Living in a Castle.

My summer trip abroad at Harlaxton College in England.

Last day at Harlaxton.

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Greetings from the good ole’ US of A. I am here back in the comforts of my bedroom, realizing that I have quite a bit of catching up to do. The last week in England was fairly hectic as I prepared for my return and said goodbye to all the wonderful things that country offers. I have several posts to write in the next couple days, so I’ll begin with the final day at Harlaxton.

Thursday morning we were offered the really neat opportunity to serve as American ambassadors and be interviewed by the BBC Lincolnshire radio in honor of the 4th of July. So I, along with about five other students and Dr. Hanlon, got up a little too early and after a chaotic setup, spoke with one of the reporters. She asked us how we would be celebrating the Fourth were we home, and she was also interested in our course at Harlaxton and our travels throughout England. I gave fairly standard answers–England’s great, it’s so picturesque, I love it. Here is a link to one segment of the interview; scrub to about 2:53.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p01b3800

It was still fairly early in the morning, so Danielle and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and go on one final run around Harlaxton village and on several of the public footpaths through the countryside. I could not get rid of the goofy smile on my face as I took it all in, but that smile eventually gave way to the hint of some tears in my eyes as we walked the mile stretch leading to the manor for the final time.

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At one point, my playlist shuffled to Jimmy Eat World’s song Just Watch the Fireworks, which seemed wholly appropriate considering the date and its content (“I promised I’d see it again, I promised I’d see it with you now.”)

By the time we got back and showered, we were ready for lunch. Whatever they were serving in the hot line did not appeal to me, so I had a salad as my big finale refectory meal. Yum.

Later in the afternoon, Danielle and I walked around inside and outside the manor taking a plethora of photos, which I plan to share in a later blog post.

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In preparation for our Fourth of July and farewell dinner party, we got all dolled up and took some cute pictures out on the front lawn.

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Here is another one of my favorites, featuring Danielle, the professors’ daughter Tilda, and me acting as wizards–them both in the midst of a duel and me doing my Percy Weasley impression of, “Excuse me, I’m head boy.”

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Then we loaded into some cabs and headed off to Chequers (or Crackers as someone mistakenly called it on the radio that morning). Our food wasn’t being served for another hour, so we grabbed some drinks (for me, Gaymers pear cider, which was probably my favorite drink of the trip. Very good stuff.) and sat out in the back for a while. Here my favorite candid shot was snapped of Anna and me laughing and looking all sophisticated. DSCN5174

Now for the food. Oh baby, was it good. We had a multitude of dishes to select that composed our three course meal. My belly was delighted to have…

Feta, watermelon, and pine nut salad.

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Crab crusted salmon, potatoes, and (insert name of whatever vegetable thing this was. No idea, but it was tasty).

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And best of all…sticky toffee pudding! OM NOM NOM.

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The principal at Harlaxton happened to be dining there as well, and in the middle of our meal, he came in and asked if we would like to sing to a Rotary group having an American-style dinner in honor of the 4th. Heck yes we would! So we crashed their party to show off our patriotic spirit in a rendition of God Bless America. They honestly loved it, and we had a great time performing.

Following our meal, the professors got up gave a very heartfelt speech. Dr. Hanlon shared a couple of poems, including one of my favorites, Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” So much truth. They also distributed awards to everyone. What was mine, you wonder? Excellence in Vomiting: Honoring both productive vomiting but also that practiced with a certain style and dignity. Yup, story of my life.

Upon our return back to the manor, the majority of the group headed down to the bistro to hang out for a while. However, there was packing to be done and sleep to be had before our early departure to London.

Sitting here and thinking back on this perfect last day at Harlaxton as well as many of the other wonderful memories that occurred there, I am just so happy. I think a large part of this is due to the amazing group we had. Along with Drs. Hanlon and McGregor, it was just such a cohesive and fun class to be a part of. I know that whenever I see any of these folks roaming around campus this year, they are sure to receive a big, “Ay you…I love you!!”

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Author: Helen Plevka

Helen Plevka is a twenty year-old student at Eastern Illinois University, where the majority of her days are spent reading, writing, and playing clarinet. She is majoring in English education as well as studying music and Spanish as minors. Although she is unsure whether teaching is the career she will ultimately pursue, she is looking forward to any opportunity she receives to share her passions. With her mom working as a junior high teacher and her dad a newspaper editor, Helen grew up surrounded by a love for written word. Music also held a constant presence in their home throughout her upbringing; in addition to Helen’s piano lessons, her sister played the flute, and her brother jammed on guitar. Helen first picked up the clarinet in sixth grade and has hardly wanted to put it down since then. She admits that when entering high school, she had no desire to participate in marching band, but upon the relentless encouragement of her director, she was persuaded to try it out for just a year. After a week at band camp, she knew she had fallen into a lifelong obsession with the exhilaration felt only when creating music and motion in sync and instinctively with surrounding marchers. Being selected to participate in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band was the greatest honor Helen has ever achieved, and she remains utterly grateful for the experience.

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