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Lyon students hike through history in United Kingdom

Lyon students walked in the footsteps of historical figures and literary legends on the Nichols Trip to England this May.

Led by Associate Professor of History Dr. Edward Tenace and Associate Professor of English Dr. Helen Robbins as part of the Nichols International Studies Program, the trip was a chance for history and literature students to experience the subjects they studied firsthand.

The group visited London and four rural towns: Swanage, Whitby, Haltwhistle, and Haworth.

The emphasis was on the landscape, Tenance said, and the group explored how each region’s geography influenced its culture and history. From Haltwhistle, for example, the students hiked to Hadrian’s Wall and toured the borderlands between England and Scotland, where families subsisted by making raids across the border and stealing each other’s cattle.

“You get a sense of the foreboding landscape there because all the farms look like they’re fortified,” he said. “They’re constructed that way to defend against people trying to come in and attack them.”

Robbins said the trip features a lot of hiking to immerse students in the English lifestyle and give them a better sense of the land.

“The English do a lot more walking than we do,” she said. “There are some places with beautiful scenery you can find if you make the trek.”

“When you walk these places, there’s this sense of identifying with the past that you wouldn’t get by just being on a tour bus,” Tenace said.

Nichole Cook, ‘19, said she was initially terrified of all the hiking the trip would entail.

“What we call ‘hiking,’ the English just call ‘walking,’ ”Cook said, laughing. “All the countryside is connected with public walking paths, and we went everywhere.”

“I was so excited by all the scenery and sites that I made myself do it,” she said. “I’m so glad I did. The coastal walks were awesome, and we were literally walking along cliffs all the time.”

As an English major, she said it was exciting to read a novel like Wuthering Heights and then visit the moors in Haworth that inspired Emily Brontë. 

“Seeing Whitby was a highlight for me because it’s the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Cook said. “I cried when we hiked it because it was so amazing to be there.”

“It lived up to its reputation,” said Tenace. “The area also has a lot of historical significance because the explorer Captain Cook was born and raised there and Whitby Abbey played a big role in converting Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.”

He said students came away from the trip with a better grasp of English culture and how different it is from region to region.

“We got into some interesting conversations in Haworth, which is very pro-Brexit,” Tenace said. “The political views are very different in each region, like if you were to travel to Oklahoma or California.”

One advantage for the students, he said, was that they had never been to a large metropolitan area like London before.

“Many of them got to experience public transit and flying for the first time,” Tenace said.

“They figured out the bus schedules in towns. They figured out the London Underground and how to get where they were supposed to be,” Robbins. “I was proud of them for adjusting so well to being in a crowded city.”

She said many students catch the “travel bug” after going on a Nichols trip.

“I know several students who went out of the country for the first time on a Nichols Trip,” she said, “and now they travel all the time. It has influenced their lives so much.”

“Coming back was so sad,” Cook said. “This was my first real time overseas. I’m going to save up so that I can travel again as soon as I can.”