Students are often excited to spend their spring break avoiding schoolwork, spending time with their families, or traveling somewhere warm. However, one group of students, accompanied by three professors, enjoyed a spring break class trip to Oxford, England. A one-credit humanities reading course that focused on the work of C.S. Lewis was able to offer these students the experience of a lifetime by doing hands-on seminar work and exploring the places C.S. Lewis used to frequent.
Rev. Isaac Morales, O.P., assistant professor of theology; Rev. Jordan Zajac, O.P. ’04 assistant professor of English; and Andrew Horne, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of humanities, accompanied 11 students across various grades on their trip to England. The professors led four seminars across the week, and each focused on a variety of works by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The works studied included Surprised by Joy, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and excerpts from The Inner Ring, The Weight of Glory, and On Fairy Stories. Prior to leaving for the trip, students partook in intellectual discussions following movie showings about Lewis and his life.
One student who attended the trip, Jenny Chen ’23, says: “I’ve wanted to go to Oxford for years now, and I am so grateful I was finally able to go due to the generosity of this program! In Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis wrote about the ‘fabled cluster of spires and towers,’ and his first impression upon arriving at Oxford was to marvel at their beauty. Over spring break, I felt myself doing the same as he once did all those years ago.”
The course complements full credit courses available throughout the semester at PC, including DWC 202: The Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis and THL/HUM 348: C.S. Lewis, Christian Thinker. The description states that the main objective of the program was to “give students a taste of the context in which Lewis lived, wrote, and taught in order to gain a better appreciation of the social, material, and historical factors that contributed to his thought.”
In addition to the seminar readings, students were able to visit the home of Lewis and his grave. They became acquainted with the city as they participated in a scavenger hunt through Oxford and took walking tours of the various colleges in the city, including Magdalen College. Sites of the scavenger hunt included the door and lamppost that allegedly inspired the Narnia series, the Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs, the Alice Shop, and the pubs Lewis and his “inner ring” used to meet at: The Eagle and the Child, the Lamb and Flag, and the Turf Tavern.
For group bonding, the students joined the professors for a group dinner at the Wilding on Clarendon Street, where they were able to have intellectual discussions and get to know one another better. The trip additionally included afternoon tea at the Vaults and Garden Cafe, visiting the Magdalen College Chapel for Choral Evensong, and dinner at Quod on High Street. To conclude the trip, the group took a train into London Paddington and visited C.S. Lewis’ spot in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. The students were free to explore the city after touring Westminster Abbey. Sites visited by the students included Harrods, the London Eye, the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, BlackFriars, the Westminster Cathedral, and much more.
The experience furthered the education of the individuals, unlike any classroom experience, showcasing what a global approach to education can offer.