A Lucky Interest Form and An Unorthodox Professor

Hello my dear readers! My name is Hannah Yve Lyons, and this summer I will be studying European History at the University of Cambridge, in Cambridge, England. No, I have never been to Europe. Yes, I am convinced that every Cambridge student goes to class in Hogwarts robes. And no, I have never written a travel blog before. But I am incredibly excited to share my (mis)adventures and discoveries with some equally ecstatic readers!

This is a brief entry about, among other things:

A lucky interest form

An unorthodox professor

And a Florida Gator

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To begin with, I am a first-year Microbiology and Cell Sciences major. Yet I am crossing the ocean to pursue a research paper centered around revolution in nineteenth-century Europe. History-obsessed STEM majors are hard to come by nowadays, but I continue to find that learning about history and the humanities only enriches my education in the natural sciences. There’s a certain poetry to integrating both organic chemistry and history seminars into my schedule, and I was honored to be selected for this program along with such a great group of students.

So I like Punnett squares and the French Revolution. How did my admittedly unclear educational interests secure a study abroad opportunity at the top-ranked research university in the world? If I’m being honest, I only learned about the UF in Cambridge program because of an unremarkable interest form at the Study Abroad Fair last year. In scribbling my name and email on a clipboard, I opened a door to an experience like no other. Five minutes into the first info session, I knew that I had to apply for the program. There were a couple of reasons for this excitement:

  1. I have never been to Europe before. I visited Canada while I was in middle school, but my international experience was somewhat limited by the fact that I was a twelve-year-old Floridian stupefied by the reality of snow. Experiencing different cultures as a student, rather than as a tourist, allows for an incredibly immersive and profound experience. So I was just generally astounded by the very possibility that I could study abroad.
  2. I study French. Yes, thank you, I am aware that people in England speak English. The UF in Cambridge program begins with an 8-day intensive period in Paris, where we will reside in the Cité Universitaire and learn history in the shadow of l’Arc de Triomphe. My only conversations in French have occurred in the classroom, and I have yet to parle avec anyone except my teachers and (equally American) classmates. So interacting directly with francophone culture would be an experience I have only dreamed of.
  3. The faculty program director. Dr Sheryl Kroen immediately revealed herself as an insanely passionate and engaging professor. With her animated digressions on the portraits of Queen Victoria and the impact of jazz music on post-colonial sentiment in Europe, Dr. Kroen instantly connected my fascination with archival research and my interest in studying abroad. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and I instantly knew that she is the ideal professor to direct such a program.

After a week in Paris, our small band of history aficionados will cross the British Chanel on our way to the fifth oldest university in the world. Days in Cambridge will be spent pouring over rare documents, assembling research papers that will form the basis of our Senior Honor Theses. While I can’t wait to try out my best Mary Poppins imitation and sample authentic fish and chips, this is what excites me the most about the program. We will be handling matchless sources in a library that is itself over 600 years old; receiving course credit for pursuing research with a professor who is more invested in our personal growth than in a syllabus. So the stage is set, expectations abound, and this gator is preparing for the trip of a lifetime. Here’s to a summer full of dramatic realizations, ridiculous adventures, and fantastic blog entries!

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Pictured:

(I think I am going to make this a regular section at the end of my blog posts, just to provide some captions.  Mainly because I can’t figure out how insert captions under the photos. Sorry.)

  1. I’ve been collecting postcards for several years now, and my family and friends have sent me tons of glossy cards from European destinations. It’s crazy to think that I’ll be seeing some the cities pictured in my collection while I am abroad!
  2. I am from Cocoa Beach, FL, so I spend lots of time at, you guessed it, the beach. I am so excited to explore places beyond the familiar seashore, outside of the US. (Also I think this is the most patriotic picture I have ever taken of the beach. I think I’ll be hard pressed to find such blatant displays of national pride abroad, but I’ll keep you guys updated on that front…)
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