In the Country with Belinda and Benjamin!London-Theater Studies, Spring 2009
During the first week or two in London we were told of a UK Host Program. It is a program in which you are able to stay with a family in the UK for a weekend. You send in your application with three potential dates and IES secures your place in the program. At the time I had already scheduled a few trips so I had two available weekends in February and one that was definitely open in March. Due to different circumstances this past weekend ended up being the best option. Having this visit be so late in the semester, I almost didn't go. With the stress of school work and the cold caused by the stress of schoolwork, I thought I might be best off staying in London and getting some work done. Still, I felt guilty canceling once I had been placed with a family; and so I took the tube and jumped on a train, to a bus, and took another train to Stowmarket. There, after a bit of confusion on how to exit* the train, I met Belinda and her eleven year-old son, Benjamin for a weekend in the country.
After just two days in the six hundred year-old farm house, I was glad I went. Between eating home-cooked meals, viewing the Lego room, playing hide-and-go-seek in the garden, and finally sitting in the left front seat of a car- without the steering wheel there, my weekend was quite full. It was a wonderful visit. If I lived in Stowmarket I would visit the family quite often. They were wonderful to spend time with. I even learned to cook bread pudding! I would definitely recommend the program to anyone. While living in a dorm with lots of other students is nice, you miss out on what it is really like in a British home. And, while all homes are different, it is not often this sort of opportunity comes along.
If possible, I would suggest going on the visit earlier in the program. A good time might be around week five. It is around this time that a little greenery, a break form the dorms and some home-cooking is needed. I found that in the country it is more "British" than in London. People often make the comparison of London:England, NYC:USA. While there are flaws in the analogy, as a whole it works. To be able to say you lived in England, I recommend going to see the country. While it is beautiful to watch it fly by you in a train, getting off the train isn't a bad idea either.
If you're lucky, you may even be able to say you have I slept under a thatched roof!
*how to exit- to exit these particular trains you have to push the window down and open the door from the outside. I spent the time the train waited trying to find a button, like in France. I asked for help, but I was too late and missed my stop. I had to take the train to Diss and take another train back. I apologized and felt terrible for keeping my new host family waiting.
And a bit of advice: I quickly learned at my internship that the British idea of a cold building is 10 degrees colder than American's idea of a cold building. Bring lots of layers: socks, tights and undershirts on your visit. The family was terribly kind and made sure my room was warm, but in a 600 year-old farmhouse, this is not typical nor easy to do. While running the risk of appearing as though you've brought everything you own, always bring warmer clothes than you think is necessary.
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