Bruce Coffin, father of Caren, Television/Radio major
In early November, 2004 I went to see my daughter, and the London Center for myself. I was greeted by a handsome, typically British edifice on a dignified street. Warm, no, actually cozy inside made one think of dignified study in a place of historical significance. The professors I met were scholarly and genteel; the staff accommodating and capable.
Then the real fun began. A three day trip to Dublin with Center Director Bill Sheasgreen. I was overwhelmed by Professor Sheasgreen's spontaneous lectures (there were never notes) on the spot. One day we were in the Kilmainham Goal, with Bill describing its historical consequence and prisoners identified, by name. Next off to Phoenix Park, site of the 1979 papal visit. Then by train to Dalkey to see the Martello Towers. I was so captured by Bill's explanation that I imagined Napoleon's Arrmada on the horizon. Suddenly, Bill directed us to look up at a specific Martello in Sandycove. Was that Malachi "Buck" Mulligan shaving atop that tower talking with Stephen Dedalus? Could Leopold and Molly Bloom be far behind...or would we see them when we train back to Dublin on the same route that James Joyce took those August mornings? I was swimming in every sense-visually, physically and intellectually-history, archeology, anthropology, the arts and letters-all in one. Talk about immersion learning. What a marvelous experience and setting for our children to witness and learn.
If youth is wasted on the young sign me up for the next class. Kudos and thank you Ithaca London Center."
AnneMarie Tanguy, mother of Tricia, Musical Theatre major
I had heard about the London program from my daughter since her freshmen year. She told us how much she would love to study abroad and travel to the surrounding countries on weekends. Tricia told us how wonderful it all sounded and really had her heart set on living in London the second semester of her junior year. Well, I have to say my husband and I were a hard sell. We thought, "Sure what 21 year old wouldn't want to travel around Europe and have a great time?" It sounded like a semester long vacation. We didn't think it was an important part of her educational experience and certainly not a necessary part of college! Well, I have to say I am delighted she talked us into it! We couldn't have been more wrong about the lack of benefits we thought there would be in this semester in London.
If any parents out there are on the fence about this or against their son or daughter spending a semester in London, I have to tell you, SEND THEM! This will be a life altering experience for them. And I mean this in the best of ways. I'm sure as parents of students (especially those going into the theater world) no one really knows where their careers will take them. This time in London will prepare them for the life they all want and are working so hard to achieve.
When I found out that the students had to go to a country they were not familiar with and had 5 days to find an apartment and settle in to begin the semester on their own, I was shocked and a little worried. OK, very worried. All the concerns I had turned out to be the best things in the world for them to go through. Soon after arriving in London our daughter told me how exhausted she was when they got there and had to head out and begin the search for a place to live. Four of them got together and started the process of looking for a place that was in their budget and agreeable to all of them. I shuddered at the thought, but it didn't take as long as I expected when Tricia told me they were moving into an apartment and everyone seemed pleased. That was a relief. Then it was off to Sainsburys, the local grocery store to fill the frig and cupboards. One of the next hurdles to get over was navigating through the city and getting their tube pass. I worried about Tricia going places alone or being out late, until I got there. The city is clean and very safe.
There is so much to learn about and see in London. It goes without saying that after the walking tours hosted by Timothy Kidd (the brilliant teacher of the theater majors' Interrelationships class), these students could very well be tour guides themselves. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they came home knowing more about the history of London than the American city they grew up in. The London center is a great place to study in. And there aren't enough wonderful things I can say about the staff there! Don't feel badly if your kids don't miss having a mother or father figure while they are away, because the staff is there for them whenever they need them. They are some of the nicest people you will ever meet! My daughter enjoyed the teachers and her classes. I have to mention the fact that they will see more live theater in the short time they are in London then probably any other time in their lives. I was fortunate enough to attend a show with Tricia and it was wonderful! They get opportunities as students for backstage tours, meeting and post show talks with the actors, and enjoy it all with people their own age from Ithaca and other schools.
There are trips sponsored by the London center as well as the opportunity for the students to travel on their own. Again this gives them many opportunities that will help them in the future. Tricia made the plane reservations for my husband and I when we were coming to visit. When we arrived she took us on a tour of the city and basically took care of us! Isn't that something we all dream about! We loved it and so did she!
I have to tell you that the growth that has occurred in the students in this one semester in London is amazing! I could see it in our daughter and in other students as well. They know they can make it on their own in a different country that speaks English as well as ones that don't. They adapt if the store doesn't always have the food they are used to or the products they have at home, and it only added to the experience. I think every one of them will walk away from this experience feeling strong, confident and secure in themselves when the time comes to move to where ever their future takes them. They have become experienced travelers and could probably teach us all a few lessons on how to do it more cheaply too! If they are cast in a touring company they will not have fears or anxieties about traveling from place to place that is unfamiliar. When it comes time to find that apartment in New York or where ever, they will feel confident in finding just the right place for themselves.
I have seen the growth and maturing of the students in the short time they have been in London. I really feel they are so much more prepared for the life ahead of them. I do have to tell you if you have freshmen in Ithaca College, start saving your money for your trip. I have confidence in saying that you will feel as we do, that it is worth every cent you will spend. (Unfortunately with the value of dollar it can be a bit pricey, but you will be surprised how well your son or daughter will learn to budget their money when it becomes necessary.) Their world will forever be expanded with a new appreciation for our country as well as other countries and people of the world. A big and beautiful door to the world has been flung open to them all and they have passed through it confidently, stronger and happily looking forward to the future knowing whatever is out there for them, they are ready and able to take it on! This time in London is like no other time they willever have in their life. And one filled with memories they will carry for a life time. Thank you Ithaca for providing this amazing opportunity for the students!