Architecture student loved visiting England’s landmarks

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2016

Editor’s note: MAIA MEREDITH was among the three students who studied in England this summer on scholarship from the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation (formerly Class of ’48 Foundation). A requirement for participation is writing an essay to be published in The Star-News


Being the recipient of the 2016 Robert and Judith Brown International Study Fellowship from the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation was life changing. Having never travelled outside of the United States, the trip was extremely eye opening and breath-taking. I met people of all ages, from all over the world, all brought together with one object in mind: to attend classes at the University of Cambridge and to learn from some of the world’s most eminent scholars. I saw things and places I have only ever read about or seen on a television screen.

0813-2016-Cambridge-ScholarsWhen I was not in the classroom, learning about and discussing literature with fellow avid readers from around the world, I was out and about Cambridge, exploring the medieval streets as if there were no tomorrow. Rightly so, since my time there was limited. I toured the various colleges and walked all throughout the city center, keeping in mind the whole time that Charles Darwin had walked there, Isaac Newton, Watson and Crick, even Tom Hiddleston. I saw Gothic buildings that were centuries old and a Romanesque church built in 1020, just four years shy of its 1000th birthday. It would be impossible to see and do all that Cambridge has to offer in just four short weeks, but I gave it my best go, especially given the weather was preternaturally sunny and warm. I took advantage of the weekends to do some travelling.

I managed to catch a flight to Northern Ireland to meet up with some personal tour guides (my aunts) who showed me the best things in Belfast, a tall order for just two days. Ireland gave me my first real taste of the typical dreary weather I had expected from England, with rain and cloudy skies one moment and sunshine and blue skies the next. The rain did little to impede to my adventures, though. I saw where the Titanic was launched, an old Victorian gaol, and got closer to my heritage by walking the streets my father had walked in his youth, surrounded by the same mountains he had been surrounded by.

London was only a 40-minute train ride away from Cambridge and turned out to be a whole multi-faceted and fascinating world all on its own. It was mind blowing to walk the same streets as Shakespeare, Dickens, Doyle, and countless others who have impacted the world with their work. In London, I got to visit one of my favorite buildings as an architecture student, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Its immensity and beauty were beyond all the pictures I had seen and all the PBS specials I had watched. Even now, after weeks of letting the experience settle in my heart, it is still beyond earthly word to describe the utter awe with which I beheld that crown jewel of the English Renaissance style. I also saw all the London staples: the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and, of course, Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾.

My last weekend, I invested in a longer train ride up into the northwestern country of England, to Haworth, Yorkshire. Haworth is a small village that the country’s railway system does not reach. I had to change trains and get there via steam engine. The purpose of my journey to such a little village was the fact that the authors of my favorite books had lived and wrote there. Haworth is home to the Brontë Parsonage, where Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë all grew up. Their novels impacted me greatly growing up and so to see where they had lived and to hike up those hilly cobblestone roads just as they must have was an otherworldly experience, one that made shivers run down my spine.

As a whole, the trip was incredibly enriching and has stirred in my soul an itch to travel that I do not think will ever be satisfied. I came home with memories that have no price tag and that will be with me always, as well as a reading list ten miles long. Learning never stops, no matter where you are, but it sure was magical to study and learn at one of the best universities in the world and to get to experience entirely new and different places. I hope to go back, maybe to work, maybe to live, maybe even to just repeat the International Summer School Programme, like many of the people I met there do, or to volunteer at the Brontë Parsonage. I hope to go back, but I also hope to explore somewhere new, to make this once in a lifetime opportunity into the start of a sentence and not the end of one.