Summer at Cambridge

Published 3:03 am Saturday, August 11, 2012

By Jake Ricardy

Editor’s note:  Jake Ricardy is a 2010 graduate of Andalusia High School. He earned an AHS Class of ‘48 Foundation scholarship, which made him eligible for the Claire and Murray Findley International Studies Scholarship, funding summer study abroad.

He is currently studying mechanical engineering at Auburn University. He is the son of Patricia Amerson and the grandson of Wyley and Elaine Ward.

July 7, this was the day marked on the calendar for me to depart from Andalusia on a 20-plus hour journey making stops in Atlanta, across the Atlantic in London, and finally in Cambridge, England. Once in Cambridge, I would take part in the four-week Cambridge University International Summer School Program. I was granted the opportunity to participate in this esteemed program through receiving the Claire and Murray Findley International Studies Scholarship from the Class of 1948 Foundation.

Stepping off the bus upon my arrival, I felt as though I’d stepped directly into a Cambridge brochure; a park to my left, cafes and shops to my right, with towering cathedrals and castle-like structures towering throughout my field of view. After attempting to navigate my way to the Selwyn dormitory (whose position apparently eluded the Google Maps page I was referring), I realized that the craftsmen of the magnificent brick and cobblestone walkways failed to take into account heavy rolling luggage in their design. So, I managed to hail a cab to make it the rest of the way. Walking through the oversized gate doorway I’d finally reached where I was to stay during my time in Cambridge and found it to be quite a different place than my small hometown of Andalusia, Ala.

Over the next few weeks my free time was predominantly spent exploring the city and its renowned architecture. Not normally being one to be overly impressed with only pretty scenery, what I found intriguing about the structures in Cambridge was how well they stood up over time. These buildings are centuries old, many built in times only represented in history books, and are still today some of the most distinguished in the world; and unlike many historic buildings, most of these are still fully in use today. Also, the sheer number of these notable buildings was remarkable. It seemed that around every corner was another pre-twentieth century structure with a story as, or more, unique than the last.

However, this scouring through the historic city was limited. My weekly schedule was heavy with classes and lectures. My classes covered topics in poetry, the education system, and British politics (quite different from my regular engineering curriculum), and in the lectures I was exposed to a wide array of experts speaking on their respective fields of study. To put the academic aspect figuratively, I would say the professors, lecturers, and class environment in essence was fertilized soil for the seeds of ideas. Crucially, this environment was not just created by the highly-qualified Cambridge assigned professors, but was also by the collaboration and rapport between these teachers and the keen students.

It is the bringing together of these students from all over the United States and the world that really makes this program such a rare experience. Over just the first couple nights, I had conversations with people from more countries than states I have visited. The exchange in cultures that took place during the Cambridge International Summer School really gave me a tremendous amount in terms of knowledge of the world. It’s as if I traveled across the globe, not just to Cambridge, through interactions with all the people I became acquainted with throughout the program.

Reading through this thus far, you most likely have picked up on how different a place Cambridge is from south Alabama, yet, I found that, when you got to the core, the people there are actually very much similar to those back home. Perhaps the best example is the constant talk of the rivalry between Cambridge and their “villainous” foe, Oxford. This clearly is quite familiar to the always-heated rivalry between Auburn and Alabama (I do apologize to Oxford for such an unappealing comparison). In all, my experience was one to be remembered, and I hope to return to visit Cambridge again (with raincoat in hand).

I would like to thank the Class of 1948 Foundation for everything they did in providing me with this opportunity and experience.