Semester in Britain

Basic information

  • Location: York, England | Map
  • Dates: Spring, 2019 (Application deadline: 10/1/18)
  • Class requirement: Sophomore
  • GPA requirement: 2.50+
  • Cost: To be announced

No matter what major you're pursuing—business, communications, education, English, film, history, information technology, sport and exercise or religion—you'll find classes to take at York St. John University.

Narrow, winding streets, ancient timbered houses so old they're protected by a conservation order and no cars: this is the center of York, the host city for Calvin's semester in Britain. The city's layers of history—almost 2000 years worth—will be a constant source of intrigue as you study at York St. John University, located right in the heart of it all.


York, England

The city of York is located in the middle of a larger region called Yorkshire, an area of picturesque moorlands and valleys, with dramatic limestone scenes to the north, lush, sprawling meadows to the south and coastline landscapes to the east.

Things to do

York is home to many picturesque historical sites such as Jorvik Viking Centre, Clifford's Tower and York Minster, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in northern Europe.

You may also wish to take advantage of your 3-week-long spring break by venturing outside the city's famous walls. York is in the middle of England, halfway between London and Scotland. A two-hour train ride will take you to either place. Students traveling on a budget may also enjoy the convenience and affordability of England's Megabus system.

The program itself includes excursions to historical and cultural sites in cities like London, Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Founded by the Romans as Eboracum in AD 71, the area was ruled by the Angles and conquered by Vikings before becoming a prosperous city of trade in the early middle ages.
Approx. 191,800
York has warm summers with temperatures reaching up to 86 °F (30 °C). Winter is cold and wet, with temperature lows of around 36 °F (2 °C) and plenty of rain. In summer the sun rises and sets in about 17 hours, but winter days only experience about seven or eight hours of daylight.

Program Profile: York, England

In most cases students adapt well to their circumstances, but it is helpful to know what to expect as you prepare for a specific experience. If you have specific questions about a program, we would encourage you to speak directly to your off-campus instructor or director or, feel free to stop by the OCP Office at any time.

Physical expectations: Moderate
Language Importance: Low
Cultural acclimation difficulty: Low
Level of Cultural Interaction: Moderate
Safety & Security Considerations: Moderate

Health Considerations: Low
Mental Health Considerations: Moderate
Lodging: Dorms
Cost: $$$

Social Expectations: By their nature, semesters and interims off-campus are inherently social experiences. Heavy emphasis is usually put on building a strong sense of community within the group, which requires openness, sociability, and a collaborative spirit from everyone involved. Acknowledging that having a diversity of personalities makes a group stronger, it is expected that all participants willfully agree to be an active part of the social community of their interim or semester program.


Physical Expectations


These experiences require no more physical exertion than being on Calvin’s Campus. You don’t have to worry about doing anything physically demanding unless you want to. No physical preparation is required to make the most of this experience.


Moderate physical activity is expected and an average level of fitness is required. You will be doing a great deal more walking then on campus, often over uneven surfaces and rough roads. Some physical preparation is recommended before departure to make the most of this experience.


Be prepared for some serious physical activity requiring an above average level of fitness. This will include a high level of walking over all kinds of terrain as well as other physical demands in all kinds of extreme temperatures. The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy this experience as many activities will be challenging.


Language Importance


English is the predominant language in course location.


Knowing another language is helpful to fulfill the goals of the course but English is also prevalent in course location.

Knowing another language is important to fulfill the goals of the course.


Cultural Acclimation Difficulty


Western conveniences are prevalent. Host culture is very similar to traditions and culture of West Michigan.


Few western conveniences, the need for students to blend in with the surrounding culture is important. Host culture shares similarities and differences with the culture of West Michigan.

No western conveniences, the need for students to acclimatize to local culture is readily apparent. Host culture is vastly different than West Michigan.


Level of Cultural Interaction


Interaction with local culture is limited and very formal (e.g. through organized tours).


Intentional opportunities to interact with local peoples and culture.


Intensive immersion in local culture – host families, service-learning, etc.


Safety & Security Considerations

Although no one can guarantee your safety or eliminate all risks from a study-abroad experience, Calvin College is committed to doing its utmost to provide secure environments in which you can live and learn. Our goal is to minimize risks and keep you aware of special situations as you make decisions about studying off-campus.


Safety concerns are similar to living on campus. Incidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are no specific safety concerns of the U.S. State Department for the areas where you will be studying. However, additional care must be taken to assure a safe and secure experience. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are safety concerns you should be aware of as you commit to this trip. The U.S. State Department has issued a Travel alert or Warning for the area where you will be studying. You will need to partner with Calvin in addressing safety concerns and follow all safety guidelines for the experience.


Health Considerations

Remember, Calvin follows the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for all Calvin sponsored off-campus experiences.


Health concerns are similar to living on campus. Illnesses and accidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. Health Care resources (clinics, medical personnel, etc.) are numerous and you would have easy access to medical care if needed. Some vaccinations will be required, but overall precautions are minimal.


In general, health concerns are slightly higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced and appropriate health care is available but can be harder to access than on campus. Several vaccinations may be required and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Health concerns are higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced at some point. Plans to assure adequate health care are in place but health care facilities could be hard to access during the experience. There may be many vaccinations required for the experience and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Mental Health Considerations

Remember, the Broene Counseling Center cannot provide on-line or phone consultations with students.


Mental health resources are similar to living on the Calvin campus. Mental Health resources (clinics, counselors, etc.) are available and you would have access to these resources, if needed. It could be challenging to find the right resources on short notice and for a short period of time.


Mental health resources are present in various locations during the experience but maybe difficult to access for a variety of reasons.




Group will be camping (living outdoors) at times during the trip.

Host Families

Students will be staying with host families for parts or all of the experience.


Staying in College dorms, similar to Calvin. Roommates will be other Calvin students or other international students depending on your preference.


Dormitory style lodging, shared bathrooms.


Individual rooms (with roommates) and private baths.



Cost of off-campus experiences vary as a result of a number of factors, including the number of students enrolled in the program. Amidst all these factors, the following categories could be helpful, but students are encouraged to check with instructors and directors on specific cost information.


$ Within $500 of tuition, room & board on campus
$$ Between $501 and $2,000 of tuition, room and board on campus
$$$ More than $2,000 over tuition, room and board on campus


$ Less than $2,500
$$ $2,501 to $3,800
$$$ >$3,801


You will study at York St. John University, a school of about 6,400 students which offers programs in the arts, business and communications, education and theology and health and life sciences.

Each student will take four courses while in York:

Two courses taught by the Calvin program director (Professors Frans and Kate van Liere during the Spring 2019 semester):

  • STBR 2XX

    This course will examine the interplay of religion, culture, and politics in Britain from the arrival of Christianity in the early Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. After comparing the historical record of early English Christianity in Roman Britain, and examining the various waves of missionaries in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times, we will consider the role of the Church in medieval English society from the Norman conquest to the Reformation era, and the radical transformation in English cultural and political life brought by the Reformation during the reign of Henry VIII.

    This course earns Historical Foundations core credit.

  • STBR 312

    This course will explore the history and culture of York, Yorkshire, England, and Great Britain, by engaging with their multi-faceted past and global present. By reading a variety of historical texts, novels, and poetry, watching films, and above all engaging with the place and its people, we will come to understand and appreciate how the past has shaped the present. Topics include prehistoric and Roman Britain, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, the Norman Conquest, civil and religious wars, British nationalism and imperialism, industrialization, the World Wars, globalization, and Brexit.

    This course earns Global and Historical Studies core credit.

Students may then choose two more courses from York St. John University's course (or "module") list. Choose modules available during "SEM2". Learn more about direct-enroll transfer credits in academic services.

You may also want to consider taking HIST 225: The History of England, which is offered every fall semester, in order to prepare for the semester in York, and/or the Interim IDIS W24 Preparing for the Semester in Britain which is designed exclusively for students who will enroll in the 2019 Semester in Britain Program.


The grades from the two courses taught by the Calvin instructor will factor into your GPA. The grades for the two courses taken at YSJ will be listed on your transcript, but will not be calculated into your GPA. One credit will be awarded for every five credits earned in a York St. John module (e.g. a 20 credit course will earn you 4 Calvin credits).

Course Fulfillments:

STBR 212: The Literature of Great Britain

  • Literature core credit
  • Literature credit for English major
  • Literature credit for English minor

STBR 312: Life and Culture in Great Britain

  • Global and Historical Studies core course (under review)
  • Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCE)


You will stay in your own dorm room on the campus of York St. John University for the semester.


You must be of sophomore status and have 2.5 GPA or higher to study in York.


The final program cost is based on many factors and is not known exactly until the number of students in the group has been identified. The financial information page covers the details that go into the cost of the program and rough estimates for each. The price for the Britain semester will include:

  • Tuition, room and board; students will receive a weekly stipend to cover all meals while in the program
  • Round-trip airfare from Grand Rapids to the program site
  • Administrative fee
  • Program excursions

Additional expenses not included in the program fee: books, insurance (required), passport, personal spending money and personal travel.

This price may change due to fluctuations in the rate of the dollar against the British pound.


This year's application deadline has passed. Check back next year to apply.

Questions / contact

Frans van Liere

Frans van Liere

Director of Medieval Studies Program
Full profile

Katherine van Liere

Katherine van Liere

Department Chair
Full profile

Chad Engbers

Chad Engbers

Associate Professor
Full profile

Susan Felch

Susan Felch

Director, Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship
Professor of English
Full profile


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