How to summarise two very exciting, very strange, but above all, very fast two weeks?
I'll begin be explaining that I'm currently in London. I've spent one night here so far, since the end of the tour, and this is my very first time in London. I have to say that it feels...odd. I've become so acclimatised to Sheffield, the relative ease with which I could navigate the city, and I was so comfortable with Northerners and their mannerisms. London is a massive step away from the 'homeliness' of the North (I, at least, felt that it was very homely). Aside from the Tube system striking fear into my poor, Bendigonian heart, and just the sheer size of this monster city, I was mostly shaken by the abrupt change of attitudes, compared with people from the North. Every person who I approached for help on that first day in London was either exceedingly exasperated at just being asked, or wasn't from London. The majority weren't from London. This city feels very much like a city of lost, clueless people.
Which brings me back to Sheffield. The two weeks I spent there were so illuminating. I learnt so much about the importance of place, and how geographical location can influence your persona to such a degree. It makes me wonder how much I would appear affected by Bendigo to an outsider. The divide between Northerners and Southerners is clear. And aside from that obvious distinction, people from the North seem so aware of their place in the cultural consciousness; they are very much the working man and woman, happy and homely (or stereotypical, jolly Englishmen, if you'd prefer to view it that way) despite coming from a place considered by many to be downtrodden or stagnant. This was my perception, I know a lot of students spoke to residents who felt miserable in Sheffield. Maybe if I had stayed longer I would have felt that, too. But I didn't get a real sense of depression in Sheffield. I rather felt that though many residents have their gripes and reasons to whine, not one of them would be willing to sacrifice their place there for a life in London, or anywhere else. And I believe the same can be said for most of us.
The tour itself was beneficial in many ways I didn't expect. Having never travelled before, I was evidently out of my comfort zone as soon as we stepped off the plane. But this tour has forced me to become lost, make new friends, navigate a foreign land and foreign currency and confront strangers. In turn, I can already see how that has helped my self-confidence, my sense of independence and initiative, and my capacity to handle alien situations. I think I would have curled up in a ball and died that first night in London if I hadn't had the two weeks in Sheffield to prepare myself.
While I was a student who had multiple concerns about the interdisciplinary structure of the tour, I'm not such a complete fool that I cannot see the immense benefits inherent in an interdisciplinary tour. It certainly allowed me to see the many different ways in which students approach their learning. My gut reaction to any learning is go to the heart; what is the author or the text trying to say? What is the contention? Where are the metaphors? I use the Arts to discover the answers. It was a shock to see so many students bypass the Arts and use town planning, politics, history or archaeology to uncover the same questions as me. In this sense, learning from students from other disciplines has given me a plethora of new resources and methods to use in my future studies.
I am grateful not only that I got to participate in the study tour, but that I got to see a part of England so often ignored in favour of fancy London or Manchester. It was so revealing whenever I'd tell a Sheffielder that I was Australian, and their eyebrows would go up, so surprised, and they'd ask what I was doing there, and why would I ever leave 'sooneh' Australia? This is clearly an area often bypassed by tourists, and I love that I got to see what so many travellers miss. A raw, authentic city of England, without the veneer of posh clothing stores and fancy restaurants. Just real people, a real community with a real, unpolished history. I hate to break it to any Southerners reading this, but after a few days here in London, I can already see that the Northerners are right; the North is best.
- Cloe Timperley (Bachelor of Arts)