Rachel Holman-Olivier brought a lifelong dream to realization this fall, spending the semester studying at Canterbury Christ Church University College in England.
Holman-Olivier, 20, of Mt. Vernon said she has always been a big fan of English literature and has dreamed of visiting England. The trip was made possible through Rend Lake College’s Study Abroad program.
Holman-Olivier said she read in the Rend Lake College newspaper, The RLC Times, an article about a speaker giving a presentation on his travels to England and Germany. "I decided right then, ‘I’m going to England,’" she said.
With help from Sue Tomlin, Anthropology and Sociology Professor at RLC, Holman-Olivier’s wish was granted six months later. When Tomlin heard Holman-Olivier was interested in going to England, she said, "Get her in my office right now," Holman-Olivier said.
She said she had always wanted to see England, and because most of the semester was spent taking classes at CCCUC, "I figured I would take care of both at the same time."
Holman-Olivier traveled to England with a group of about 30 students from other colleges and universities taking part in the program. She spent three and a half months living with an English family mere minutes from the university. One thing that struck her, she said, was the size of the homes there.
"They were so small," she said. She added that the family followed regular routines, to the point she could tell what would be made for dinner each night, where the family would go and what time they would come home and go to bed.
Holman-Olivier said she enjoyed living with the English family. "If we had stayed in a dorm, we wouldn’t have gotten the whole cultural experience," she said.
While abroad, Holman-Olivier also visited Scotland and Ireland. "Scotland was fabulous," she said, describing it as one of the best parts of the trip. The group visited a Scottish palace during its stay, and she saw a bagpipe player in full regalia. She said she was somewhat surprised to see the number of men and boys walking down the street wearing kilts and tassled socks.
She said the country was beautiful. One day, while standing in the wind blowing across a loch, she said she thought, "I could live here forever."
In Canterbury, Holman-Olivier said one of the most beautiful sights was the Canterbury Cathedral. She said the building was so large, she was unable to take in all of it after spending two hours there.
However, the focus of the trip was study. While Holman-Olivier is a mathematics major, she mainly took English and literature classes. "It was a lot more work than I expected," she said. Most of her teachers required multiple lengthy essays of different requirements than those she had written at home.
"You have to have research for everything you do," she said. Even with an increased difficulty level, Holman-Olivier was pleased overall with her performance.
Due to CCCUC’s massive International Study program, Holman-Olivier made friends from all over the globe, she said. "We met people from China, Japan, Pakistan, Iraq, India, people from everywhere," she said. She said a university degree in England "carries you farther than other degrees, so people go there, get their degrees and go back to their home countries." The student body at CCCUC numbers about 11,500.
In England, there are strict standards for an institution of higher learning to be designated as a "university," Holman-Olivier said. In October 1998, the college added "University" to its name by permission of Privy Council, a position which is considered an extremely high honor in the United Kingdom.
She said the course work at Canterbury was difficult and involved a considerable amount of effort. She plans to attend Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., in the spring, but said she does not expect ORU to be more difficult than what she experienced in England.
Some courses included cultural visits, such as Stratford Upon Avon (William Shakespeare’s home) and London. Holman-Olivier’s group also visited several cathedrals, University of Kent College, and even the infamous 221 B Baker Street, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle headquartered the fictional genius detective Sherlock Holmes.
Canterbury, one of England’s oldest and most historic cities, is still surrounded in many places by medieval walls. Long an important business and shopping center, Canterbury also features numerous cinemas, museums, libraries, galleries and bookshops.
Holman-Olivier said she has gained a sense of independence from her English experience. She said she is much more interested in English literature now, and often is disappointed when the books she reads do not include the introductions which many people overlook.
She said the introductions interest her now because when those passages mention the sights and landmarks of England, "I can say I’ve seen the River Thames, I can say I’ve been to that castle, I’ve seen it."