The summer after my freshman year, I had the opportunity to travel to London and Edinburgh for a month through the English Culture and Documentary Filmmaking dialogue. From living in the same neighborhood as Will and Kate to filming footage at the top of the London Eye, this dialogue gave me experiences I’d never dreamed of. Here are the four unexpected lessons I learned during this whirlwind of a month.
- History class doesn’t have to be dry and boring.
One of the classes I took while abroad was COMM 3306: International Communication Abroad – Britain, Empire, and Culture. Instead of reading textbooks and sitting in lectures for hours on end, our class got to spend every morning exploring London’s historical sites, museums, and attractions. We did everything from a World War II walking tour to a Westminster Abbey visit where we met Jennifer Garner in the gift shop (really). As a hands-on learner, getting to see all these sites helped me fully comprehend just how much history is ingrained in London.
2. Pop culture can change people’s lives.
My group created a documentary about the impact of Sherlock Holmes on pop culture, literature, and science. What we didn’t expect was Holmes’ impact on romance! We met a wonderful couple, Roger and Jean, who had met through a Sherlock Holmes fan society. Roger, a United Kingdom native, had written for a Holmes newsletter and Jean was Roger’s first transatlantic subscriber. When the pair got married, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s daughter came to the wedding and complimented, “My father would have loved this.” Safe to say, their interview was the cutest moment of the documentary.
3. Documentary filmmaking is very tricky.
While I’m a huge movie buff, I never had the chance to explore filmmaking. This dialogue gave me the perfect outlet to do so, as it combined my love of traveling, exploring cultures, and being creative. My group chose Sherlock Holmes as our subject because of his lasting impact on pop culture. We didn’t initially realize how popular he’d made Baker Street in London, or that a lot of today’s forensic practices stem from the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle. Our creative process involved doing extensive research on our selected topic, reaching out to scholars before the Spring semester even ended to coordinate interviews, writing a script, pitching questions, transcribing interviews, setting up audio, filming B-roll to insert throughout, finalizing a shooting a schedule, and journaling throughout the process to keep track of everyone’s contributions. It was the most exhausting and rewarding experience I’ve had at Northeastern, and I loved every second of it.
4. London’s culture is ever growing.
I’d been to London twice before this dialogue on vacations, so I knew the city was famous for its diversity and resilient spirit. What I didn’t was expect was the pure beauty of every borough. When our group wasn’t working on papers or interviews, we used every minute of free time to film B-roll footage and immerse ourselves in the city’s culture. We went to multiple open-air markets (go to Borough Market for the incredible Indian food, Camden Market for the wall art and falafel, and Old Spitalfields Market for the cute clothes), had a picnic on Will and Kate’s lawn, and saw the Queen during her birthday celebration. I’m still pinching myself from these opportunities and cannot wait to take my friends and family to London to show them all my favorite places.
Link to our documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA3_h4xhIKg
By: Angela Bersani