In today's post, Mariah talks about her summer Travel Writing class with award-winning author and professor Michael Meyer, what their class trips were like, and the importance of documenting the city and practicing the art of travel writing.
I knew my decision to take the Travel Writing class would be a good one. My teacher, Professor Michael Meyer, is a fun and easy-going University of Pittsburgh professor who takes us to different museums and places around London to explore. Along the way, he assigns us weekly readings and encourages us to write about our experiences while teaching us different writing styles to improve our skills.
For our first class, we went to Hyde Park. As many of London’s park attractions, the park was full of green. Statues stood tall on every corner we turned and tourists wandered through the beautiful gardens and pathways. For this exploration, he wanted us to imagine a scene. We were told to take notice of what we see around us, engaging our five senses of smell, touch, sight, and sound. It was an interesting day where he told us to sit down, ‘open our eyes’ and just ‘take notice.’ I was meant to be the ‘fly on the wall,’ observing all that I see.
Other visits were mostly museums. We visited the Tate Museum, British Museum, and the National gallery. The Tate Museum I enjoyed the most with the interesting art pieces that sculpted the halls. However, the British Museum was astounding in structure and size. It was almost impossible not to get lost.
Through these excursions, I gained immense knowledge of the history of London. One of the main things I’ve realized is that England is a ‘collector.’ They are a collector of art and artifacts. The British Museum, I’ve realized is truly not British at all. Instead, it’s a collection—a collection of artifacts and culture from different countries around the world. I realized this the most with the British Museum. Their statues and ancient hieroglyphics from African tribes and the Chinese and other Asian garments were historical to the land from where they came.
These trips were one of the many ways I take advantage of exploring London. It’s nice not to have to spend hours in a classroom. What makes the CAPA program so great is that many of the other classes are based off of exploration is well. This makes it more fun and engaging, and through my class I’ve learned to think about what I see. Travel writing is not only about exploring but taking notice of what’s around you and being able to document what you see and experience to others.
In class, we learned to do set pieces and scene pieces. In other words, we’re exploring different writing styles in relation to writing on a scene that takes place—with a character and plot and a setting, where we describe what’s around us and a place and its history.
One of my classmates set pieces was on British tea, where she described the history behind the British tradition. It’s where we learned that tea was actually originated from Chinese culture. I enjoyed this class because of how it was structured. Instead of spending our time, reading articles, and listening to a lecture the entire class, professor Meyer wanted us to spend our time exploring. He believed that we would learn and engage more through visual representations. After exploring he different sites, we would take the time to fill out the questions based on what we’ve seen. It was a great way for us to stay engaged with what we learn.
See more of Mariah's journey in London.