For one week of the semester, students studying in the London Centre must plan, propose and conduct research in an area of the United Kingdom, are equipped with 100 pounds to help with expenses and are not allowed in the centre from Monday morning to Saturday night.
This term, senior communication major, Victoria Martin traveled to Ireland to study mythology and the environment, while junior Isabella Giunta, a religious studies and visual arts double major, researched the preservation of the Welsh coastline.
“I came in as an Environment Science student to Eckerd,” Martin said. “But then I realized I liked the relationship people have to the environment more than just science and the environment. I knew there was a lot of ancient mythology in Ireland and I wanted to see if it lives on today and has any impact on the environment.”
She learned the myth about hawthorn trees, which are said to be the home of fairies and would bring bad luck if cut down. Because everyone believed in the curse, nobody would chop it down and a whole road was redirected.
The first excursion week took place 22 years ago to Lake District, according to Director of International Education Diane Ferris. Designed at first as a bus tour, all students and faculty went together.
“If you could have ever seen that, it was hilarious. Three students said we’re home, all at the same time. That’s how you know it’s working,” Ferris said.
Since then, the week has been changed so that students can choose anywhere in the U.K. they want to research, as well as the topic, with guidance from the professor guiding the trip at that time.
Martin and her group decided to go to the Cliffs of Moher at the last moment.
As Ireland is half the size of Florida, it was easy for them to go from Belfast to the other side of the region. Martin also noted how it would be sunny one moment and rainy the next.
“It reminded me of Florida with how fast the weather changes,” Martin said.
Like Martin, Giunta also drew comparisons to Eckerd.
“I wanted to be on a beach that was cold, because we are in Florida on a warm beach,” Guinta said. “It was interesting to be on a beach, standing on some sand, looking at some water with a town behind me, and having all of those elements be the same as Florida, but having such a different energy.”
Guinta also went with her mother, who was visiting for the week. Together, they traveled along the Welsh coastal trails, that were so windy Guinta said she felt like she was going to be blown away. She said seeing all the different rocks formed in almost random ways by the waves made her want to take a geology course when she gets back to Eckerd.
Martin also had an experience with friendly locals during her excursion week in Ireland.
“If you’re going to Dublin, go to Discuss,” Martin said. “It’s a club, it’s pretty well known in Dublin. When we went to see the Book of Kells, I had the Disces stamp on my hand. Then the lady checking me in asked to see my student ID. Then I pulled it out and she said, ‘Oh on your hand, I can tell you are a student. I used to go there all the time when I was younger.’”
During her excursion, Martin stayed in a hostel in Dublin with four other Eckerd students researching different topics in the area, and at an Airbnb in Belfast.
The Dublin hostel, Abbey Court, had many murals of animals and celebrities including one of the Kardashians in the basement and of Elvis in the stairwell.
“I have seen hostels with murals before, but not like this. There were a lot of nature scenes, animals [and] my favorites were the pandas and tigers that were on our floor. The pandas were so chunky,” Martin said. “Kanye was next to the hammock room. I was really excited about it until I figured out it smelled like wet socks.”
In Wales, Guinta stayed in an Airbnb owned by a horse and dog breeder, who cooked her full breakfasts.
“They kept on complaining about the weather and saying ‘It's too bad that the weather has turned. It is just not going to be a good day for you.’ I was like, ‘Its beautiful, if it’s raining or not,’ what’s up with this mentality that just because there is not full sunshine, that I am going to have a horrible day,” Guinta said.
But both Guinta and Martin said the week was a great learning experience.
“It was actually empowering realizing how cheaply you can do things and travel in a group. To balance the numbers yourself, it was easier than I [was] honestly expecting,” Martin said. She also gave advice for prospective London Study Centre students. “Go for as long as possible. Plan ahead but leave time for spontaneous plans.”