After Assistant Professor of English Dr. Christine Schott led a group of Erskine College students on a literary tour of the United Kingdom in January, several members of the travel course reflected on the significance of the trip and what they gained from it. They cited stops on the tour that were most interesting to them, and some found that relationships formed or deepened during the trip were also of great importance.
Schott said all the students completed a written project. “Some did narrative scrapbooks, some did journals, some even wrote fiction,” she said. “I was really impressed with their projects because they recorded dozens of details from the trip that I’d already forgotten, and now they have a written memory of their experiences to enjoy in years to come.”
Elizabeth Bishop, a junior from Greenwood, S.C., is working on a double major in biology and English with a minor in chemistry. She especially enjoyed visiting Yorkshire. “I got to see the moors area near York, which inspired the Brontë sisters, who have written some of my favorite novels,” she said.
“The academic experience of the trip was amazing, though I must say that my favorite part was the social part. I feel like I am shy, and so exploring another country with a group of people I didn’t know really forced [me] to open up and it was rewarding. I got to know people that my normal life at Erskine would have never put me in contact with,” she recalled, adding, “Also, I learned to master London’s tube, which was an incredibly empowering experience since I am directionally challenged.”
Sara Dooley, a junior from Pickens, S.C., is majoring in sport management with a minor in chemistry. “Walking around Stonehenge was like walking through a historical mystery that even experts can only make educated guesses about. That was very cool,” she said. She chose to keep a travel journal, an assignment that “made me think about what I was hoping to get out of each day and also forced me to make sure that I didn’t miss out on the little details and memories.”
She, too, valued the social aspects of the travel course. “This trip forced me to break out of my shell a lot. I’m a relatively shy person and not always very good at getting outside of my comfort zone,” she explained. “Because I was able to come out of my shell a little bit, I made a lot of new friends and some amazing memories.”
Karson Powell, a freshman from Saluda, S.C., is a Bible and religion major who is minoring in philosophy. She enjoyed the group’s visit to Stonehenge, marveling at the “huge amount of history and mystery behind that wondrous, windy place.” She loves reading, and for her, the travel course was “an excuse to actually get into many classics and series that I had never read before.”
Expressing her views on travel and friendship, she said, “Trips like these are always opportunities to make new, long-lasting friendships. Even if you seemingly have nothing in common with someone, if you’re on a trip together, you’re both foreigners. Now, even if I don’t see my group members from the trip very often, I still have that connection with them. This is the greatest and most mysterious blessing that God gives me every time I travel: the bonds I create with the people I travel with.”
Peggy Skerratt, a junior from Panama City, Fla., who is majoring in chemistry and earning minors in biology and psychology, enjoyed seeing the Yorkshire described in the All Creatures Great and Small series by the late English writer and veterinarian James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pen name James Herriot. A photo of the Erskine group was posted on a Facebook page called “The World of James Herriot.”
“We visited the veterinary office where Alf Wight (James Herriot) worked. It was really fascinating to see the dispensary and surgery as described in the books. It was also neat to see the Yorkshire countryside the books praised. We even pulled over while driving back to our hotel to have a snowball fight in the countryside,” she said.
Choosing a creative writing option for the course assignment and relishing the readings, the chemistry major found it was “really fun to try something new.” She also found it rewarding to see “all the historical and everyday inspirations for my favorite authors” and liked “spending time with all of the really great people in our group.”
Jacob Thomas, a freshman from Waxhaw, N.C., is a Bible and religion major who is also working on a minor in chemistry. His favorite part of the trip was the group’s visit to Oxford. “The city was also absolutely amazing and our tour guide was wonderful,” he said. He noted the literary and movie connections throughout Oxford, a city that influenced the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and has served as a film location the Harry Potter series and other screen productions. “Apart from its literary significance, Oxford also played an important role in religious history,” he added.
“For my project, I created a kind of scrapbook that included photos and mementos from the trip alongside journal entries that documented what we did that day,” he said. He plans to use the project as a template for creating a similar journal for major trips he takes.
“Overall, the most rewarding aspect of the trip was simply the opportunity to travel overseas and gain cultural knowledge while creating and deepening friendships with like-minded Erskine students,” he said.
“I am so delighted that the students asked me to run this trip,” Schott said. “It wouldn’t have happened without their first expressing interest in traveling abroad, and it ended up being unforgettable for everyone involved.
“Every trip abroad is unforgettable, of course, but this was a particularly good group of students who made the most of their time in England and—I hope—will become great travelers in their own right. It was a privilege to work with them.”
In addition to Bishop, Dooley, Powell, Skerratt, and Thomas, Erskine students enrolled in the travel course included sophomore Chloe Herman of Bessemer City, N.C. and junior Sara Beth Johnson of Lynchburg, S.C.