear a dress in the refectory one day if Harlaxton bought 200 cookies. Not only did we sell 400 boxes of cookies, but Principal Gordon Kingsley and Justin Lang both dressed up with me. We looked lovely, and I was made an honorary Girl Scout, a badge I wear with honor.
Does Harlaxton still feel like a second home? Have you returned since studying abroad?
Erica: Absolutely. I dream about going back so often and so vividly that it feels as thought I’ve been back a hundred times, though I haven’t set foot outside the US since that semester. I CANNOT wait to return for our honeymoon this fall.
Reagan: They tell you that Harlaxton will be a magical experience, and they’re correct. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll come to feel home, leave that home, and long for it every day. Harlaxton will forever be home to me, and despite having not been back yet, we are thrilled to be returning to where we first met on our honeymoon. Maybe have a Strongbow or two.
Do you have a favorite trip from your time at Harlaxton?
Erica: Each trip I took offered something particularly unique to me, so it’s had to settle on just one as a favorite. In Dublin I got to partake in traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and in Paris I got to meet up with an old friend in my favorite city in the world. I got to sample Italy’s diverse geography and its immense history on the end-of-semester trip, while Amsterdam shocked me with its old-world charm. For me, the best part of traveling was the opportunity to learn more about my own capacity to navigate the world and how to feel more at peace with my place in it.
Reagan: I like to tell people I had two favorites: one fun experience and one experience of growth. Visiting Auschwitz taught me the sanctity of human life, the shortness of it, and instilled in me the deep belief that every person is capable of being loved - and deserves it. History itself there is so thick you could swim through it, and visiting the camp was incredibly important to me - Auschwitz itself was the conclusion to a series of very dark decisions, and we all have a duty to remember it. But in terms of a fun experience, I can’t say that I had more fun than I did in Barcelona. Music kissed the air of the city streets, and beautiful buildings like Sagrada Familia or Parc Guell inspired a very charming atmosphere - coupled with the sangria, tapas, and beach nearby, it made for a relaxing experience.
Did your time at Harlaxton have any influence on your future? Was it a life-changing experience?
Erica: Without question. As mentioned above, my experience at Harlaxton furthered my understanding of my place in the global community and since then I have continued to view myself as a global citizen and have made a more intentional effort to continue to explore the world around me. This has been infinitely beneficial for the both of us as we both relocated to LA after graduation to start a new journey together. Harlaxton also strengthened our resolve to promote tolerance and appreciation for diversity and culture, which is particularly critical in our current climate. Having my favorite reminder of this place by my side everyday is truly a treasure.
Reagan: Nothing quite shaped how I view the world as much as Harlaxton, and I mean that sincerely. Being able to learn about another culture via immersion is a phenomenal experience, capable of opening you up to the opinions of others and seeing how the rest of the world lives. You become more empathetic, a vastly important character trait; you try new things, forcing you to realize your own taste; you forge lifelong friendships and learn from people different from yourself, which alone is key to growth. Harlaxton encompassed all of those things simultaneously - Shakespeare’s childhood home was feet in front of me, his inspirations laid bare; Auschwitz’s steely gates promised freedom from work, and the conditions of suffering became tangible; running my hand across Ancient Roman structures in Lincoln gave life to stories one usually only gets from movies. The truth is, nothing about Harlaxton wasn’t influential and somewhat life-changing. Each moment is saturated with growth and change and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had the experience I did.