Literary London
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Aileen McKinstry

Liberal Arts Major(s): English, History
Minor: Violin Performance
Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania

What was the best part of your experience?

It's hard to pick a single experience. I treasured the opportunities to explore museums bursting with centuries' worth of history (especially the British Museum), to experience a Shakespeare production at the Globe Theater and another at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and also to find amazing places to eat! In essence, I loved the chance to live in London, if only for weeks, because it afforded me the chance to culturally immerse myself somewhere so similar, yet so different to home.

I loved the chance to live in London, if only for weeks, because it afforded me the chance to culturally immerse myself somewhere so similar, yet so different to home

How did this experience impact you academically?

Before this experience, I had taken History 444, which focused on how the United States memorializes and remembers the Civil War and placed these memorials in their historical and rhetorical context. The course on Reading Material and Memorial Sites in London (English 473) provided an opportunity for me to engage in this kind of critical rhetorical and historical analysis firsthand, which I loved. The other course, Mysticism, Magic, and the Occult in Literary Modernism (English 455), was decidedly outside of my comfort zone in terms of topic. Nevertheless, I was able to draw parallels between the themes of this course and several of my other English courses, primarily in the ways that literature can articulate the limits of language in expressing human experiences. London provided a rich setting replete with history (mystical and otherwise) which enhanced the learning experience by making it concrete (sometimes literally), instead of studying it distantly from a classroom.

How will this experience impact your career goals?

Prior to Literary London, I had been seriously considering applying to a UK university for graduate school. The experience of studying abroad furthered my convictions, and I am now in the process of applying to several English universities. More broadly, it confirmed that I chose my field well: I thrived in a city abounding with history, and I drank in as much history as I could in each place that we traveled. My long-term career goal is to work in Constitutional law in some capacity, and history serves as an integral part of understanding and interpreting the U.S. Constitution. History forms the backbone of any discipline. It must be studied, learned from, and respected. I am wholly convinced that people must understand the history of a place in order to understand the present moment; studying it on site further intensifies a connection between history and the scholar, in turn deepening understanding.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

One of the ways, if not the first way, I heard about this study abroad opportunity was through the Paterno Fellows emails. Were it not for the study abroad/internship requirements for Paterno Fellows, I might not have considered applying for Literary London. I am immensely grateful to have been a part of this program which encouraged and enabled me to take part in a phenomenal opportunity. Not only did they provide some of the incentive to apply, but they also generously financially contributed to make the program more affordable.

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