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Semester in London allows junior to explore favorite novel setting

02/18/15

A huge fan of gothic literature and Dracula stories in particular, Jeri “Mina” Beeler ’16 of Cohoes, N.Y., studied in England last semester, at London’s Queen Mary University.

“It was an amazing experience, standing in places I read about so many times, and seeing them come to life,” Beeler said.

Her experience included a visit to Whitby – the place where Bram Stoker’s Dracula lands when he arrives in England.

C:\fakepath\Mina Beeler sm.jpg“It was where Stoker would vacation, and everything in Dracula – the people, the places – it was all inspired by Whitby. He would have set the book entirely in Whitby, but he felt London would make a larger impact on readers,” Beeler explained.

“I was there to explore Whitby, and, most importantly, see Whitby Abbey,” she continued. “I found my hostel was not only next to the Abbey, it was actually the Abbey house,” Beeler said. “Whenever I went outside, the Abbey was right there. It was ancient and looming and beautiful. You could see the inspiration for the castle in Stoker’s novel when you looked at the Abbey.”

During her stay, Beeler got up early to visit St. Mary’s cemetery and church, which overlook the town and harbor.

“It was so beautiful and peaceful,” she said. “Going to Whitby was a dream come true. It was magic.”

Looking back on the experience, Beeler said living and studying in London was “the most amazing experience of my life so far. It was so hard to come back to the United States. I had grown so much, had life changing moments, and made lifelong friends with my flat mates.”

The first two weeks; however, were difficult.

“I never thought I would experience culture shock, but I did,” Beeler explained. “Living in a city like London was jarring to my system. I’m used to mountains, forests, suburbs. I was asking myself, ‘Can I really do this? Can I survive in a city like this?’”

However, she quickly became accustomed to life in London and connected with her flat mates, most of whom were from throughout England. The experience opened their eyes to the stereotypes they held about each other’s country.

“For example, they believed it was custom that every American family owned at least one gun, every single household, while I think many Americans I have known see Londoners as very posh and uptight,” Beeler said.

Her favorite class at Queen Mary was “Life of the Nun.” A once-a-week seminar, it was the equivalent of a senior seminar class at MCLA, and included a visit to an enclosed convent by Hyde Park.

“Our big assignment was a 3,500-word research paper,” Beeler said. “I chose to write mine about demonic possession in convents as a political tool or coping mechanism.”

Back at MCLA, she serves as treasurer for the Anime club. “Liking Anime isn’t very well received from where I come from, and here there are 40-plus people who love Anime, and everything that comes with it, just as much as I do,” she explained.

With career aspirations to be an archivist, Beeler enjoys knowing “almost everyone” in her history major. “You can bond over the classes you’ve taken together. It’s like we’re all growing together. We have different destinations, but for right now were all on the same journey and helping each other along.”

Heading into her senior year at MCLA, “I’ve learned so much – not only in classes but through the other students, and I have met people who have changed my life,” Beeler said.