Between museum hopping, pub exploring, and petting the late queen’s royal horses, Gracie Traviño kept busy this summer on her study abroad trip to London. The ten-day excursion in June was an end-of-year opportunity awarded to students who completed the accompanying History of the British Empire course at Lewis University in Illinois — and it marked the first time that Gracie, a British history aficionado, traveled to the country that fuels her passion for history.

A Give Back scholar and junior at Lewis, Gracie juggles a busy schedule as a double major in History and Theology, and a Donnelly Grant Intern working on preserving Joliet-era history in the university’s Adelmann Regional History Collection. Through her studies, Gracie intends to pursue a PhD in History, with a concentration in the British or Latin Empire, to ultimately teach at the collegiate level.

Her fervor for history, and Britain, ignited when she was just six years old and has continued to swell over the years. Studying everything from the Prohibition to Spanish Morocco and in between, Gracie is fascinated with learning about how people justify their actions, and is inspired by such prominent figures as the late Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria — both of whom taught her that you don’t have to be a man to run an empire. So when she learned of the opportunity to take a course that aligned with her passions and allowed her to travel abroad, she was elated.

“It was really exciting to travel to England, especially after everything I learned in the class about the history of the empire,” said Gracie.

Gracie was accompanied by eight of her peers and the course professor on the trip. Together, they visited a host of museums and galleries, seeing such marvels as Rafael’s paintings and the Elgin Marbles; attended a Westminster Parliament session; talked to the locals about political issues; experienced pub life; spent some quality time with the late queen’s horses; and much more.

“I think it’s important to have these types of experiences because they are very eye-opening,” she added. “It’s important to see the world and see things for how they really are. You’ll learn that people really aren’t as different as you think they are.”

Officially her favorite class of her academic career thus far, the History of the British Empire course offered Gracie a unique opportunity to experience, first-hand, a culture that plays such a meaningful role in her long-term career and educational endeavors. Now that she is back home and more inspired than ever, she plans to continue working toward her goals in academia, while making sure to carve out some time in her bustling schedule to join a few different clubs, make new friends, and do some of the things she loves best — like reading Tolkien, playing piano, painting her nails, and spending quality time with her family.