Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Column: Empireland and the joys of studying abroad

Carly Gist
Big Ben in London is just one of the many sites on the study abroad trip Empireland.

From Ireland to Japan, Southern Illinois University’s Study Abroad Program is offering several global seminars this summer. One program, however, stood out to me, which is why I am now exploring the United Kingdom. 

“Empireland – England & Its Imperial Pasts” is a two-week long journey through English history. The trip began in Brighton and will conclude in Liverpool, featuring stops in Fishbourne, Portsmouth, Bath, St. Alban’s, London, Newcastle, Hadrian’s Wall and York. The theme for the trip is based off of the book “Empireland,” which explores how past British empires shaped contemporary Britain, by British-Pakistani journalist Sathnam Sanghera. 

I started looking into the trip when I realized it was perfect for my course of study. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study abroad my freshman year, but a lot of the programs were restricted to specific majors, and I spent the year as an exploratory student. Empireland, however, was offered to all SIU students, and could be completed for a history and/or honors credit. I am in the honors program, and I have also recently added a major in social work, which requires a history course. What better way to complete both requirements than by exploring the world? 


While the trip will be exploring various locations, I was most excited to spend a weekend in London. London is arguably the art capital of Europe, so it has been one of my dream travel destinations for as long as I can remember. 

Three days of the trip were spent in London, two of which were free days. We arrived in London on a Friday for a guided introduction. Most of the day were spent in the British Museum, with the evening consisting of a trip to Trafalgar Square, where we had the option of visiting the National Gallery and/or National Portrait Gallery. We also saw what our professor describes as the “best night view of Europe”: the Houses of Parliament lit up at night.  

As for Saturday and Sunday, I purchased a London Pass, which includes access to a variety of attractions, such as guided tours and museums. The list goes on, but some of the sights I visited included Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace and the Tower of London. 

Additionally, I saw the original London bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona over spring break. I was excited to see how the replacement compares. 

Along with having free days and time to explore the locations to our own devices, the trip offers students a lot of freedom when it comes to traveling. There is no group flight to or from England, so many students are using this opportunity to continue traveling abroad. Some are staying in London longer, others are visiting Scotland. I am going home after the trip concludes. Getting to choose my own flight allowed me to join my family and friends on a trip to New York City before leaving the country. I spent three days prior to the study abroad trip in the Big Apple, where I celebrated my sister’s birthday, visitd several tourist locations and saw a Broadway show.

Empireland is being led by Professor of British History Dr. Joe Sramek and Ph.D. Candidate in British History Deanna McGuckin. As they wrote in the class syllabus, “The museums we visit are our classrooms as are all the cultural experiences [we] will have on this trip.” Assignments will include photo diary entries (“so that everyone can vicariously experience the trip through each other’s eyes”) and a post-trip reflection essay. Rather than spending our days listening to lectures, we will be creating memories that will last a lifetime. 

Empireland – England and its Imperial Pasts runs from June 8 to June 22. The other study abroad program locations and areas of study offered this summer are as follows:


  • Grenoble, France (Marketing)
  • Japan (Japanese)
  • Ireland (University Honors Program)
  • Florence (Art & Architecture)
  • Rome (Classics)
  • Northern Ireland (Public Health)
  • Brazil (Speech Pathology)
  • Nagoya (Automotive)
  • Taiwan (Chinese)
  • Alcala, Spain (Spain) 

Throughout my high school and college experience, I have been told by many people that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am extremely grateful to have received this opportunity.


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