AHS Class of 1948 helped Williams study in England

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, October 15, 2009

Each year, members of the Class of 1948 Foundation award a graduating Andalusia High School senior a renewable scholarship. For the second year, the foundation also has awarded the Murray and Claire Findley study abroad scholarship, which funds summer travel and study for one of the foundation’s scholarship recipients.

This year, Auburn student Anna Williams received the study scholarship. The Foundation requires the recipient to write an essay about the experience. This is Williams’ essay:

Three years ago when the Class of 1948 Foundation announced that I was to be the recipient of a very generous scholarship, I realized how blessed I was to have attended a school where the alumni give so much back to the students.

However, at the time, I never expected the Foundation to impact my life as much as they have. This summer I was given an amazing opportunity, the chance to study abroad at one of the top universities in the world. The University of Cambridge, located 4,729 miles across the Atlantic Ocean with a six-hour time difference, is a whole other world from small town Alabama.

Traveling alone, that far from home for such an extended period of time, proved to be one of the most overwhelming, exciting and maturing experiences of my lifetime.

Once I arrived in Cambridge, it took a few days, but the warmth of the small quaint town supported by the university began to shine through. Although the constant threat of rain could sometimes drive you mad, when it finally ceased the town became one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Centuries old buildings that were covered in ivy and surrounded by lush gardens jumped out at you from every corner. On a daily basis I would walk past the same places where Darwin theorized evolution and Watson and Crick drew up the first models of DNA. Or if you prefer entertainment over academics, a five-minute walk would lead you to the same pub where members of the band Pink Floyd first decided to play music.

On a normal day in Cambridge, you might learn just as much on a stroll to the Cam River as you did in class or plenary lecture. The town’s history and my course materials were intertwined, each building off each other. I took three special subject courses: “Elizabeth I,” “Henry VIII,” and “Passion in English Literature,” and every day I spent in class, I learned more about Cambridge and in turn more about England.

My English literature course was surprisingly the most interesting and insightful. Through several novels, poems and even films I was able better understand the mistakenly cold personalities of the English. What I had initially taken as a country that thought itself superior to the rest of the world could better be described as a nation that is reserved and set in its ways.

Although I could have spent every day in Cambridge and still not have seen everything, the weekends were a perfect opportunity to travel outside of the university. Since I only got to see bits of London from my train window on the way into Cambridge, two friends that I met in my program and I used our second weekend to revisit the city.

In two days of sightseeing we managed to cram in everything from the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace to Big Ben, Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and even the original Beatles lyrics at the British Library. By the time we made it home, I was well versed in London’s underground metro system. I even thought I may be able to handle public transportation in another language.

So on my final weekend, I shipped off to Paris to meet some friends who were also studying abroad. Although it was not quite as easy I thought, the trip was definitely worth it. I was skeptical at first on whether or not Paris could live up to all the hype that surrounds it. However, between Notre Dame, the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower at night, Paris exceeded all my expectations. As a bonus, we happened to be there on the perfect weekend and got to see the end of the Tour de France. On my train back into the United Kingdom, I realized that my trip was coming to an end, and in one month, I was able to see and do more than most people ever get the opportunity to.

My final week at the University of Cambridge came and went faster than I ever expected. My classes came to an end and suddenly I had to put my adventures on pause and say goodbye to everyone I had become so close to. When you get into a rhythm of spending every day with the same group of friends you don’t notice how much they impact your life. In just a short amount of time, I became friends with people from across the globe. Places like New York, France, China and the Netherlands will now remind me of the time when I went punting down the Cam in the rain or had a picnic at the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester. Although I hated saying goodbye, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience the places I went and meet the friends I did.

Without the Class of 1948 Foundation, I am certain that I never would have been able to do half the things I have done in the past three years. Not only would this trip have been impossible, but whether or not I would have been able to attend Auburn University would be uncertain. Your continued support of Andalusia High School has been a blessing to me, my family, and the entire community. Thank you for making a difference.