If you do happen to visit All Hallows, you may very well bump into UW students and faculty examining the site under the tutelage of Peter Buckroyd in the English Department’s London Study Abroad Program. For twenty-two years, the department has been sending UW students, mostly English majors, to study in London in the spring, with the program growing more popular every year.
Launched in 1986 by Professor Roger Sale (now emeritus); David Fenner, then director of the International Programs and Exchanges; and Buckroyd, the department’s program is tailored to the specific interests and needs of English and Humanities majors. Participating students choose from four courses offered every spring session: two are taught by British professors, including Buckroyd, and two are English Department courses. In 2000, the department expanded the program into summer quarter B-terms.
The London program has grown in strength and popularity while maintaining a consistently high standard of instruction and experiential learning, partly due to the fact that the program leadership has remained almost unchanged since its inception. The current director, Professor William Streitberger, was associate department chair and a member of the original planning committee in 1986; he moved easily into the director position following Sale’s able leadership when the latter retired in 1996. Streitberger attributes part of the success of the program to the fact that students stay with British families around London, still organized by the original homestay coordinator, Janet Dunlop. The new departmental assistant is academic advisor Bridget Norquist, who stepped into the role created by the original administrative assistant, Sherry Laing (please see In Memoriam on page 13).
Buckroyd continues to serve the program as the London administrator, making arrangements for everything from transportation and theater tickets to course books and classroom spaces, and setting up special events such as intimate presentations with the cast of a theater production. Every year, students take side trips to see Stonehenge and Warwick Castle, and make an overnight trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s hometown and two productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Students may not be aware of all that Buckroyd does behind the scenes to make their London experience what it is; rather, he is known as the legendary instructor of Art, Architecture, and Society, an intense walking-tour course examining the infrastructure and architecture of the historic city.
Every Wednesday morning, students put on their walking shoes and grab their umbrellas, sunglasses, and notebooks to join Buckroyd on a day-long tour of his classroom— the city of London. Students examine building façades, church portals, subway tunnels, palatial homes, historic theaters, and remnants of the original medieval city. The philosophy of the course is that a student can get much more from standing in front of an historical artifact than reading about it; even an unofficial pub crawl can reveal layers of social and architectural history. Professor Míċeál F. Vaughan refers to Buckroyd as “a veritable fount of knowledge and insight”—accessible at a moment’s notice. As Vaughan describes, “Peter keeps everyone moving around the spaces we visit and has a truly excellent, well-trained eye for detail. He has a gift for bringing the large and varied features of the landscape and cityscape to the particular attention of those who keep up with him on his perambulatory lectures.” Professor Thomas Lockwood has witnessed a high level of student engagement and learning occurring during Buckroyd’s tours, attributing his success to his “brash, no-nonsense, witty style, as well as his demanding intellectual approach... The all-day Wednesday class sessions, involving much walking at Peter’s vigorous pace, proceed regardless of the weather, which in April is often miserably wet and cold.” In recognition of his teaching success, Buckroyd was awarded the 2002 Department of English Distinguished Undergraduate Teacher Award.
It is not only Buckroyd who breaks out of the four-walled classroom. All of the courses offered are designed to be oriented to site. “There is little point in sending students to London to sit in classrooms; they can do that here,” suggests Streitberger. Lockwood confirms: “The real ‘classroom’ or laboratory for the program is London itself.” The courses offered vary according to the two English faculty members who participate, but students can usually expect to spend most of their time out in the city and countryside.
Many years, courses focus on London’s theaters and history of drama. For example, in spring 2006, Vaughan and Professor John Webster offered two separate 5-credit courses in tandem: Theatre of the 20th and 21st Centuries and Shakespeare on the Page/Stage. Students who chose to enroll in both courses were in for a theatrical treat when they studied productions such as Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Kathleen Turner, Ed Stoppard in Hamlet, and a stage adaptation of Sandor Marai’s novel Embers. In addition, students saw a production of Titus Andronicus in the modern-day scale replica of the Globe Theatre, two blocks from where the original Globe was built in the late 15th century (it was burned to the ground by errant cannon fire during a rousing production in the early 16th century). The students experienced the Globe as they would have during Shakespeare’s time—standing on the main floor throughout the entire production as “groundlings,” unprotected from the persistent cold rain. “Theater is a brilliant experience for them,” reports Webster. “Most of them have had no real theater experience before, except perhaps seeing the Nutcracker at Christmas. I think many have developed what will prove a life-long interest in live theatre. What more could a theatre teacher ask?”
“Study abroad is a transformative experience that promotes an awareness of yourself in a way that school cannot.”
—Professor John Webster
While it is undeniable that London provides a wonderful opportunity for students to be exposed to theater, it is also an important learning site for students whose focus is elsewhere than the stage. In spring 2008, students are able to take Writing in London with Professor Linda Bierds and 20th-Century Literary Responses to London from Professor Sydney Kaplan. As a creative writing instructor, Bierds enjoys helping students “record their experiences in ways that will remain vivid and evocative through the years to come.” She is teaching her students to write from the lessons of the city: “As a traveler, I enjoy sharing the excitement of London with the students—all of us responding together to this unique adventure.” For Kaplan, “the most exciting part of teaching abroad is to see how much the students change during the course of the quarter. Their enthusiasm for what they have discovered through living and studying abroad is quite contagious.” Kaplan also plans to take her students into the streets of London. As an example, her students will read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, then walk down Bond Street and into St. James’ Park—just like Clarissa Dalloway.
Alumni who have participated in the English Department’s London program have raved that it was the best experience of their college careers. Streitberger believes that global education is vitally important for students: “Lives change through the experience of studying abroad; students are put off balance and learn to cope in stressful and challenging environments.”
DID YOU KNOW there are two endowments that subsidize the department’s study abroad programs? The Angelo Pellegrini Endowed Fund supports the London program, and the Karen Shabetai and Vicki Tsuchida Endowed Memorial Fund supports the Rome program.