One of Oberlin’s many benefits is the opportunity to dedicate an entire month to an intensive exploration of a specific interest through winter term. My second year, I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in “Music in London: Today and Yesterday” headed by Professor of Musicology Charles McGuire. During this three week trip, I was able to experience life outside the United States for the first time as well as immerse myself in the musical culture of a vibrant city. Winter term is also a great opportunity to blend college and conservatory students in an environment that does not exist during the regular school year, and this program was no exception. Our group was a mix of students from both the conservatory and college, united by an interest in learning about the musical culture of London.
Over the course of the trip, we attended a diverse group of performances ranging from Shakespeare, to Rossini, to children’s pantomime theatre. The structure of the program consisted of morning collaboration time to discuss the performances paired with attendance of a performance nearly every day or night. The most memorable performance was an adaptation of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville performed in the basement of a pub. As an Oberlin Conservatory student, my experience with opera has been formal and professional and it was refreshing to see the same art form catered to a different audience in an interactive experience.
We also had ample free time to explore the city on our own and partake in nearby activities such as touring the Harry Potter Studios, Windsor Castle, and Stonehenge.
Our group of Obies quickly adapted to the brisk “London Walk” and figured out how to navigate the complex London Underground system. Soon enough we were all drinking our afternoon tea and immune to taxi drivers shouting profanity at pedestrians. After my experiences in London, I was motivated to find other opportunities to expand my education beyond the United States, and the following summer I was lucky enough to spend six weeks in Italy studying Italian and opera.
In addition to broadening my musical palate and becoming a more educated audience member, an important learning experience for me in London was living in a foreign city for the better part of a month and taking every opportunity to eat up all the culture I could. Never before had I spent an entire afternoon cuddled up in one of London’s many quaint tea shops locals occupy daily. I also had the chance to try out my haggling skills at the copious outdoor street markets which flood downtown. Even once I returned to the United States, I found myself replacing phrases such as “Thanks,” or “Hi there,” with “Cheers!”
Winter term is an optimal amount of time to experience studying abroad without sacrificing a whole semester. As a double degree student, it is nearly impossible to factor study away into an already packed schedule, and this trip offered the perfect opportunity for a life-changing experience. Often, winter term travel is also more economical. Our program was awarded a grant that lowered the price of international travel, making it affordable for our group of 16 to participate.
I’m very grateful my first time out of the country was with a small group of Oberlin students who were all eager to spend a month absorbing the culture and music of a new place. This trip was an opportunity to gain life experience and learn beyond what is taught in textbooks or classrooms. I’m grateful to have been able to travel and study in another country, and I hope others can also utilize winter term to assist them in their adventures.