Rend Lake College English Professor Rebecca Biggs has taken a huge step in understanding the way students are taught in other parts of the world. She recently became the first instructor RLC has sent to teach at Canterbury Christ Church University in England.
Rend Lake College routinely sends students to Canterbury as part of its Study Abroad program, but Biggs was the first RLC professor to teach there. She departed for Canterbury in early January along with a group of 17 students from Southern Illinois and 22 more from the St. Louis area. The group returned in early April.
According to RLC Sociology Professor Dr. Sue Tomlin, about 50 students from Illinois are sent to Canterbury each year, but there also is a need for two teachers to act as mentors and advisors. These instructors teach one class at Canterbury as well, said Tomlin.
“The bulk of what I taught was drama,” Biggs said. At CCCU, the students were not necessarily smarter, but were much better prepared, she noted. “They were almost immediately able to understand the work.”
The grades in Biggs’ freshman-level class hinged on three major papers, she said. Ironically, at CCCU, the grades in such preparatory classes actually do not figure into the students’ overall grade-point averages, “but they still tried hard for an ‘A’,” Biggs noted.
The American students took a “Modern Britain” class at Canterbury. Biggs said the students found it much more challenging than most classes in America, but the class was geared toward American students, with more regular assignments. The class also taught students about the culture, history and government of Great Britain.
In fact, many of the students subsequently wanted to visit the British Parliament, but organizers were unable to schedule the visit.
The trip also was aimed at cultural enrichment, not just classroom studies. The group was able to visit Stonehenge, Dover Castle, the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre and the home of author Charles Dickens, among other attractions.
In what probably seems an oddity to those accustomed to the variable climate of Southern Illinois, Canterbury and surrounding Kent County were shut down for a time by the first snowstorm in 14 years in Southern England. The university, buses, trains and other industries closed down. The amount of snowfall: roughly 2 inches.
Biggs was able to find time for some personal travel. In addition to a trip to Paris, she also visited Gibraltar, where Admiral Horatio Nelson’s battleship, Victory, was towed after the Battle of Trafalgar.
In England, there are strict standards for an institution of higher learning to be designated as a “university.” During Biggs’ trip, the school was granted full university status. The school had been granted “university college” status in 1995.
Biggs had applied for one of the teaching slots at Canterbury two years ago. When she was not selected for the trip, she decided to make herself more marketable to the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs, which oversees the process, by teaching extra classes. She said she also strengthened her literature skills.
“At least they would know I was very interested,” said Biggs. Her extra efforts made a difference and she was chosen to fill one of the instructors’ slots.
CCCU is known for the wide diversity of its student population, and Biggs instructed a broad cross-section in her class.
At CCCU, classes generally consist of a lecture followed by a seminar. Biggs was involved in the seminars.
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.
For more information, contact Biggs at (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1707, or call toll-free (in-district only) at 1-800-369-5321, Ext. 1707. For interested RLC students, information about the Study Abroad program, including semesters at Canterbury, England, Salzburg, Austria, and San Jose, Costa Rica, is available at www.rlc.edu/aca/la/international.
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