“Our Town” to Basingtoke – Joanne Louise Hjort – United Kingdom 1982

Upon boarding my flight to London on January 2, 1982, I realized that for the next four months, every person I was about to meet would be new. I taught Drama at Bothell High School, in a suburb of Seattle, WA and my counterpart was the Drama teacher at Bishop Challoner Secondary Modern School in Basingstoke, England.

With thirty copies of “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder and a wedding dress (a costume for the play not matrimonial expectations) in my one suitcase, I was ready to meet the students and staff at Bishop Challoner.

Among the things I learned: students called me “Miss.” Knickers in America refer to boy’s trousers that buttoned at the knee, while in England knickers are a girl’s underpants! Kids leaned in at the double doors of the drama studio to listen to me talk because they thought I sounded like a western movie. Even though alcohol was forbidden in schools in both England and America, the Headmaster always pulled a bottle of sherry and glasses out of his file cabinet whenever I visited his office!

I learned so much about how schools worked in England which in turn taught me how to look at workings of the schools in which I taught for another twenty-five years.

It was a life-changing personal and professional experience.

Joanne Louise Hjort – Fulbright to UK 1982

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