First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.
Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.
The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!
Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!
Buffet Style Learning
Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in the UK?
- Two books
- Two films
- Three articles
- One Problem & Solution or Project Option
- One Cultural Assignment
Table of Contents
- Project Options
- Problems & Solutions
- Cultural Assignments
- Create Your Own Coursework
The UK includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so does this resource packet.
A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Great Britain
by Marc Morris
Edward I is familiar to millions as “Longshanks,” conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (in “Braveheart”). Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king’s action-packed life. Earlier, Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle; travelled to the Holy Land; conquered Wales, extinguishing forever its native rulers and constructing a magnificent chain of castles. He raised the greatest armies of the Middle Ages and summoned the largest parliaments; notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom.The longest-lived of England’s medieval kings, he fathered fifteen children with his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, and, after her death, he erected the Eleanor Crosses―the grandest funeral monuments ever fashioned for an English monarch.
In this book, Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England’s destiny―a sense shaped in particular by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. He also explores the competing reasons that led Edward’s opponents (including Robert Bruce) to resist him.
The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History
by Rebecca Fraser
A sparkling anecdotal account with the pace of an epic, about the men and women who created turning points in history. Rebecca Fraser’s dramatic portrayal of the scientists, statesmen, explorers, soldiers, traders, and artists who forged Britain’s national institutions is the perfect introduction to British history.
Just as much as kings and queens, battles and empire, Britain’s great themes have been the liberty of the individual, the rule of law, and the parliamentary democracy invented to protect them. Ever since Caractacus and Boudicca surprised the Romans with the bravery of their resistance, Britain has stood out as the home of freedom. From Thomas More to William Wilberforce, from Gladstone to Churchill, Britain’s history is studded with heroic figures who have resisted tyranny in all its guises, whether it be the Stuart kings’ belief in divine right, the institution of slavery, or the ambitions of Napoleon and Hitler. 154 illustrations
Great Tales from English History: A Treasury of True Stories about the Extraordinary People — Knights and Knaves, Rebels and Heroes, Queens and Commoners — Who Made Britain Great
by Robert Lacey
From ancient times to the present day, the story of England has been laced with drama, intrigue, courage, and passion. In GREAT TALES FROM ENGLISH HISTORY, Robert Lacey recounts the remarkable episodes that shaped a nation as only a great storyteller can: by combining impeccable accuracy with the timeless drama that has made these tales live for centuries.
“Eminently readable, highly enjoyable. . . GREAT TALES should appeal to the reader who appreciates individuals and their personalities more than mere mass movements.” -St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Great Britain’s Great War
by Jeremy Paxman
Jeremy Paxman’s magnificent history of the First World War tells the entire story of the war in one gripping narrative from the point of view of the British people. ‘If there is one new history of the war that you might actually enjoy this is very likely it’ The Times ‘Lively, surprising and memorable’ Guardian ‘A procession of fascinating details’ Prospect ‘Paxman writes so well and sympathetically and he chooses his detail so deftly’ The Times ‘Clever, laconic and racy’ Daily Telegraph Life in Britain during the First World War was far stranger than many of us realize. In a country awash with mad rumor, frenzied patriotism and intense personal anguish, it became illegal to light a bonfire, fly a kite or buy a round of drinks. And yet the immense upheaval of the war led to many things we take for granted today: the vote, passports, vegetable allotments and British Summer Time among them. In this immensely captivating account, Jeremy Paxman tells the entire story of the war through the experience of those who lived it – nurses, soldiers, politicians, factory-workers, journalists and children – explaining why we fought it so willingly, how we endured it so long, and how it transformed us all.
All Creatures Great and Small
by James Herriot –Memoir
Delve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world’s most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.
In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot’s periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot’s recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.
Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers
by Martyn Cornell
Amber, Gold & Black is a comprehensive history of British beer in all its variety. It covers all there is to know about the history of the beers Britons have brewed and enjoyed down the centuries—Bitter, Porter, Mild and Stout, IPA, Brown Ale, Burton Ale and Old Ale, Barley Wine and Stingo, Golden Ale, Gale Ale, Honey Ale, White Beer, Heather Ale, and Mum. This is a celebration of the depths of British beery heritage, a look at the roots of the styles that are enjoyed today as well as lost ales and beers, and a study of how the liquids that fill our beer glasses developed over the years. From beginner to beer buff, this history will tell you things you never knew before about Britain’s favorite drink.
Weird Scotland: Monsters, Mysteries & Magic Across the Scottish Nation
by Charles River Editors
“In Scotland, beautiful as it is, it was always raining. Even when it wasn’t raining, it was about to rain, or had just rained. It’s a very angry sky.” – Colin Hay
Scotland evokes strong images in the minds of most people – castles and kilts, heather and the Highlands. It’s a place many are from and many would like to see. It’s an ancient land, filled with history and with a promising future.
Not everything in Scotland is as it appears, however. Some Scots say this is a land haunted by spirits, a place of strange disappearances and unexplained phenomena. There is no shortage when it comes to the strange stories Scotland has to offer, and the legends and lore have compelled many to dig a little deeper and even explore this wonderful land for themselves.
This book offers a sampling of strange, unexplained, and just plain odd stories from Scotland that have fascinated people in and around the region for centuries.
Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
by David McKittrick & David McVea
Compellingly written and even-handed in its judgments, this is by far the clearest account of what has happened through the years in the Northern Ireland conflict, and why. After a chapter of background on the period from 1921 to 1963, it covers the ensuing period―the descent into violence, the hunger strikes, the Anglo-Irish accord, the bombers in England―to the present shaky peace process. Behind the deluge of information and opinion about the conflict, there is a straightforward and gripping story. Mr. McKittrick and Mr. McVea tell that story clearly, concisely, and, above all, fairly, avoiding intricate detail in favor of narrative pace and accessible prose. They describe and explain a lethal but fascinating time in Northern Ireland’s history, which brought not only death, injury, and destruction but enormous political and social change. They close on an optimistic note, convinced that while peace―if it comes―will always be imperfect, a corner has now been decisively turned. The book includes a detailed chronology, statistical tables, and a glossary of terms.
Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA’s Soul
by Kevin Toolis
For ten years Kevin Toolis investigated the lives of the IRA soldiers who wage a secret battle against the British State. His journeys took him from the back kitchens of Belfast, where men joked while making two-thousand-pound bombs, to prisons for interviews with men serving life sentences, and to the graveyards where mourners weep. Each chapter explores a world where history, faith, and human savagery determine life and death. At once moving and harrowing, Rebel Hearts is the most authoritative and insightful book ever written on the IRA.
How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It
by Arthur Herman
Who formed the first literate society? Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism? The Scots. As historian and author Arthur Herman reveals, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland made crucial contributions to science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics—contributions that have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since. This book is not just about Scotland: it is an exciting account of the origins of the modern world. No one who takes this incredible historical trek will ever view the Scots—or the modern West—in the same way again.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
by Margaret George (Fiction)
She was a child crowned a queen….
A sinner hailed as a saint….
A lover denounced as a whore…
A woman murdered for her dreams…
Margaret George’s Mary Queen of Scotland & the Isles brings to life the fascinating story of Mary, who became the Queen of Scots when she was only six days old. Raised in the glittering French court, returning to Scotland to rule as a Catholic monarch over a newly Protestant country, and executed like a criminal in Queen Elizabeth’s England, Queen Mary lived a life like no other, and Margaret George weaves the facts into a stunning work of historical fiction.
Robert the Bruce: King of Scots
by Ronald McNair Scott
Robert the Bruce is one of the great heroic figures of history. When after years of struggle Scotland was reduced to a vassal state by Edward I of England it was Bruce who, supported by the Scottish Church and a group of devoted followers, had himself crowned at Scone as King of Scots and renewed the fight for freedom. Ronald McNair Scott has used the accounts of contemporary chronicles, particularly those of John Barbour, to reconstruct the story of one of the most remarkable of medieval kings. It is a story with episodes quite as romantic as those of King Arthur, but one which belongs to the authentic history of the Scottish nation.
by Anne Somerset
Glitteringly detailed and engagingly written, the magisterial Elizabeth I brings to vivid life the golden age of sixteenth-century England and the uniquely fascinating monarch who presided over it. A woman of intellect and presence, Elizabeth was the object of extravagant adoration by her contemporaries. She firmly believed in the divine providence of her sovereignty and exercised supreme authority over the intrigue-laden Tudor court and Elizabethan England at large. Brilliant, mercurial, seductive, and maddening, an inspiration to artists and adventurers and the subject of vicious speculation over her choice not to marry, Elizabeth became the most powerful ruler of her time. Anne Somerset has immortalized her in this splendidly illuminating account.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965
by William Manchester & Paul Reid
Spanning the years 1940 to 1965, The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm begins shortly after Winston Churchill became prime minister—when Great Britain stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. In brilliant prose and informed by decades of research, William Manchester and Paul Reid recount how Churchill organized his nation’s military response and defense, convinced FDR to support the cause, and personified the “never surrender” ethos that helped win the war. We witness Churchill, driven from office, warning the world of the coming Soviet menace. And after his triumphant return to 10 Downing Street, we follow him as he pursues his final policy goal: a summit with President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leaders. And in the end, we experience Churchill’s last years, when he faces the end of his life with the same courage he brought to every battle he ever fought.
The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
by Andrew Marr
Elizabeth II, one of England’s longest-reigning monarchs, is an enigma. In public, she confines herself to optimistic pieties and guarded smiles; in private, she is wry, funny, and an excellent mimic. Now, for the first time, one of Britain’s leading journalists and historians gets behind the mask and tells us the fascinating story of the real Elizabeth.
Born shortly before the Depression, Elizabeth grew up during World War II and became queen because of the shocking abdication of her uncle and the early death of her father. Only twenty-five when she ascended to the throne, she has been at the apex of the British state for nearly six decades. She has entertained and known numerous world leaders, including every U.S. president since Harry Truman. Brought up to regard family values as sacred, she has seen all but one of her children divorce; her heir, Prince Charles, conduct an adulterous affair before Princess Diana’s death; and a steady stream of family secrets poured into the open. Yet she has never failed to carry out her duties, and she has never said a word about any of the troubles she has endured.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Fiction
THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is a collection of twelve short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. It was first published on 14 October 1892, though the individual stories had been serialised in The Strand Magazine between June 1891 and July 1892. The stories are not in chronological order, and the only characters common to all twelve are Holmes and Dr. Watson. As with all but four of the Sherlock Holmes stories, those contained within The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are told by a first-person narrative from the point of view of Dr. Watson.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle – Fiction
“No archer ever lived that could speed a gray goose shaft with such skill and cunning as his, nor were there ever such yeomen as the sevenscore merry men that roamed with him through the greenwood shades. Right merrily they dwelt within the depths of Sherwood Forest, suffering neither care nor want, but passing the time in merry games of archery or bouts of cudgel play, living upon the King’s venison, washed down with draughts of ale of October brewing.”
“Not only Robin himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelt apart from other men, yet they were beloved by the country people round about, for no one ever came to Jolly Robin for help in time of need and went away again with an empty fist.”
Beatle Mania!: The Real Story Behind the Beatles UK Tours
by Martin Creasy
Between 1963 and 1965 The Beatles undertook six amazing UK tours and along the way met many fans whose memories of these encounters tell the real story of what actually happened when the Fab Four hit the road. It was loud, chaotic and as exciting as anything Britain had ever seen. I was Beatlemania!
The History of Britan & Ireland
From the Roman conquest of 43 CE to the Norman conquest of 1066, and from the Elizabethan age to the Iraq and Afghan wars of the 21st century, DK’s History of Britain and Ireland traces the key events that have shaped Great Britain and Ireland from earliest times to the present day.
Robert the Bruce and All That
by Allan Burnett
Robert the Bruce and All That is a real-life adventure packed with historical facts about Scotland’s warrior king. Gallop alongside King Robert the Bruce as he takes up the quest to free the Scots from terrifying King Edward and his bumbling son, Edward II. Voyage with Bruce to the mysterious islands of the west, and read about the secret plan to win over his kingdom. Discover what happened to Bruce’s queen and sisters when they were seized by the enemy. Learn how to capture a castle as Bruce and his men topple enemy fortresses across the land. Hear skulls crack as Bruce sends Edward II homeward to think again at the Battle of Bannockburn. Follow Bruce’s amazing life after death as his heart is taken into battle in Spain—and find out how it was safely returned home.
The Welsh Fairy Book
by W Jenkyn Thomas
Definitive treasury of more than 80 traditional Welsh tales includes such favorites as “Elidyr’s Sojourn in Fairy-Land,” “Pergrin and the Mermaiden,” “A Strange Otter,” “Nansi Llwyd and the Dog of Darkness,” “The Bride from the Red Lake,” “Lowri Dafydd Earns a Purse of Gold,” and many more.
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
by Roger Lancelyn Green
King Arthur is one of the greatest legends of all time. From the magical moment when Arthur releases the sword in the stone to the quest for the Holy Grail and the final tragedy of the Last Battle, Roger Lancelyn Green brings the enchanting world of King Arthur stunningly to life. One of the greatest legends of all time, with an inspiring introduction by David Almond, award-winning author of Clay, Skellig, Kit’s Wilderness and The Fire-Eaters.
“The Boat That Rocked” is an ensemble comedy in which the romance takes place between the young people of the ’60s and pop music. It’s about a band of rogue DJs that captivated Britain, playing the music that defined a generation and standing up to a government that wanted classical music, and nothing else, on the airwaves. The Count, a big, brash, American god of the airwaves; Quentin, the boss of Radio Rock — a pirate radio station in the middle of the North Sea that’s populated by an eclectic crew of rock and roll DJs; Gavin, the greatest DJ in Britain who has just returned from his drug tour of America to reclaim his rightful position; Dave, an ironic, intelligent and cruelly funny co-broadcaster; and a fearsome British government official out for blood against the drug takers and lawbreakers of a once-great nation.
UK Pirate Radio Documentary- Making Waves
Fire Over England
In 1588, relations between Spain and England are at the breaking point. British sea raiders regularly capture Spanish merchantmen bringing gold from the New World with the support of Queen Elizabeth I. After a plot to depose her is discovered, she enlists Michael Ingolby, whose father was killed by the Inquisition, to go undercover and infiltrate the court of Philip of Spain. Masquerading as one of the traitors, Ingolby finds the names of British subjects in Spanish pay. He identifies the would-be assassins and discovers their plans to send the Armada against England. His feats earn Ingolby the love of a Spanish noblewoman, an English courtesan, and Queen Elizabeth herself as he takes the British fleet into battle. At the climax he leads a night attack on the Armada ships massed off the coast of England.
In The Name of the Father
A small time thief from Belfast, Gerry Conlon, is falsely implicated in the IRA bombing of a pub that kills several people while he is in London. Bullied by the British police, he and four of his friends are coerced into confessing their guilt. Gerry’s father and other relatives in London are also implicated in the crime. He spends 15 years in prison with his father trying to prove his innocence with the help of a British attorney, Gareth Peirce. Based on a true story. Written by Liza Esser
The Difference Between the UK and Great Britain Explained
Westminster Abbey is the heart of London; the seat of true power in Great Britain and the place where modern democracy is born. The rich group of architectural treasures on the north bank of the river Thames – Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the clock tower known as ‘Big Ben’ – bears witness to one thousand years of power struggle between Crown and People. With unprecedented access we delve deep into the corridors of power to discover their secrets.
In Secrets of Westminster Abbey , viewers see the hidden areas of London’s House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Abbey. Throughout its history, Westminster has embodied stories of power struggles and tradition.
Inside Westminster Abbey- The Most Famous Church
David Attenborough: Climate Change: Britain Under Threat
History of Britain: Life Before the Romans
England’s Greatest Loss: Documentary on How England Lost the American Colonies
Britain’s Modern Slave Trade: Al Jazeera Investigates
Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit goes undercover to reveal the true scale of modern slavery in suburban Britain. We expose the slave masters and the people smugglers and talk to victims about their ordeals.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN – Discovery History Military
Scottish Myths & Legends
“Scottish Myths & Legends” explores the magic, mystery and sprinkling of mayhem that covers the dramatic landscape of Scotland. From the ancient tales of the Loch Ness Monster to the stories of shape shifting Kelpies, we go on a fascinating journey of discovery to uncover the stories behind the myths and the magnificent Scottish landscape that has inspired these truly legendary legends.
Tales of William Wallace
Wallace led the Scottish rebellion against Edward I and inflicted a famous defeat on the English army at Stirling Bridge. He is remembered as a patriot and national hero. This is the true story of William Wallace.
The Bloody Queens: Elizabeth & Mary
Of all the dangers Elizabeth I had to survive – the Spanish Armada, a Catholic continent plotting against her incessantly, restless nobles uneasy at serving a queen who refused to marry – none was so personally intense as her rivalry with another woman – her cousin and fellow queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. This was her longest, most gruelling battle – lasting over two decades, it threatened to tear apart both Elizabeth and her kingdom. In the end, it would force her to make the hardest decision of her life.
The two queens stared across the ultimate divides of their time: Protestant and Catholic, Tudor and Stuart, English and Scottish. Their fascination with one another grew into the greatest queenly face-off in our entire history. And yet, in 26 years of mutual obsession, they never actually met. Their confrontation was carried out through letters – a war of words so heartfelt and revealing that the two queens’ passions can still be felt.
BBC Northern Ireland Bloody Friday Documentary
This excellent production from BBC NI was shown to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Bloody Friday. Bloody Friday is the name given to the bombings by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast on 21 July 1972. Twenty-two bombs exploded in the space of eighty minutes, killing nine people (including two British soldiers) and injuring 130.
UK to Become Best Performing Economy in Western Europe – Independent
Britain’s Gypsy Travellers: A People on the Outside – History Today
The Truth About Gypsies – The Guardian
Britain’s Youth Unemployment Crisis – Global Research
UK Manufacturing Statistics – The Manufacturer
Britain has a long and colorful history. The UK has morphed and changed since the Romans arrived (and before that!) The empire and risen and fallen in power. The colonial period was the height of their world influence. The monarchy has survived, where many others have faded out of existence. A major player in both world wars, and a leading force in cultural revolution in the decades of the last century, there are no shortage of topics to consider in studying UK history. Instead of trying to take it all in, why not focus on one small section that interests you and go deeper instead of wide?
Possibilities include, but are not limited to:
- The Magna Carta & how it changed the world
- Spotlight on a historical figure
- The British Crusades
- Druidic history of Britain
- Roman history of Britain
- Britain during WW1 or WW2
- The potato famine
- Great figures in Scottish history
- The Irish religious conflicts
- The British Colonial Era
Music in the UK
In the 20th Century the UK has been a trendsetter in the music world. From the Beatles, to the Rolling Stones, Elton John and the Manchester club scene, some of the best and most classic music has found it’s start on this small island. Study a particular period of music in the UK. Or, examine the rise and influence of one particular artist or group. What contributed to their success? What has been their lasting influence and legacy in the music world?
The Modern Monarchy
There is a fair amount of disagreement within the British people as to whether the monarchy should be allowed to continue. Take a look at the modern monarchy and the roles they play in the government and culture. Examine the ways in which the monarchy has evolved over the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Do you think the monarch should be preserved or dismantled? Why?
Britain is well known for it’s tea drinking culture, but no tea grows here. How did Britons come to be tea drinkers? Where did it start? Where did the tea come from? How did it become their national drink? Examine the history as well as the culture and custom around tea drinking. Visit some tea houses, have high tea in a fancy place, learn to brew the perfect cup.
They mysterious monoliths of Stonehenge have captivated historians and mystics alike. Visit the site. Read, interview and examine the possible origin stories for the stones. What fascinates you, and why? What seems the most likely explanation for their presence and use?
The historic Brexit vote of 2016 has the potential to drastically affect the future of the UK. How has deciding to leave the EU already affected the country, culturally, economically and socially? Interview a number of Britons about Brexit and try to get to the bottom of why the country voted to extricate itself from the EU. What are people seeing as day to day consequences of their vote?
Britain has always had a strong agrarian base to it’s economy. Is this changing? What are the predominant crops now? What is grown for local consumption and what is for export? What do you see growing while you are there? Stop and speak with some farmers. Better yet, see if you can volunteer to spend some time living and working on a farm and learning, first hand, about the agricultural history and current realities of Britain.
The UK has a rich literary history as well, having produced some of the great writers of all time, from Shakespeare, to Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, and dozens of poets and fiction writers that have shaped the way the world reads and writes. Read a sampling of British literature and reflect on the ways in which it both captures and shapes British perceptions of culture and the world. Consider working your way through one of the Great Courses studies on British Literature.
Profiles of …..
Conduct a series of at least five interviews within a country. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the UK from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.
People you might profile:
- Restaurant owners/workers
- Clergy or Nuns
- Government officials
- Doctors or nurses
- Pub owners
- Street vendors
- Artists or musicians
- Cab drivers
- Long term expats
Immigration is a hot topic in the UK right now. With a perceived increased threat from Islamic extremists, and persistently high unemployment, many Britons are concerned about Immigration. It was one of the key points affecting the outcome of the Brexit vote. If you are going to be in the UK for a while, an interesting project might be to interview people about their views on immigration throughout the country. Is there a differene in the cities vs. more rural communities? What do people perceive the issues to be? Speak to immigrants themselves about their experience settling in the UK. Do some research on the actual numbers and statistical outcomes of immigration in the UK and compare that to the on the ground sentiments. What did you learn?
Drug Use and Trafficking
Drug use and trafficking is not a problem unique to the UK. However, in recent years there has been a call for the government to decriminalize drug use and move towards a treatment focused response instead of a punitive one for those addicted to substances. Some people point to Portugal as an example of a state response that has worked to reduce addictions and help rehabilitate habitual users. What do you think about this? Do some research on the drug use and trafficking situation in the UK. Where do the drugs come from? Who is benefiting from the trade? What are the consequences, currently? Do you believe decriminalizing drug use would ameliorate the problem? Why, or why not? Provide evidence and interviews to support your position.
There is a perception that manufacturing is in decline in the UK, but is that really true? Now’s your chance to investigate and find out! What, exactly, is manufactured in the UK? Where does the UK fall on the international scale of manufacturing countries? Visit a factory if you can. Interview people who work in the manufacturing sector. Don’t just ask about their jobs and what they do, but dig in to what life is like for them. What does it mean to be a blue collar worker in the UK? What are the financial realities? How do their incomes compare to “average? What do they see as struggles facing the UK in the manufacturing sector. Would you say that manufacturing is on the rise, or falling in the UK. Support your argument with evidence and your first hand observations.
The UK gets a bad rap for their food, but is it deserved? Explore the dishes that are uniquely British and traditional across the realm, from Haagas in Scotland to Fish and Chips in London, spotted dick, mushy peas and kipper to get you started. Document as many new (to you) foods as you can in the UK. Perhaps you want to compile a notebook of recipes as you go.
What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.
Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.
Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.
Take a Class
There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:
- Art or Crafts
London has some of the best museums in the world and the best part is that almost all of them are free! You could take a couple of weeks over the museums alone and not have seen everything there is to see.
In my opinion, the ten best that are not to be missed include:
- Victoria & Albert
- British Museum
- Natural History Museum
- National Gallery
- London Transport Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- Tower of London
- Charles Dickens Museum
- Florence Nightengale Museum
- Museum of London
Save your ticket stubs!
Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.
In the UK there is an organization that makes it easy to match yourself to reputable volunteering organizations around the country: NCVO is a great place to start looking for ways to volunteer ethically in the UK.
Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally. Consider a co-living space to develop community with like minded travelers while diving a little deeper and going a little bit more local. The Collective: Old Oak, in London, is the largest co-living space in the world.
Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?
Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.
Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference
Public Transportation Project
Take as many types of public transportation as possible.
Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in the UK. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?
Attend a Religious Observance
England is the home of the Church of England and the King James Bible; both central to Protestant Christian history. That doesn’t mean that religious diversity ends there. The modern UK is filled with persons of a wide range of religious backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims,, Buddhists,, Jews, and many more, there are still pockets of people worshiping the old pagan gods that existed before the Romans arrived. Take some time to attend various religious observances and see what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in the UK compare with what you grew up with?
Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.
You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:
- Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
- Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
- Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?
Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.
Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.
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