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Tales of King Arthur –Ann Helms

My experience was studying abroad at the University of Sussex, in Brighton, in southern England. I studied twentieth century British history, focusing on politics, war, and welfare, as well as consumerism and history. I got the chance to travel both during and after my study abroad; in the U.K., I traveled to Cornwall, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Essex, Kent, and Scotland, and I got to go to Paris just before Christmas! I’ve always adored England and would love to live there someday.

I benefited by experiencing a different culture. Many people assume that England is much the same as America, but it is a completely different world. Oregon is not a very diverse place, and I’ve lived in the same town my entire life, so it was very eye opening to experience what felt like an actual melting pot. America is often called the melting pot, but I really do not get that experience in the America I live in because Oregon is not diverse. But the U.K. has people of so many nationalities. It was great to witness this.

I was going to do research for my Honors undergraduate thesis, but when I started to look at the sources I would use, they did not spark my passion like I had hoped they would. It really made me think about what I want my specialty in history to be. I decided to change the topic of my thesis to be about the character of King Arthur in literature in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. King Arthur has always fascinated me. His stories, relationships, and knights are very complex and have changed considerably in the last 1,000 years. I decided to focus on these centuries because they are of particular interest to me.

Helms Ann in Front of Pump Rooms, Bath, UK  I hope my study abroad experience will help me get into graduate school in the U.K. My focus is English History and it is ideal that I go to an English university. I feel that my experience helped me get a grasp of England’s university system, which is markedly different than America’s. I would eventually like to teach History at an English university.

I used my Experience funds to travel to historic places in the U.K. as well as Paris. I traveled to Cornwall, where many of King Arthur’s tales are rumored to have taken place. He was born at Tintagel castle. The castle is tediously perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean. This was my first time seeing the Atlantic ocean!

One of the most exhilarating experiences of my trip happened on the banks of Loch Ness in northern Scotland. I took a guided tour with two other American students. I met a woman at our hostel from California. She asked us if we wanted to walk to Urquhart Castle. It was dark, but she said it was not a long walk. My friends decided they were too tired to go, but I sure was in for an adventure. We walked well over a mile along a dark, winding road. When we finally got to the castle, we walked through the parking lot. She asked me if we could scale the gate and go walk around the castle. I was unsure at this point, but she talked me into it. She then told me the lights that lit up the castle went out at 11:00pm – I kept getting more and more unsure. We explored the castle, clutching the banks above the dark waters of Loch Ness. In the darkness of rural Scotland, I could feel the former splendor of the castle – all the noble souls that had walked the ramparts of the castle centuries before. It sent a chill down my spine – it was amazing. But my adventure was to get even more interesting. As we left the parking lot, we heard a noise and I saw movement in the corner of my eye. A guy who appeared to have had too much to drink stumbled up to us and asked if we knew where the bathroom was. The woman yelled at him and told him to go away. I was scared out of my wits at this point. We started to walk quickly back, and then he caught up with us. We made him walk ahead of us and eventually made it back safely. I think this is the sketchiest situation I’ve ever been in and am very amused by it now. I sure was glad I brought my flashlight (or torch, as the British call it)!

One of my hobbies is English Regency era (early nineteenth century) costuming and dancing. I am a member of the Emerald Valley Regency Society based in Eugene. I made a few British friends who also enjoy Regency costumed balls. I danced with the Hampshire Regency Dancers, based in Winchester. One of my favorite moments was dancing at Jane Austen’s brother’s country home, in the dining room where she would have danced. It was amazing and quite an honor. A friend came to visit after term was over. We walked around Bath what could be called the Regency capitol of England. in Regency costume,. We went to tea at the Pump Rooms, which is a dream come true.

My future plan is to finish my degree in the next year and work for a year or two to save up to go to graduate school. I plan to learn Gaelic before I apply to graduate school, as it is necessary to study British history in the Anglo-Saxon period. I want to work primarily in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but I am also very interested in Anglo-Saxon England. I am going to apply to the university where I studied, as well as to several others.

I thoroughly enjoyed living in England. It is such a wonderful and lovely place.

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