‘Experience I’ll never forget’
By AVA MAY
After a long month of waiting, July 5 finally arrived. This day marked the beginning of a month-long adventure. I was to attend the International Summer Schools program offered by Cambridge University. My term was the four-week long interdisciplinary term, which offered courses in history, politics, literature and other disciplines.
Cambridge University is comprised of 31 colleges, which are scattered throughout the town. The college is a place of residence, where you eat and sleep. I stayed in Selwyn College, Old Court. There was elegant landscaping and the architecture was astounding. Yes, the dining hall resembled Hogwarts in its design. There was a beautiful green grass area in the center of Old Court, surrounded by the dorms on each side. This was special grass- only students of Selwyn College and graduates of Selwyn College are permitted to walk across the grass, or to escort someone across the grass.
The colleges in Cambridge are where a good bit of the impressive architecture has been very well preserved. For example, King’s College looks like a castle. It was exciting to be immersed in medieval architecture in the middle of the 21st century.
The Cambridge International Summer Schools Program offers a variety of subject specific academic programs, as well as an interdisciplinary term to serve the variety of academic interests of the many nationalities that come together to attend these summer schools. I participated in the interdisciplinary term; my classes were archaeology, love in literature and history of medicine.. My program also included an arrangement of very diverse lectures under the theme vision, called plenary lectures. Topics covered in the plenary series ranged from visionary architecture to universities of the future to stem cells research to color perception to cardiac surgery to evolution and more.
The academic experience at Cambridge is one that I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience. My classes as well as the outside lectures I attended were intellectually stimulating. I especially enjoyed love in literature, where we discussed and analyzed some classic English works such as Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, as well as a few poems by William Blake and John Donne. Our instructor was able to bring Shakespeare into a relatable context, so I have a greater appreciation for Shakespeare’s works. I also found that I really enjoyed studying John Donne’s poetry. These seemingly small realizations are pieces of this exceptional adventure that will impact the way I study classic literature.
At 6:30 we were served a three-course dinner each weeknight. For both dinner and breakfast we filed in and sat next to the person who last sat down. This sitting style was conducive to meeting new people at each meal, and I enjoyed the little push to get out of my comfort zone. It was also necessary to say “Could you pass the…?” because we sat at long tables and food was brought to each section to share. I feel like I got a more traditional dining experience.
This summer was the 90th anniversary of the international summer schools, so there were two garden parties held to celebrate the summer schools. One was held at Madingley Hall, which is a nice estate located more in the countryside, at which many of the summer schools coordinators have their normal offices. The other was held at the Cambridge Botanical Gardens. We also got the opportunity to attend a Ceilidh, which was like a folkdance.
There were so many nationalities represented this summer! I met people from Egypt, Mexico, Germany, Romania, Russia, Japan, Korea, China, France, Australia, Peru, Uzbekistan, and of course, the U.S. It was so enlightening to meet such a mix of people and to learn little bits of their culture.
I was privileged with the opportunity to do some sightseeing during my stay in the UK. I went on two excursions organized through the Cambridge Summer Schools program. We traveled to Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is the town where Shakespeare lived and worked. We got to explore the town a bit and then we saw As You Like It performed there. I enjoyed the performance very much! It was in Shakespearean language but there was a modern twist in the costume design and plotline. We also got to visit Canterbury and tour the famous cathedral located there. I was in awe of the large columns, high vaulted ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows.
On our last weekend, Amber Thomas and I decided to organize our own excursion. We traveled via train to Pembroke, Wales and stayed at a bed and breakfast called Glebe House near Nolton Stables. Wales was quiet and the beaches and countryside were breathtaking. We stayed Friday and Saturday night, and we went horseback riding on the beach there Saturday afternoon. We also took a roll in the zorb, which is a large plastic bouncy ball inside which you sit and roll down a hill. It was so much fun! I am so glad we had the opportunity to make this trip and see more of the United Kingdom.
I am honored to have been chosen to study at Cambridge this summer. My experience there is one that I will never forget. I extend many thanks to the Class of 1948 Foundation for their role in granting me this opportunity, and for all the help I received in preparation for my trip.