Stepping off the plane at Heathrow Airport into a cold, gray fog, two locals are overheard discussing their return home. “Well, that’s just England, isn’t it? Damp and gray,” they say, laughing. Coming from the balmy winter weather of Gainesville, FL, the prospect of spending a semester in an English winter might seem daunting. As I have discovered in my first week in Shropshire, however, what the Brits lack in warm weather and sunshine, they more than make up for in charm.
Harper Adams University (HAU) is nestled deep within the English countryside, among the rolling, green hills that have inspired writers like Dickens and Austin for centuries. Within this idyllic landscape, HAU hosts a fully functioning University Farm, spanning more than 550 hectares. There, in addition to the fields of crops, you can find beef, dairy, pig, poultry and sheep units that serve both commercial and research purposes. Personally, I suspect that it is this diversity in the campus farm operations that creates the spectacular range of research opportunities that I have witnessed here. Students at HAU are researching everything and anything on the University farm, from earthworm populations in minimal and no till systems to the effects of forage legumes on high-yielding dairy cow performance!
My first Saturday at HAU was spent watching the rugby at the pub, an establishment and experience that more closely resembled hanging out in a good friend’s living room than going out on the town. Seriously- this place comes complete with cozy arm chairs, fireplace, and three friendly dogs! The game was tense to start, but England pulled it out in the end and everyone celebrated with a “pint.” After the match we wandered into one of the several fish and chips takeaways in Newport. This, I was told, is truly an English experience, as my plate was piled high with battered, fried cod and French fries. My companions ate their fries covered in mayonnaise and gravy. Maybe it is the American in me, but while this combination was better than I expected, I still prefer some good old ketchup on my fries! Still, I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome into the U.K. a nd am looking forward to the adventures to come!