In the last few weeks at Harlaxton I spent lots of time preparing to leave, but the preparations reach much farther beyond packing my suit case and selling back my textbooks. As April 23 (my departure date from the manor) quickly approached I found myself out of my room more than ever. I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could around wonderful Harlaxton Manor and with the great people who made it a home. Emotions of excitement always overpowered the underlying twinges of sadness. This place was finally familiar. These people were finally something beyond a friendly face. I miss it all.
The last day of classes, April 16, was not nearly as triumphant as a traditional college semester. The excitement of home was especially controlling that day, and May 2nd (my return date) still seemed like an eternity. Luckily, it turned out to be a wonderful day. It began with a graduation ceremony at the local Harlaxton Village Church. The last time I had been to this place was the first weekend when I attended a welcome service. It was as if I stepped back about 4 months because nothing had changed. The 900 year old church building was still cold despite the 140 students that were packed into the congregation. The service was quick, and Dr. Kingsley gave a lovely message that included his trademark speech-giving tactic: repetition! I received my certificate, and it marked one of the many beginnings to an end. A reception back at Harlaxton in the Great Hall followed, and eventually dinner was served in the Long Gallery. The reception was a gift of laughter and picture taking fun that was much needed. Some of my favorite pictures were taken as all of Harlaxton scrambled to snap a few last shots with the people that had become their stand-in-family. These are some fabulous friends from my Marketing class and our professor, Chuck. He is one of nicest people I have ever met.
Dinner was surprisingly good (much better than normal refectory food)! Dr. Kingsley gave a short presentation that included student awards and recognized the amazing faculty.The evening ended with a super fun party in the Bistro. It was a graffiti party! Sounds illegal, but it was really just a shirt signing time. Lots of people came and it was the best way to end what was a wonderful night, day, and semester.
Friday was all about the catch up. I caught up on sleep, studying, and real life. I began my day at 6 am to register for classes next fall. Normally we would register at midnight, but since I was six hours ahead I had to register at 6 am. The rest of the day included short tours of the clock tower and the railway. This is me on the balcony of the clock tower at Harlaxton.
Did you know that Harlaxton has a rail way system? Basically it is important because it is on the ground level. When deliveries came to the manor (a long time ago) they would be taken to the railway tunnel and then through to the correct places in the house. This was unique and it is one of the best preserved in England. Another interesting fact is that there are bats that live in the tunnel. One of the these bats is endangered, so it is illegal to disturb the bat while it is in hibernation. You are forbidden from going into the tunnel until the bat leaves! The bat really rules the manor.
Saturday was the beginning of finals we at Harlaxton. Since when do you have finals on a Saturday? Shakespeare was first on the list, and Sunday brought a Marketing final. Both were doable and I am pretty sure I aced them (grades aren't in yet, so I can't be 100% sure). It always feels good to finish up a class knowing you did well and that it is over.
On Sunday after my marketing exam some of the other girls in my class and I took pictures around the manor. It was a gorgeous day! That day was wonderful-good friends and good weather.
Monday and Tuesday we filled with going to the gym (which I did every day I didn't travel in April-a gold star for me!), packing, and studying for the ominous British Studies final on Wednesday. These days were strange in that I didn't have any set schedule. That nearly never happens in my life. I can't say I like it honestly. I was actually happy to see Wednesday morning come. The final was as I expected. The biggest challenge for this test was the endurance factor. It was three hours long and included three essays. The Gold Room has always been my friend on these tests, and it came through again. I spent the full time given, three hours, on the exam. As I turned in my papers (I had filled up several), I looked around to see the other final students, but there were none. I was the last one finished. You can't say I didn't use all my time! British Studies provided me with a array of feelings. Often I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of information, frustrated by the small amount of assignments to make up the 6 credit hour class, and excited by the opportunity to prove myself.
Another semester down. When I go to the gym I have to find the halfway point because I need motivation to know that the end it near. I have hit the halfway point of my unde
rgraduate career. This is a bit of a large bit to swallow. I won't spend too much time thinking it over and wondering what the future holds because I don't have enough time for that, but I did take a minute to realize that I have come a long way since high school. Most exciting is that the road in front of me, the second half, looks prosperous and I am excited.
At this point my hours at Harlaxton were literally numbered. I left at 3 am on a coach. The manor was barely visible, but I knew it well. My mind filled in every bit that I couldn't make out, and I said good-bye to four months stand well outside of my regular life. They were special.
The next part of the story will come soon enough. Be prepared for some beautiful scenery, amazing food, and sun!
Real life update: I am unpacked and in the process of organizing everything from the past four months. Monday marks the first day of my summer job! I am working for the Missouri Department of Conservation in the Digital Communications area. This is exciting! I am sure I will have many stories and things to share about this new opportunity. Don't worry-the blog doesn't end even though I left Europe!