Tales From Abroad: Maymester in Europe Jan13

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Tales From Abroad: Maymester in Europe

To you who have never taken your first bus ride from London Heathrow Airport to #9 Canterbury Road, Oxford, it is difficult to describe to you the magic of the English countryside. The grass is green in its purest form and the sky is blue behind the inevitable, gray rainclouds. If you’ve never walked down the streets of East Berlin, it’s impossible to express the incomparable mixture of wonder and tragedy woven into every structure and street sign.

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A homage to Harry Potter’s Platform 93/4 at King’s Cross Station in London, England

In May, I was able to experience these historic cities and more on the JMC department’s study abroad program. Accompanied by over a dozen other students, I traveled to Oxford, London, Fredericksburg, Berlin, Weimar, and Mainz in three short weeks. As a JMC student, I am required to take Communication Law. It is typically a dreaded course amongst JMC students due to its inherent difficulty, but my experience was sweetened by the view of these six cities outside my window.

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A close-up of Westminster Abbey, London, England

Communication Law is all about the constitutional rights afforded by American citizens, which allow us to communicate ideas freely. Many of the ideas outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights find their roots in eastern European statutes. Therefore, it was appropriate for us to spend time discussing American law in Europe. In Oxford, we were able to discuss the ‘marketplace of ideas’ while visiting All Souls College, the educational home of William Blackstone. William Blackstone believed people should be free to express opposing ideas freely so that society as a whole can seek truth, an ideal we still revere most highly in the United States to this day.

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A view of the Radcliffe Camera from under an awning during a rainstorm in Oxford

In Germany, we discussed religious freedom. Mainz is the home of Martin Luther’s ministry. Martin Luther was a monk in the early 16th century who sought to place religious autonomy in the hands of the people rather than the clergy. In that time, the clergy controlled the message, the church, and in a sense, God’s will. People had to donate money to the church to receive blessings from God. Martin Luther was the freedom fighter that sought to change the culture of manipulation. As I stood outside the very church Martin Luther spent his life forming, I reflected upon the affect his contribution to the world has on my religious freedoms today. A man who lived centuries before me, and thousands of miles from me started a movement, which allows me to engage in a truly personal relationship with God, and there I was standing at his front door.

 

My short time in Europe was filled with realizations about the affect history has had on my life. The freedoms we have today are the result of centuries of hard work from thousands of devoted freedom fighters. Overall, I had an excellent experience in Oxford and Germany. The scenery, the architecture, and the people are all incredible. Given the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat, but nothing beats that first indescribable time in Europe.

By: Rachel Mallary