My time as the UEA American scholar has come to a close and as I embark on the next chapter of my adventures here in Norwich, I am ready to reflect most nostalgically on the year, and adventure, that has now passed. Where has all the time gone?
Well, you know what they say: time flies when you’re having fun and boy was a lot of fun had! What I present to you now is only a brief snap shot of some of the fun I have had while serving as the American scholar in the 2AD.
What does it mean to be an American Scholar?
Each year two scholarships are awarded to two American PhD students studying at the University of East Anglia by the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division. The scholars work alongside Library staff members, providing 10 hours of service each week, and serve as cultural ambassadors, keeping the American presence of the library–fortified by the presence of American servicemen in East Anglia during WWII–in full swing.
I will never forget my very first shift at the library; it was in October. I know this because I got to decorate pumpkins in honor of Halloween. Not a bad first day if you ask me, especially as I absolutely love Halloween. I’ve already started making plans for this year’s Halloween and it’s only July! From that very first shift I knew that I had found my home away from home and that it was gonna be a good year!
As a history buff and as an American living in Norfolk, I have enjoyed learning the rich history of the 2nd Air Division and the people of East Anglia and I have enjoyed sharing it with others, especially the young school children. This year the Memorial Library welcomed five different primary schools into its doors and I have had the pleasure of introducing many of them to our WWII memorabilia and the local history. The children impressed me with their curiosity, their knowledge, their philanthropy—I had one year five student generously try to donate £10 to the Memorial Library—and their criticality. It’s one thing to tell children about the Americans that came over to the small Norfolk villages in the 1940s, the Christmas base parties and the need for rationing; it’s a completely more complex thing to try to explain to them how WWII started—a question often, and fairly, posed by some of the students during their school visits.
I have also enjoyed meeting and hearing stories from the local people who visit the library on a regular basis; the one’s who can remember the American servicemen, the parties, the raids and Norwich before my time. I learn something new with each shift and with their insight I am able to slowly connect the parcels of history that remain in our present–like the old Anderson air raid shelters. I have lived in a house here in Norwich that came with an old Anderson air raid shelter, so imagine my excitement to hear from those who have actually spent nights in them.
But I think my greatest highlight was the 2nd Air Division Heritage League Visit for Memorial Day Weekend. It was during this weekend that I was fortunate enough to attend the Memorial Day Service at Maddingly American Cemetery in Cambridge and meet some of the American WWII veterans who served in Norfolk and their families. It became increasingly clear to me during this visit that I, as an American in Norfolk, was part of a legacy that precedes me and one that will surely surpass me.
Americans have been coming to Norfolk since the 17th century (and most likely before) and Americans have continued to come for a variety of reasons since. I have enjoyed discovering, and sharing, this unique history with local history societies, American visitors and even my own first year American history seminar group from the UEA.
More than anything, my time at the Memorial Library has helped make me more a part of the local Norwich community and for that I have to thank those Americans that came before me and whose legacy I carry on, the patrons of the Memorial Library, the Memorial Trust and of course my colleagues, team and friends of the Memorial Library. Thank you for making this year one I will never forget. It has been a pleasure working with you.
As with most of our scholars, I will be staying on the relief schedule so you may see me on the odd shift here and there. And you will certainly see me again in August for the Children’s Summer Reading Challenge Events hosted by the 2AD so this is hardly a farewell; this is a ‘see ya later.’