Hokies in London: A look into the London Calling! study abroad program
April 19, 2023
One of the biggest English major stereotypes includes a love for Shakespeare, and while that is not always the case, senior instructor Jane Wemhoener encourages students to grow that passion through the London Calling! study abroad program.
Wemhoener established the program in 2008, and over the years, numerous students from a variety of majors have experienced life and culture in London.
“I think London Calling! is meant to be multi-dimensional and personal," Wemhoener said. “I love that kind of learning and introducing learners to that. The city is the textbook, but we are learning in the moment and are always walking through a textbook and history, and that’s not something we do on campus."
London Calling! is a four-week program designed for students to study literature, theater, history, social issues, and urban diversity. Students can earn either six credits in English (ENGL 4954), six credits in the program’s additional discipline (e.g., history, classics, theatre arts, and architecture), or choose to split their credits three and three for each. The additional discipline changes each year.
"Every time I go, I learn so much from the students who are learning new things in new ways," Wemhoener said. "Students end up meeting men and women whom they’d probably not meet otherwise because it is so multidisciplinary. In my experience, this is a community of learners.”
The program is set up with classes and events Monday through Friday. The group takes excursions to Bath, Oxford, and Greenwich via boat and train; however, students are encouraged to take their own excursions on their days off.
Over the years, several faculty have visited London with Wemhoener. This included retired faculty Jane Stein from the theatre department and Ashley Reed, associate professor and director of literature and director of Undergraduate Studies, in the 2022 cycle. For the 2023 London Calling! trip, Susan Piedmont-Palladino from the School of Architecture will join.
The summer 2022 cohort had the unique opportunity to attend the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the international celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th anniversary of becoming queen. From themed events at local restaurants and shops to attending the Platinum Jubilee concert with performances from Diana Ross, Elton John, and more, the experience was once-in-a-lifetime.
Ally Gilliam, a junior majoring in cognitive behavioral neuroscience, was among the London Calling! 2022 group.
“I think the Jubilee made everything around London feel a bit more patriotic than it would otherwise," Gilliam said. "There was a lot more happening around the city, and that gave us more to experience."
While there is no Platinum Jubilee for the summer 2023 group, Wemhoener hinted at new and exciting experiences for their trip.
“This year, there will be new housing overlooking the Thames,” Wemhoener said. “There will also be a king on the throne, which would be the first time there is a king in any of our lifetimes. The students going this year will be going with a newly-minted king, which will be its own spectacle.”
Haley Hylton, a junior majoring in creative writing and professional and technical writing, is among the students going on the summer 2023 London Calling! trip.
“I was over the moon when I found out I got in! I found out as I was walking to Professor Wemhoener's class,” Hylton said. “I immediately called my parents and began making ‘Friends’ references.”
Studying abroad is an exciting and unique experience, one that is encouraged by faculty and students at Virginia Tech. However, it is a big decision and students should be aware of the time and financial commitments they will have to make.
There are many different scholarship and financial aid opportunities available to students, depending on their major, the department through which the study abroad is run, and the program they select. Wemhoener’s advice to any student looking to study abroad is to visit the Global Education Office’s website and ask oneself a few questions.
“Ask yourself: ‘What things can I do abroad that I can’t do on our home campus?’” Wemhoener said. "You don’t have to have solid, concrete answers, but be sure to ask yourself. It’s never too early to be thinking about it."
Studying abroad can be intimidating, but with introspection and communication with other students, faculty, and advisors, it doesn’t have to be. Whether one decides to apply to London Calling! for a love of Shakespeare or any other reason, Hylton encourages them to submit an application.
“My best advice is to apply," she said. "Try it out! You never know; it could turn out to be amazing!”
Written by Riley Vinluan, a professional and technical writing major