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Throughout the first two years of college, I constantly fantasized about studying abroad for a semester in the United Kingdom. I knew as little about Europe as atheists understand Heaven, but a British accent alone, unbeknownst to me, contained the power to magnetize my attention and affection towards England. Nevertheless, fitting a semester of studying abroad while having to fulfill the two-year compulsory military duty with Korea in-between college felt unmanageable. In the midst of my army career, I discovered that two of my best friends, along with a number of classmates, joined a six-week British Studies Program over the summer. Receiving a postcard from Britain revived my hope of studying in the country, as I had not known Emory University provided a summer study abroad program in England. Returning from the army and proceeding to my junior year, I gradually lost this longing; eventually, even when I was granted the opportunity to study in Britain, I refused to participate.

1999 Pulitzer Prize recipient

I planned to take two English courses over the summer prior to senior year, because fulfilling the general education requirements the first two years in college prevented me from concentrating on my major in English literature. I then noticed that the summer sessions on campus offered hardly any legitimate English major courses. On the contrary, most of the British Studies Program classes, in addition to being unique and only offered on the program, were geared towards English majors. “Should I do it?” I asked my best friend, and he answered almost simultaneously, “Yes. These were some of the best experiences of my life.” That evening we conversed, I explained the situation to my mother over the phone, and she approved this abrupt plan. I immediately submitted my application and days later received the email of acceptance. Thinking about the opportunity to explore the foundation of my major and concentration in British literature, I had faith I was traveling to the unfamiliar country of England in God’s will.

Korea and (mainly) the British Studies Program over the summer of 2013

I had hardly watched any plays in my life, but the program required weekly examinations of a play or two, most over three hours, as well as culturally shocking videos for these six weeks. I also could not help but take pride as an English major in standing inside the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe, historically renowned stages for William Shakespeare’s plays. Being the nerd I had developed into since the return from the military, while most students on the program prioritized traveling, I put my focus on classwork. This became transparent from the start to the British professor who taught both of my literature courses. Seeing my constant enthusiastic willingness to contribute and the significant age difference between me and fellow classmates, he asked me after our second meeting to take on the role of leading other students to participate, for which I felt honored. I was even granted the privilege by the director of the program to describe one of the classes of and express appreciation towards the professor on behalf of my classmates during the concluding ceremony.

Likely due to my being five to six years older than most students on the trip, I never felt a close bond with the majority. While all of the members began hanging out as a group the first week, most of us quickly found splitting more convenient. Furthermore, not having done research on Britain as my parents had suggested repeatedly before my arrival, I did not travel as much as I should have, which I regretted once I returned to America. Throughout the program, I only thought of leaving the United Kingdom and returning to the States. I told the few students to whom I emotionally connected I would likely start missing England soon after leaving the country; just like that, in less than three days since arriving in America, watching the video and collage I created speedily formed into unforgettable memories I wanted to relive. I had taken my experience on the program for granted; now that I can only replay the moments in my head, I miss Britain and the expedition dearly and consider attending graduate school and living there down the line.