Shannon Tieken in Lab

yourHarlaxton

A Life Transformed

“My Harlaxton experience was nothing short of transformative.”

Shannon Tieken

Attended Spring 1998

When did you attend Harlaxton?

I attended Harlaxton Spring 1998.

Did you have any unique experiences during your time at Harlaxton?

While in Europe, I went rappelling and rock climbing in the Lake District for my 21st birthday. I also enjoyed antique shopping with my English family and was educated about the difference in age of an American antique versus a UK antique. Another unique experience was staying in a former monastery turned youth hostel in Whitby, England, while exploring the seaside town and its lighthouse.

Does Harlaxton still feel like a second home? Have you returned since studying abroad?

I have not returned to Harlaxton, but I did return to London for business and visited my Meet-a-Family a couple of years after I left England.

Do you have a favorite trip from your time at Harlaxton?

There are so many trips that stand out to me for a variety of reasons that I’m not certain I could pick a favorite, but I have favorite moments from several trips. We entered St. Paul’s Cathedral just as a papal mass was ending (So. Many. People.). I loved exploring the botanical gardens and bartering at markets in Florence. The beaches in Wales were so cold and rocky, but incredibly peaceful and beautiful. The Irish Cream “coffee” at 10:00 a.m. that everyone enjoyed at the Irish village replica made the Ring of Kerry trip even more entertaining. The castles and cathedrals were all so breathtaking—Belvoir, Lincoln, St. Pauls, Westminter, Edinburgh, York—I can still see them all in my mind’s eye.

Did your time at Harlaxton have any influence on your future? Was it a life-changing experience?

Harlaxton changed my life profoundly in several ways. While modifying my curriculum to accommodate studying abroad, I had to incorporate a field biology course, and the only one that was available was mycology. It’s unlikely that I would have taken the course had I not been changing classes to make room for Harlaxton, but I enjoyed the class so much that I went to graduate school to study the molecular biology of fungi and now enjoy a career in academia.

In addition to changing my class schedule to visit Harlaxton, I announced my resignation from an officer’s position I held in a student club. This prompted a friend within the club to “make his move” before I left and ask me out. We began dating, he visited me at Harlaxton on his spring break, and we were engaged several months after I returned. We now have two children and have been married for 17 years.

In a less tangible way, Harlaxton was life-changing by educating me about the world outside the US. I grew up in a small town in rural Indiana and had not traveled much beyond the state border, so my worldview was naturally limited. The exposure to European lifestyle was enlightening, and I was confronted with a variety of experiences regarding cultural diversity, poverty, affluence, language barriers, transportation, commerce, and ethnic customs. Through this, I learned understanding for folks with different life experiences. I learned compassion for those who’ve encountered adversity and difficult circumstances. I learned adventure. I learned passion for travel. I learned a new appreciation for art and craftsmanship. I learned independence and confidence. My Harlaxton experience was nothing short of transformative.

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