Often people ask me what was my favorite part about studying abroad and looking back there are SEVERAL things I really enjoyed about my time in London. From spending hours exploring the history of the once most powerful city in the world to celebrating the queen’s birthday at the trooping of the colors parade, my most memorable experience was during a weekend homestay in England, which was an optional part of my study abroad, through a program called Host UK.
After a short application process, my friend and I were matched to an elderly couple in Much Wenlock, England , a small city around 3 hours northwest of London. Unsure what to expect, we found ourselves catching the overground train to our destination. We got there at around 11:30pm and due to our late arrival we only had time for brief introductions before heading to bed for the night. The next morning we woke up early in excitement for the day ahead.
The Lovedays lived in a cottage about an hour from the nearest train station. The piece of land they lived on had so much room that they actually rented the land out to caravaners for a minimal cost and used the rest for raising animals. The couple particularly enjoyed raising cows, chickens, and ducks. In fact, as a part of the morning routine, I got to help Mr. Loveday search for eggs and put out feed for the day.
Much Wenlock was classified as a small town and consisted of a tiny community primarily made up of retired elderly. Although, technology was available, it wasn’t widely used by the locals. In fact, as big of fans the Lovedays were of Andy Murray, England’s tennis star, they preferred to listen about his matches on the radio over watching him on the TV. Both Mr. and Mrs. Loveday were really big on doing things with their hands and using few store bought materials. (A concept this Austinite had only heard of.) Mr. Loveday enjoyed gardening and creating his own jams and marmalade and most of the meals were prepared from produce from the garden or from scratch by Mrs. Loveday.
The Lovedays truly enjoyed sharing their lives with us. They enjoyed asking us about our interests, our lives in Texas, and sharing about themselves and their lives in Much Wenlock. The inclusivity of the community was evident as we were welcomed with open arms. Due to the Lovedays involvement in the church, we went almost everyday. Either for a coffee morning, a Saturday tradition, where each family donated something either a baked good or object that can be raffled off as a fundraiser for a family in need or a church fundraiser, or for Sunday service.
Although the weekend went by within a blink of an eye, this experience allowed me to get a glimpse of what daily life was like for people of England: to be able to see, live, and understand how our lives were both very similar and different. It encouraged me to become a more cognizant traveler by preventing me from making assumptions based on stereotypes and allowing me to explore the country from the eyes of a local and not a tourist. From exploring the heart of the industrial revolution, hiking the hills of Shropshire,and dining on the amazing food prepared by Mrs. Loveday, Much Wenlock had become like a home to us.
Fun Fact: The founder of the Much Wenlock Olympic games has also been credited with the establishment of the modern day Olympic games. In fact, one of the mascots of the 2012 Olympic games,Wenlock ,was named after the town. (Wenlock is on the right.)