Growing up hearing tales about England instilled in me the strong desire to visit the land of my grandparents but the likelihood of that happening was minimal. My mother and father worked hard to provide for my family but their ever having the ability to send me to England to visit the home of my ancestors was virtually nonexistence. My experiences with the British Isles were limited to my grandparents' recollections and what I was able to read. Neither satisfied my interest but it was all I had and I never missed a chance to learn more.
In the summer between my junior and senior year in high school I was suddenly provided with an opportunity that changed my life forever. In my hometown there is a community group entitled the International Institute. I knew little about the organization but once one of my high school teacher told me about a contest that they were running where the prize was a trip to England I began learning as much about the International Institute that I could. The result was my being able to submit a winning essay that provided me with the trip of my dreams. The week that I spent traveling the streets of London, Windsor and Oxford confirmed in me the importance of family, culture, and tradition.
As my plane landed at the Gatwick airport I was full on anticipation. I was anxious about spending the next week in a foreign country far from home and away from everything that I have ever known but comforted by the fact that at least I was in a country where they spoke my language; or so I thought. Within moments of landing in England I was exposed to new words and expressions that were totally foreign to me and a strong accent for which I was not prepared but I would not allow this to lessen my enthusiasm.
Riding through the countryside on my way into London, my imagination allowed me to envision my ancestors working behind the hedgerows and fields. As my bus, entered the many little towns and villages that dotted along the route, I wondered how my life would have been different if my grandparents had never left this place.
Over the course of the next week, I was able to not only visit my family's ancestral home but I was able to experience first-hand the various places throughout England that I had been reading about since I was a young child and which had impacted not only my life but the life of my entire country. Being able to stand in the shadow of Big Ben, walk among the halls of Parliament and Hampton Court, and, most importantly, to stand on the banks of the Thames River in Runnymede and realize that I was standing the very place that began the political and philosophical thinking that resulted in the formation of my own country, the United States, caused me appreciate even further the close ties between my English heritage and my American life.
My week in England was truly a dream come true for me and every aspect of the trip was enjoyable and enlightening. Through my travels I was able to reflect on the stories and experiences that my grandparents had shared with me and develop a deeper understanding of how the British and American cultures are similar but also distinct. The chance provided me is one that every young adult should experience. Too often the importance of history and tradition in our lives is overlooked but I was provided the chance to witness first hand where my family originated and how they lived while also being able visit the landmarks that played such a significant role in my country's history. Whether I will ever be able to repeat my experience is unknown but I will never forget the magical week that was afforded me. It was a life altering experience.
As I grew up I was filled with romantic visions of England, the land of my grandparents' birth, which compelled me to dream of someday being able to visit the places my grandparents lived and the historical sites that contributed to the formation of my own country. My…