Last September, in the early morning hours on a leaf-turning day, I saw the words London, J-Term, and writing splash onto the electronic message board next to me at UNH’s Hamilton Smith Hall. As an older working student, study abroad for a season wasn’t possible, but this I could do. It was only sixteen days, I could visit London for the first time, and I’d earn four credits toward my MFA in writing. I was signed up to go before the leaves finished their colorful display.
Three months later I had enjoyed the experience of a lifetime. I stayed in a youth hostel with 14 students (shout out to roommates Meghan, Erin, Logan, Emily, and Nicole), visited Kew Gardens, followed the steps of some of England’s brilliant Victorian women — Florence Nightingale, Marianne North, and Ada Lovelace. I spent hours in the Victoria and Albert Museum where I was shocked to open a special collection of photographs and see an original of Charles Darwin. Imagine!
Today, one year later, I am in Boston awaiting my visiting time for the Downton Abbey exhibit. As I sip blood orange hibiscus tea at the the public library’s Map Room, I am remembering London, my young friends, and my 16-day travel writing adventure. The history, architecture, and museums inspired, but it was my writing peers, who battled back anxiety, lived within budgets, advocated for their own health, and found joy even while working through pain, who truly inspired. It was their acceptance of me, an older student, that provided the backdrop for a life experience I will never forget.