Once home, Maxine’s and my host parents gave us a tour of their utterly charming and quirky abode, filled with relics of another time and decked out with every record ever made (our host father is a rare records dealer). We were shown to our lovingly prepared bedrooms, the air thick with nostalgia from the days their children used to inhabit them.
We were treated to a delicious, not at all stereotypically English meal and a conversation about Italian cuisine, foreign films and your usual get-to-know-you material: Where are you from? What are your interests? Why on earth did you come here?! Then we retired to our chambers and delighted in the all-consuming slumber of the long-travelled and culture-shocked.
The next day began in earnest: We were tested on our level of English. We native speakers were put in a class of our own and began our study of euphemisms, essay writing and a light dose of grammar.
At lunchtime we ate meals kindly prepared for us by ladies who said things like “Watch the tray, luv” and bustled around fetching more tiny bottles of water and sandwiches which, frankly, left much to be desired…
We went on several scavenger hunts around town and visited the famous Turkish baths. We went to a quaint coastal fishing village named Whitby and ate fish and chips by the water. We also went bowling in Leeds, the neighboring university town.
One of the highlights of our trip was going to the recently renovated Royal Hall, the local theater, and seeing a production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.
I don’t know about my fellow students but Maxine and I made ourselves at home right away. As for the rest of us, I think they mastered the challenges of culture and language shock terrifically, proving once and for all that our class is truly immersive in nature.
The way they deftly asked for directions to the next mass-produced, over-priced clothing store or made idle chit-chat with the cashier at the local Walmart-subsidiary grocery store, ASDA, was really something to see.
On the whole, this was a successful sojourn, which not only helped us improve our language skills but also brought us closer together as a class.
Hella Wiedmer-Newman, 2dN