"Off Campus" Adventures

Fieldtrips for Grinnell-in-London

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 2:23 am | By Liting Cong '11

During the first-day orientation for Grinnell-in-London (GIL), one of the College’s oldest off-campus study programs, we received an exciting list of fieldtrips. In addition to GIL’s fabulous main dish of courses and internships, fieldtrips are the delicious dessert. Designed as essential parts of all GIL classes, fieldtrips add first-hand learning experience and broaden our views of England and Europe.

Some fieldtrips explore London venues, such as the Tower of London and Greenwich. Greenwich, in far-southeast London on the south bank of the Thames, is best known for its maritime history. It gives its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. One Saturday morning, we took a boat trip from Westminster Palace down the Thames. The view was charming, with sparkling water, a bright broad sky, and happy chanting crowds in other boats. Our boat reached Greenwich Pier around lunchtime, so we spent a little time shopping in Greenwich Market, visited the Maritime Museum, stood over the Prime Meridian line with one foot in each hemisphere, and then lay on the grass field outside Queen Anne’s House. Boat shuttles back to central London left every 30 minutes, so we were free to pick our own departure time.

Other GIL fieldtrips are more academic. Students are required to attend the fieldtrips for their courses, but all GIL students are allowed to join virtually any of the trips. The British Welfare State and Family, a class taught by Professor of Sociology Kent McClelland, had two fieldtrips: a two-hour tour of Parliament and a two-night trip to Norwich, Cromer, and Cambridge.

The majority of the GIL students attended the Parliamentary tour in Westminster Palace. The tour guide was eloquent, funny, and most important, very English. The smaller group that visited the high school, hospital, and home for the elderly in small-town Norwich was treated to great hospitality. The trip fit neatly into what we’d been learning about the British welfare system, especially Britain’s beloved National Health Service.

Norwich does not have a youth hostel, so we stayed in some beautiful bed and breakfasts with charming hosts, rooms, and food (the accommodation fees are paid for by the GIL program).

Many GIL students have close contact with Brits through an internship in the second half of the program. But in the meantime, fieldtrips provide a valuable chance to interact with the British people and see different perspectives of their lives.

Liting Cong '11 is Sociology Major and Policy Studies Concentrator from Shanghai, China.