West Windsor, N.J.– The patrol officers don’t carry firearms and there are lots – maybe too many? – surveillance cameras on the streets of London. Those were just two take-away observations from a group of Mercer County Community College (MCCC) students who traveled to the British capital for eight days over spring break in March.
Led by Criminal Justice faculty member Elizabeth Bondurant, most of the students were enrolled in the “Police in the Community” (CRJ 102) Study Tour course. Bondurant says there was tremendous educational value in adding a travel component to the traditional curriculum.
“Before we left, the students learned about the history and origins of English policing, which is the foundation of the American system. They compared the two systems, finding similarities and differences,” Bondurant said. “Then we got to see it firsthand. You can’t compare that to learning it out of a book.”
Criminal Justice student Hailey Skopas agreed, observing, “I learned the material better out there experiencing it than in a classroom.” Skopas made a video chronicling the trip that she presented at a post-trip wrap-up session on April 25.
The itinerary included a visit to Parliament, where students witnessed a lively legislative debate, and the Tower of London, where they saw weaponry and instruments of punishment used against law breakers throughout British history. Other attractions included the London Metropolitan Police Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the British Museum, the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, and the Clink Prison Museum. A Thames River Boat Tour provided a view of major sites including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
An added treat was a lecture by a bobby (a British patrol officer) at the hotel about his life as an officer on the street. Students also struck up conversations with bobbies as they traversed the city.
Eric Shutack, a Criminal Justice student who expects to complete his degree next year, said, “We learned about the way the justice system works. It was also a really good way to learn about the British way of life.”
Liberal Arts student Kelly Blake thinks it’s great that Mercer offers Study Tours. “A week is perfect for people who don’t want to commit to a full semester abroad," she said. "You get the travel experience, a new educational perspective, and a chance to get to know your professor and other students outside the classroom.”
All the travelers say they found London to be a manageable city, where the people were polite and the public transportation was easy to navigate.
The group was unanimous that British food was just fine with them. They especially gave a big thumb’s up to specialties like Shepherds Pie and fish and chips. They even found a pizza parlor that served pizza rivaling New Jersey’s best.