Fear = Conquered! Week 1 in Exeter, England

Many graduate students, and especially doctoral students have families back at home. For me, being a single parent and full time student, I don’t get much time to do things solo. So, I took advantage of this study trip to England to leave a bit ahead of my group and take a pre-trip to Norway.

My main objective in Norway was to conquer an extreme fear of heights. I need to be bolder in order to make my dreams of opening an inclusive, innovative free school in Tampa into a reality, and I saw this trek to a place called “Trolltunga,” as a chance to take my own personal visionquest. After 14 hours of hiking there and back, I can absolutely tell you that I am no longer afraid of heights! In fact, when it came time to step out upon the Troll’s Tongue, I had not a moments apprehension. I faced much adversity in getting to this spot, it was an expert rated hike, and I am not an expert. There was a flash winter storm (and it is summer), and the snow melt created rushing rivers below snow over which I had to walk to get there and back. I made this hike alone, passing people from all points of the earth. Norway changed my life, I did something very few have done or will do, and it set the stage beautifully for continued personal transformational as I officially joined my group in London the next day.

Trolltunga, near Odda, Norway – a 10 to 16 hour hike roundtrip over glaciers, the cliffs of Norway, and ancient land formations. The prize is a photo on this rock, overlooking this amazing, other worldly place. This place is massive, as you can tell by the size of me standing on Trolltunga.

Fast forward to landing in England from Norway, and I’m about the least likely Harry Potter fan you could find, but being here on the ground in Exeter makes it pretty impossible to not become one! JK Rowling was a student at Exeter University (or “uni” as the Brits call it), and so far I’ve been to three of the places in this incredibly old and very charming city, that have been said to have inspired the first Harry Potter movie.

Gandy Street, inspiration for Daigon Alley in Harry Potter

Week one study abroad has been all about the old and the new. Harry Potter is most certainly new, but the inspiration for the Great Hall in the movie, The Exeter Cathedral, is very, very old. It was completed in 1400, and is an incredibly historic place. I attended a service this evening, called eveningsong, and had the great good fortune to hear the choir, mostly comprised of young boys. Praying in this historic place was very moving. I have never experienced anything like it. Many that were there were moved to tears.

The Exeter Cathedral

As for the new, Exeter again extracted some emotions from me. While we were not allowed to bring our cell phones into the schools that we visited, this one photo of the outside of the primary (elementary) school, says all that I felt. As a mom of a child who has had to fight to be included, and to learn to ride a bike, seeing the blue and yellow adapted trike parked among all of the others at this school, where inclusion is protected and guaranteed, gave me much hope that we can build towards a future like the kids at this school already have.

Included

It’s been a busy and exhausting week of learning and sharing with our English counterpart doctoral students. Tomorrow, we head out for London for another week of visiting schools and exchanging ideas, expanding our world view, and being inspired.

Next week, pics from the London Eye, Althorp House, Phantom of the Opera and whatever more surprises wait!

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