Learning Through Experiences in England & France

Art history Professor Jeffrey Collins led a group of “extraordinary students,” to Paris, London and Oxford, England, and felt compelled to capture the experience in writing.

“I have not seen more willing, eager, and intrigued students,” he wrote later. “We have explored the Bodelain Library and were given a special exhibition of the Shakespeare Folio and other rare books, as well as being given a 16th century press demonstration. Then we punted down the Charwell River, toured all of the major colleges at Oxford, made a special stop at Corpus Christi, and spent hours at the new Ashmolean Musuem—a $100 million renovation there—with some of the most important exhibits of all archaeological finds in the world.”

Dr. Collins’ Class at Louvre: All of the students were absolutely a joy and a privilege to lead around…,” Dr. Collins remarks. “Paris, London and Oxford, Stonehenge, Salibury Cathedral,Notre Dame, the museums, and–well, you name it, we did it. They moved with a precision of a well-trained army and absorbed and spoke and wrote about it all like poets.”

Dr. Collins and his students spent their morning hours taking classes on the world-renowned University of Oxford campus, and reserved the rest of the day for experiencing the unique culture of England. During the first week alone, Collins and his group took in Oxford’s campuses and its surrounding intrigues, including Stonehenge, Avebury Circle, and the Salisbury Cathedral. As part of their study abroad experience, the students researched their travels and presented reports to the group.

Dr. Collins couldn’t have been more thrilled, noting the emotional effect the trip was already having on his colleagues. “Today we gave reports at Stonehenge, Avebury Circle, and the Salisbury Cathedral,” writes Collins. “I heard Cleo [a student] say she will never forget her day out at Stonehenge, giving a report about it; Karly actually teared up seeing the Magna Carta in Salisbury; Josh told me this was just unbelievable as he has never been out of the country; it is so heart warming and enlightening to hear all of this. Not one complaint, and plenty of laughter and good fellowship. I want to clone this group.”

A two-day excursion to Paris produced intense museum work and architectural discussions, following visits to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musee D’Orsay, Louvre, and the Branly art museums. “They tell me they [couldn’t] sleep…they [were] so excited about it, being steps from the Eiffel,” wrote Collins. “[They are] such an impressive group–we did this city without guides (never use a guide in Paris, as it is quite an easy city to navigate and most of the guides spend way too much time in front of one masterpiece and waste our time). They learned taxis, walked, and loved every moment. They were never late, followed my instructions perfectly and ate fine crepes in front of the Pompidou.”

Back at Oxford, Collins’ class attended Shakespeare plays on campus and high tea at the Randolph Hotel.

“I think I will have to drag them away from Oxford… while in London, on our final night, we will attend a West End play–Billy Elliott or Wicked or the Phantom. They can’t sleep–they are quite excited….this is what it is all about–in a few weeks’ time I have seen several of our students make their way around London and Paris with real confidence, argue in museums, present outstanding reports, handle that odd English money, and make friends throughout Oxford.

They will come back with T-shirts, some Carnaby St. jackets, teacups, museum replicas, and memories of a trip that changed their lives. I was asked by an observing and puzzled Parisian what kind of university in the states does this kind of thing: reporting in museums, traveling together as a learning team? She could not understand it at all. I told her about our university and she said the students were very very lucky to do this. She asked, ‘How could someone from the EU attend? It must be an extraordinary place this Ogee–thurp in Atlanta,’ she said.

I looked back at our group and they were pointing and gazing at the glistening glass pyramid of Pei in front of the Louvre. I could not have been more proud, watching them descend toward the Winged Nike of Samothrace… While certainly not the level of Alexander the Great, a hero of mine, I will use a quote from him: when asked about his soldiers after a terrific battle, he said ‘I was honored to be among them—they are what OU does best.”

Dr. Collins and his “extraordinary” group do dinner at Trout Restaurant in Oxford.

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