Published 12:06 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

John David Thompson poses for a photo at Stonehenge. | Courtesy photo

John David Thompson poses for a photo at Stonehenge. | Courtesy photo

Thompson studied, traveled during July

By John David Thompson

As recipient of the W. Robert and Judith Brown International Study Scholarship, I was privileged to spend four weeks at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education’s International Summer Schools.

I spent the month of July traveling, studying, and making memories that will last for the rest of my life.

I studied in the interdisciplinary and history programs, and I took courses in art history, the English Reformation, the Tudors, and the Second French Empire under Napoleon III. Visiting Tudor palaces such as Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, and Hampton Court, as well as significant churches of the Reformation like the Parish Church of St. Thomas in Salisbury, brought my studies to life. Furthermore, I studied paintings that are in the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London. Touring these monuments and museums greatly enhanced my appreciation of the courses.

Additionally, the Summer School held a morning and evening plenary lecture series: Influence and Illumination explored topics such as the possibilities of the powers of light, the recent illumination of the Michelangelo bronzes in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, and the writings of two of my favorite Greek philosophers: Plato and Socrates.

The Heroes and Villains lectures series during the History Summer School explored some of the most intriguing figures of modern and early modern history.

The subjects ranged from Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, to Mary, Queen of Scots, Cardinal Wolsey, and Oliver Cromwell. Some of Cambridge’s leading historians gave these lectures.

Each gave insights that challenged traditional views of these figures. Afterwards, I had to decide whether the subject was a hero or a villain.

During the afternoons and evenings, I used my free time to explore Cambridge.

Learning the history of the University and its constituent colleges was quite interesting as it differs greatly from the system of nearly all other universities, except for schools like Oxford, Yale, and Harvard.

I also took advantage of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival and attended concerts in King’s College Chapel and Trinity College Chapel.

Both chapels, besides being perfect settings for a concert, are deeply symbolic of the Henrician Reformation since they were built in the sixteenth century.

The other students from Andalusia, Anna Beth Bowden and Catherine Grace Searcy, and I spent the weekends exploring Southern England.

The first weekend, we stayed in Brighton, enjoyed fish and chips, and toured the Royal Pavilion: a former royal coastal retreat styled after buildings in China and India. We also took a day trip to Canterbury Cathedral, one of the most spectacular in England, and Dover.

The next weekend, we took the short train ride down to London. We spent the weekend exploring some of London’s best attractions: The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, National Gallery, and the British Museum. Sunday night, I went to the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra did a Beethoven program that concluded with a very emotional and exciting performance of his 9th Symphony.

Finally, the last weekend, Anna Beth and I spent Saturday at the Ascot Racecourse’s George VI Weekend.

Approximately 40,000 people were in attendance at this prestigious event.

The next day, I toured Windsor Castle, Salisbury, and Stonehenge. 5,000 years old, Stonehenge was one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever visited.

On our last evening in Cambridge, the summer schools held a formal closing dinner for us. Steak and lemon sorbet were on the menu.

After the directors gave their closing remarks, they presented us with our certificates.

As I walked back to my room to finish packing, I reflected on what an amazing experience I had had.

Studying at Cambridge was an incredible opportunity and an experience that I will never forget. I greatly appreciate the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation for providing this opportunity to expand my worldview.