Twelve students accompanied by Dr. Lori Schmied and Dr. Paul Threadgill are currently representing Maryville College in Europe. The course is designed to explore the Celtic connections between Appalachia and Wales and Northern Ireland. We left on January 4 from Knoxville and are due back on the January 20. The trip includes extended stays in London, Wales, Belfast and will be wrapping up in Dublin.
The first few days in London were like a whirlwind. After what seemed like an eternity on the airplane, our group arrived intact in Heathrow, a section of London.
“67 Gower St. is an address I may never forget,” said Grace Plemmons regarding the first hotel we visited in London. “The location and accommodations there were just perfect.”
Fueled by excitement, we suppressed our exhaustion the first morning in London as the group trekked around the city on little to no sleep. The historical sight-seeing started immediately, and it wasn’t a full two hours after arriving in Europe before we were standing in front of Big Ben.
As a group, we toured the Tower of London and even got a chance to view the Crown Jewels.
“Seeing the Crown Jewels was a truly memorable moment. You can feel the history in that place,” said Sydney Perry, a current pre-law and Political Science major from the group.
The next stop on our journey was the town of Wrexham in Wales. As we crossed the border from England to Wales, we could see the physical transformation in the landscape. The large, flat sprawling fields of England were replaced with rolling hills and forests. It’s no coincidence that the Welsh immigrants felt at home in Appalachia as it looks and feels very similar.
Our time in Wales was all about the history. Our day trips to the walled city of Chester and Caernarfon Castle involved lots of guided tours and conversation. We walked along ancient roads as local experts took time out of their day to meet with our class and discuss some of the history in these places.
Our exit from Wales was dreary. We arrived at the airport before dawn in the wind and rain. After a few delays at John Lennon Airport, we finally made our way across the English Channel to Ireland. As our plane descended over Ireland the sun was rising, and the slightly snowy fields of green glowed orange.
Belfast comes on like a strong cup of coffee. We were met with a warm welcome and sandwiches from the Ulster Scotts Society. In every city, we’ve had a bit of lecture-style learning immediately upon our arrival. Here in Belfast, we have been welcomed by many different organizations like the Apprentice Boys and the Orangemen.
Over the years, Schmied and Threadgill have been establishing relationships with these organizations so our students can truly learn while on this study abroad program. Without their diligent preparation, our group would never have experienced and learned the way we have so far.