What made you decide to participate in the HUE program?
During my sophomore year I had a dream that I was standing outside of an English tudor-style house surrounded by pink roses. I woke up, having realized it was only a dream and felt like I needed to visit the study abroad office. I had no idea that HUE was a program. I had originally thought of visiting one of the other programs like HUA or HUF, but once I went to the office and asked if I was eligible to study abroad, I found out that the only program I had a guaranteed spot with was Harding’s study abroad in England. So, taking a leap of faith, I signed up and called my parents to let them know. It really felt like my dream had been a sign from God.
What was it like attending HUE?
HUE was an absolute dream. To this day, I often ask myself if it truly happened. There were eight students, including myself, which made connecting with each other a lot easier. My professor, Jack Shock, a joy-filled man in love with the art of storytelling, came along and made our learning experience very enriching. Our directors, Lauren and Tyler Knight, are the most charming, personable, travel-savvy and intelligent people I have ever met. They made our experience integrating into London culture so much fun!
What was it like living in England?
We lived in a charming, Georgian style flat in Holborn (a district in London) that was just a 5-minute walk from the British Museum and a 10-minute walk from our University classes. London is a huge city — a cultural metropolis that displays all kinds of lifestyles, ethnicities, cultures and people. One day we may have had British cream tea in a museum and the next day be experimenting with spicy curry on Brick Lane. Every afternoon or free weekend we would try something new or explore a new place in London. England has a railway system that is fairly cheap and very fast. It was an amazing experience to simply hop on a train in the morning with a french croissant, spend the day at Oxford University or a historical wonder like Stonehenge, and then be back in the flat by 7 p.m. for dinner.
What did you learn? How did you grow?
After learning how to navigate the underground system and adjusting to living in the city, I slowly but surely began to feel like a London local. On the weekends, I would try to find the best spots for afternoon tea — I found that bookshops with cafes or hidden tea parlors were often my favorite places to go. If you’re going to London, I highly suggest booking an afternoon tea at Burberry on Regent Street at least once!
I also learned that I was capable of doing “adult” things in the city, like walking to the grocery store by myself and carrying my week’s load of meal planned groceries home — a walk that is exhausting and leaves your arms sore yet builds quite a bit of character. I learned the beauty of being present in a meal, something that is very important in European culture. Meal times were slower, waiters in pubs would bring food out after the chef had taken their time crafting your meal. This resulted in many meaningful conversations with my classmates, professor and directors. I learned how to enjoy my food while being present with the people I was sitting at the table with. By the end of the trip I found myself more confident in the unknown, especially in travel, capable of living in the city. I found a refreshed sense of wonder and appreciation for the world, different cultures and history.
How were you challenged?
The most challenging aspect of being abroad for me was experiencing incredible things and making unforgettable memories without my family and friends from home. Living in another culture for a long period of time made me begin to miss things that I didn’t realize I would miss. There were times when I deeply missed Harding life, especially during iconic moments in the fall like club week, functions and activities on the front lawn. I remember one afternoon I was on the tube and turned to my friend and said “I really miss Chick-fil-a.” Being abroad definitely had its challenges at times, but I’m so thankful for them because I learned how to appreciate every moment that I’m in.
What was your favorite aspect of HUE?
Living in London gave me a perspective on life that I don’t think I would have gained if I had not participated in HUE. I became very independent and learned valuable life skills such as budgeting, meal planning, navigating in stressful situations, and living in a large city. I realized I was capable of so much more than I thought. Being away from family, friends, and Harding was very difficult, but this also resulted in me having to face things by myself without their influence. I learned new things about myself. I learned that I love touring museums, I enjoy meeting new people, I love little markets, and I am actually more of a morning person than I thought! I truly felt like I got to know myself during my time at HUE.
What is one standout memory from HUE?
Before signing up for HUE, I had a dream that I was standing outside of the English tudor-style house with the pink roses. While I was in England, I somehow knew that I would see this house. The whole trip felt like God had swept me off my feet and taken me on a wonderful adventure to see His people and His creation. One day we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see William Shakespeare’s house. As soon as we got our tickets to see the house we walked outside into a garden filled with pink roses. To my surprise I saw the house from my dream — it looked identical. I had told Lauren Knight, my director, about my dream on a train once, and she came up to me while I was staring in bewilderment and said “Is this the house?” I replied with tears in my eyes, “Yes.” To this day, I don’t know why God showed me William Shakespeare’s house, but I do know that this moment had been confirmation in my heart that God cares about our dreams and desires for us to just take a leap of faith, and trust Him.
What do you wish people knew about HUE?
Starting out, I had no idea that we were going to travel to all the places that we did. We started the program by visiting Iceland for a week and touring around the entire island! There was a lot more adventure than I was expecting in Iceland. We went inside of waterfalls, climbed up ash-covered glaciers, explored ice caves, rode Icelandic ponies, took a boat ride in a blue glacier lake and endured a bumpy jeep ride around the film sites of the Star Wars movies. Travel in itself is an adventure but the adventures you’ll have with HUE are unforgettable!
What would you say to others thinking about attending the HUE program?
I am a bit biased, but I think HUE is the best program! Honestly though, you’ll have an incredible experience wherever you decide to go. The programs that Harding offers are all unique and once in a lifetime experiences that you’ll never forget. I will say that HUE was the best program for me, and I didn’t even know that signing up. I just decided to take a leap of faith! If you want an experience living in London, traveling the UK, learning about art, becoming a foodie and possible tea-snob, going on weekend adventures to Paris or Amsterdam and learning more about the world, HUE is for you!
How do you see the world differently after studying abroad?
After exploring six countries in a matter of three months, the world is even more mysterious and full of adventure than I could have imagined! I know some people come back and feel as though the world is a lot smaller, but I feel like I could go anywhere now and still feel the same awe and I did at HUE. From a spiritual perspective it was also amazing to see people from all different walks of life and cultures, yet God’s heart for them remained the same. He wants them to know Him, and He loves them. I appreciate different cultures a lot more and want to honor them as well as learn as much as I can about them! I felt like my experience abroad helped me realize that travel is not as big and scary as I thought it was, and I really can go where God is calling me to go.
Vanessa Goff attended the fall 2019 Harding in England (HUE) program.