It’s been just three short weeks since I flew home from London and the most fun, most densely packed two weeks I’ve ever spent as a college instructor.
It was a wonderful experience in every respect — academically, culturally, socially and personally. From July 15 to July 30, my students and I packed in eight field trips, four guest speakers, one bus tour, one guided walk, one river cruise, one panel discussion and four group dinners.
In my free time, I visited four museums, visited two parks and two outdoor markets, caught some live music, saw an Agatha Christie play and took a weekend train trip to Oxford.
I still intend to share selected stories and photos in the coming weeks. But for now, I guess it’s time to put a bow on this package and move on to other things.
After all, I just started teaching a new class at Washington State University Vancouver this week. And next month I’ll resume teaching at Portland State University and continue with my internship coordinator duties in the Department of Communication.
ICYMI. Here is a link to my Instagram photos from the trip: https://www.instagram.com/georgerede/
But before moving forward, I want to look back and offer some fist bumps and high-fives to several people who made my London experience possible.
Jen Hamlow, Director of Portland State’s Education Abroad program. Jen is the one who approached me last fall and encouraged me to submit a proposal to teach internationally — something that had never entered my mind.
Hannah Fischer, Faculty-Led Program Coordinator in the Ed Abroad office. Hannah worked with me closely to give shape to my proposal, giving stellar advice on program content, budgeting issues and marketing the program to prospective students. Because she was in London on other program business, we were able to meet in London for a program debrief over a pint.
Jeffrey Robinson, Chair of the Communication Department, approved the syllabus and tentative weekly schedule I developed to make the summer class a distinctly different course from the one I normally teach at PSU. Essentially, the challenge was to devise a course using London as the classroom.
Darin Smith-Gaddis, Institutional Relations Manager at CAPA The Global Education Network. That’s a mouthful, for sure. What it boils down to is that Darin was a source of encouragement and an advocate for me with his employer, CAPA, a Boston-based organization that partners with higher education institutions on international study programs.
I met Darin when he came up from his office in Los Angeles to attend a symposium on Faculty-Led Programs in April. He put me at ease about my concerns regarding student recruitment and also did a presentation for my students on preparing for London.
Zion Griffin, Program Manager in CAPA’s Boston office. Zion was my primary contact in the home office, serving as a liaison between CAPA staff and those of us on the PSU end — Hannah, myself and my students. He emailed critical, timely information and stayed in touch during and after the program.
Sheriden Kuech, Program and Student Services Manager at CAPA’s London office. Sheriden was indispensable as my chief support in the U.K. She not only answered my newbie questions and tended to my program needs, she also handled the logistics involving guest speakers, field trips, ground transportation, group meals and excursions. In addition, she joined us at a traditional afternoon tea to welcome us and hosted a farewell dinner in London’s Chinatown on the last day of the program. It was a pleasure to work with her and hear her Australian accent.
My students. Initially, I’d planned to enroll 8 to 10 students and was feeling pretty good about those numbers, based on the time and effort that went into marketing the course on two campuses. In the end, there were 6 — five from PSU and one from WSU — and it turned out to be an ideal number.
They were a curious and adaptable group, and I was delighted to see the bonds of friendship form over the course of the program. None of them nor I had been to London before, so it was nice to experience the newness together. They marveled at seeing the historical landmarks and tourist attractions. They learned how to ride the Tube efficiently and explored the city apart from me, which was just fine.
In class, they were attentive, curious and full of questions for our guest speakers. At site visits, they were well-mannered and inquisitive. During group debriefings after every activity, they offered their individual takes and listened to each other with respect. In their post-trip papers, they reflected on much they had grown intellectually and personally by expanding their knowledge of British and US media; adjusting to a foreign culture; and appreciating the cultural diversity and social inclusivity they saw on a daily basis.
I could not have asked for a better group than these four women and two men: Anna, Rachel, Ella, Samantha, Yohana and R.H.
Read Anna Nelson’s essay in the WSU VanCougar: “A Cougar Letter From Abroad”
My wife. What can I say? I’m married to a woman whose support and willingness to make accommodations for my absence have been critical to much of what I’ve been able to do as a journalist and now as a college instructor. I know it wasn’t easy for Lori to take care of Charlotte, our little terrier mix, on her own while maintaining her early-morning schedule as a personal trainer.
I’m glad she was able to attend the wedding of our youngest son’s sister-in-law, along with the second birthday of our granddaughter Emalyn, while I was gone, though it would have been nice to be with her for both of those occasions.
Circumstances didn’t allow us to consider having Lori join me on this trip. But if this program runs again next summer, I sure hope we can share some of this amazing experience together.
Below: A handful of images from the UK.