A Concordia dispatch from Cambridge: American students experience the UK in mourning

The Concordia Courier

England

By Madison Zuniga | 9/23/2022

The United Kingdom observed a national day of mourning on Mon., Sept. 19. Shops, restaurants and businesses all shut down in remembrance of the late Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on Sept. 8, 2022. 

Ten students from Concordia University Irvine, this author included, have joined the British populace in mourning the queen’s death. The student group is participating in the semester-long study abroad program offered by Concordia in the historical university town of Cambridge, England. The start of the fall term was delayed due to the day of mourning, so rather than begin classes Monday morning, the group watched the queen’s funeral procession and service live on television. 

“It really is a once in a lifetime event. It’s insane to see how much it affects the country, because nothing like this could happen in any other context. The queen has been alive for so long, she’s lived through it all, and now they’re laying her to rest. It’s incredible that the whole country has shut down for this.” said Sarah Decker, sophomore. 

The queen’s death has impacted the Cambridge study-abroad experience from the start. On the morning of Thurs., Sept. 8, several Concordia students prepared to depart from the Los Angeles International Airport to Heathrow Airport in London. The news of the queen’s death was released around 10:30 a.m. in Pacific Standard Time. “It’s crazy that we got to go through this. [The queen died] on the day we went to Cambridge, to England. The timing is insane,” said Ariel Spilman, sophomore. She commented on how sudden it felt, and how no one seemed to expect it. “It’s exciting because we get to experience and be a part of such a historic moment.”  

For Americans, no event seems equivalent to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Many Americans might view the passing of the queen as a historical occurrence, or perhaps the death of a celebrity. It is difficult to comprehend the cultural role the queen played in the United Kingdom. The Concordia Cambridge students have now experienced Britain’s reaction firsthand. “It’s one of those things you would never think you’d be semi-involved in,” said Julia Swan, sophomore. “One of my friends said that it would be something I told my future kids about, and it would be like ‘I was just about to get on my flight to England when the queen died!’”

On the flight, British Airways announced the event, and gave a moment of silence. In Heathrow Airport in London, dozens of screens displayed mourning messages and gray-toned photographs of the late monarch. In Cambridge, memorial shrines were displayed in every church, and in the windows of businesses. The memorials consisted of a photo, usually accompanied by candles, flowers, and perhaps a condolences book, open for mourners to sign. It seemed that the kindly face of Elizabeth II was everywhere, old and young, smiling gently from windows, signposts and banners.

The administrators for the Concordia Cambridge program commented on the significance of the event, recalling in comparison the passing of the Queen Mother in 2002, and the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The loss of Queen Elizabeth was certainly the most momentous of recent royal deaths, and has united the people of Britain in a unique and fascinating way.

A visit to London revealed a striking example of the reaction of the British people. On September 14, the group of Concordia students took the train down to the city, and were strictly advised to stay away from iconic locations like Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, due to the massive crowds gathered there. 

The queen’s lying-in-state period was open from Wed., Sept.14, to early Monday morning, Sept.19. Thousands of people lined up to pay their respects. The Queue, as it was referred to, stretched along the river Thames and through the streets of London. Police officers present at the Queue informed the Concordia students that at its height, the line was six miles long, and a thirty hour wait. “The line itself is sort of awe-inspiring, in that it was able to bring the country together. The whole country came together in order to mourn a monarch,” said Hailey Martinez, sophomore. 

Arriving in England at the time of the Queen’s death has inevitably made the study abroad experience vividly memorable. As visitors, the students of Concordia embrace this opportunity to experience the country of England during a time in which it is united by the loss of their queen. “I’m just really moved by the fact that in our modern setting where there’s so much conflict with politics, with the British people there’s now unity. There’s largely a consensus that she was a great stateswoman, a piece of history and someone to be admired and mourned,” said Oliver Di Martino, sophomore.

For more information about the Concordia Cambridge program, or other study abroad opportunities, contact faith.mckinney@cui.edu.

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