We recently told you about Saint Leo University's unique class called The World of Harry Potter in this Q&A with Dr. Kathryn Duncan. As part of the course, students took a trip across the pond to England and Scotland in November to explore a variety of attractions referenced in the wildly popular book series and movies.
The class arrived in London and immediately went on a bus tour that included stops at the Prince Albert Memorial, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. The day culminated with a sunset ride on the London Eye.
The next day brought a visit to Oxford where the group visited Divinity Hall, the filming location for the Hogwarts infirmary and where Professor McGonagall taught Ron Weasley how to dance for the Yule Ball. After touring Christ Church, whose dining hall inspired Hogwarts Great Hall, the class toured the Warner Brothers studio, location of film sets, props, and costumes.
London concluded with the Tower of London and more Harry Potter sites, including the famous Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station and a 20th-anniversary exhibit devoted to Harry Potter at the British Library.
A train ride later brought everyone to Scotland, which followed with a tour of Edinburgh Castle and a fun evening at the Christmas market. Important Potter moments included tea at the Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling stayed when finishing writing the series, and a walking tour conducted by an actual wizard that began in the graveyard that inspired the names of Potter characters, including Tom Riddell (later Riddle and Voldemort in the series). One day was devoted to a tour of the Highlands with a stop in Glencoe where Hagrid's hut was once located and the aqueduct seen in the films with the Hogwarts Express zooming across. The highlight was seeing snow! About a third of the students had never seen snow before.
Students Weigh in on the Trip
We caught up with some of the students who embarked on the adventure to find out what they enjoyed most about this unique experience:
"On this trip, this was the first time I ever saw snow. I also got to try Haggis with mayo." – Joshua Leles, a junior English major
"I really enjoyed going into the mountains because Florida is so flat. We also learned how the Harry Potter series has much more of a deeper meaning than how some think it's only written for children." – Travis Farmer, a junior criminal justice major
"Taking the studio tours was a lot of fun. They showed us the soundstages where some of the movies were filmed. We saw the props and costumes they used in the movies." – Kailee McLane, a sophomore criminal justice major
"Seeing where everything was filmed and all of the scenery outside was pretty cool. The graveyard in Edinburgh was pretty cool to see as well." – Melanie Lawton, a senior business management major
"My favorite part of the trip was going into the Scottish Highlands. It was also my first plane ride, and I got to see snow for the first time. I liked seeing where they constructed Hagrid's hut. Also, I feel like we all started out in the class as the shy kids, but now that we've gotten to know each other better, we talk a lot more. The trip definitely helped with this." – Kim Wean, a junior psychology major with a minor in sociology
"The studio tours and Scottish Highlands were my favorite parts of the trip. For a lot of students who had never traveled before, it was a big eye opener." - Don Eubanks, a sophomore criminal justice major (who was also spotlighted in this article)
"I enjoyed exploring the cities and seeing where the different parts of these places came into play with J. K. Rowling's writing." – Katie Young, a junior biomedical major with a chemistry minor
From the Professor's Perspective
Dr. Duncan also chimed in with her thoughts:
"I felt very happy when we all returned to class on Monday morning after the trip. The class seemed more confident, and I felt all the hard work and trip were all worth it. Some of my highlights were getting to see the areas that inspired the infirmary for Hogwarts and the dining hall in Christ Church that represents the Great Hall in the series.
"The studio tours were super cool as well. We had tea at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, which is where Rowling finished writing the series. We also went on the London Eye and got to see a beautiful sunset over London. We visited Westminster Abbey, which I think most of the students enjoyed.
"Overall, I think it was a fantastic experience for everyone to be in such a different atmosphere from what we're all use to being in."
"When I reflect on the experience, I see an important connection between the classroom and the trip. When we read, we are inhabiting another perspective. Studies show that children who read Harry Potter have more empathy. In other words, they have learned how to inhabit another perspective. Travel does the same thing. It opens us up to seeing the world differently, less egocentrically. More empathy leads to more compassion and kindness. Literature and travel are good for the soul.