By Ed Brennen
Rising 824 feet above Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, the ancient volcano known as “Arthur’s Seat” looked “absolutely insurmountable” to Visiting Lecturer Lauren Fogle and her students.
But after weathering a global pandemic — and then airport delays and a train strike — to embark on the History Department’s first-ever study abroad course, they weren’t about to turn back.
“It was tiring to get to the top, but now I can say I walked up an extinct volcano,” rising senior Sarah Lindtveit says of the 20-minute hike.
“That was the biggest highlight of the trip for me,” adds rising senior Matthew Downey. “The view of the city was amazing.”
Lindtveit and Downey were among 16 students who traveled to England and Scotland this summer for Fogle’s two-week, three-credit study abroad course, “Topics in History.”
An expert in medieval European history who has taught at UML since 2009, Fogle says that students would often half-kiddingly ask when she was going to lead a study abroad trip — usually after seeing photos of her travels while in graduate school (she earned a master’s and Ph.D. from Royal Holloway, University of London).
“And then during the COVID year when we were all on Zoom, it wasn’t a joke,” she says. “The questions became more pointed, like, ‘No, really, when are we going?’ And so I said to myself, ‘OK, let's do it.’”
Working with the International Experiences & Study Abroad Office and nonprofit educational travel company Stone & Compass, Fogle designed an itinerary that covered London, Oxford, Winchester and Edinburgh. Students visited historic sites such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum and Edinburgh Castle.
Although created for history students, the course was open to any major. Students were required to write a research proposal before the trip, keep a journal while traveling, write a research paper and give a presentation via Zoom about their experience once back home.
Downey, a political science major from Babylon, New York, found the sites related to World War II — including a visit to Winston Churchill’s underground War Rooms — of particular interest.
“Seeing how fresh this history still is within the minds of Europeans was a big shocker for me,” says Downey, who had traveled internationally once before. “This experience definitely made me more aware of the world around me.”
It was the first time abroad for Lindtveit, an elementary education major from Methuen, Massachusetts. She took “Women in the Middle Ages” with Fogle last spring and knew “from the very first day” of class that she had to join her study abroad course.
“I’ve always wanted to study abroad, and I thought going to Scotland and England would be great first steps,” says Lindtveit, who took a day trip with classmates to Paris by Eurostar train on her free day. “This was an adventure for me, and it allowed me to see that international travel is not as terrifying as I thought.”
An avid reader, Lindtveit’s research topic for the course was the original manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 14th-century masterpiece of Middle English literature — which she saw on a visit to The British Library.
“Getting to go into the treasures gallery of the library was magnificent. Seeing all the old manuscripts and books was absolutely amazing,” she says.
Fogle says many of the students were able to offset the course cost with scholarships from the History Department and Study Abroad office, or with their $4,000 Immersive Scholar award.
The group also included Temilade Akinola, Allison Anusauskas, Valentin Boulas, Matthias Hoener, Kennedy McCarthy, Collin Powers, Jennifer Quinn, Madison Rowley, Jenna Saade, Brooke Shapiro, Dylan Stein, Kathryn Tripp and Emma Valentine.
Honors history major Deirdre Hutchison, who was born in Ireland and lived in England for 10 years before moving to the United States to raise her family, served as Fogle’s teaching assistant on the trip.
“I would never have imagined that I would be doing study abroad at my age, but it was an unbelievable experience,” says Hutchison, who wondered if she would be able to keep up with her younger classmates on the packed itinerary. She says the students’ excitement about being abroad proved invigorating, though.
“It's not just about the academics — it's about that whole transformation of getting outside your comfort zone and, especially when you're young, doing something different,” she says. “It was wonderful to see that transformation happen and see them grow and be excited.”
On the free day, Hutchison and Fogle took a train to Belgium to see the Ghent Alterpiece, a 22-panel religious painting from 1432 that Hutchison had learned about in Fogle’s class on Nazi Germany.
“To see something that I’d studied and written a paper on right there in front of me, it literally brought tears to my eyes. It was spectacular,” Hutchison says. “One of the things it showed me is that nothing’s impossible; what I learned in the classroom can come to life.”
Now that the History Department’s first study abroad course is in the books, Fogle looks forward to doing it again next summer, this time on a nine-day trip to eastern France, Germany and Switzerland.
“Sometimes it's just about getting out there and getting over your fears,” Fogle says. “And when you do it, now you're someone who travels — and you're a different person.”