Study included international diplomacy, ancient disease

Published 2:16 am Saturday, August 18, 2018


As the recipient of the Mary Godwin International Study Fellowship, I spent two terms (four weeks) studying at the University of Cambridge this summer with two of my high school classmates, Ian Peek and Peyton Prevett. I was in Europe for six weeks, and during that time I traveled, took courses, sat in on lectures, and overall experienced substantial personal growth. Being away from familiarity, and occasionally a bit out of my comfort zone, revealed things that I may otherwise have never recognized about myself.

Peyton and I were able to travel together before and after our classes. We visited Dublin, Ireland, and Edinburgh, Scotland, before arriving in Cambridge. My best memories during that week were visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and hiking Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Dublin had the kindest people I have ever met, and the architecture in Edinburgh was something I had never witnessed before. In Edinburgh, I felt like we had stepped back into medieval times.

We took a train from Scotland to England, and arrived in Cambridge the Saturday before our courses started. Cambridge is a lovely and tranquil town, and I knew I was in for an incredible time from the moment we arrived. We resided in Selwyn College where the old, stone dorms are adorned with ivy. Downtown Cambridge offered many things such as a daily town market, restaurants, museums, and several other renowned colleges. The market always had something interesting to browse over, and the booths were run by locals. One of my favorite things I did, was climb the bell tower at St. Mary’s Church. From the top of the tower, I could look upon the city, and the horizon seemed to be endless. I spent some of my afternoons at this quaint bookstore downtown, where I would write papers, plan our weekends, or read a novel. Cambridge is a charming city, and the weeks flew by quicker than anticipated.

I am a rising junior at the University of Mississippi, double majoring in Biology and Public Policy Leadership (PPL), so I chose a combination of courses that would be beneficial for both majors. For the first term, I took International Politics in a Global Age. This course was divided into three lectures per day over two weeks and will count as a credit towards my PPL degree. This was one of my favorite courses of the summer; we discussed international diplomacy, international law, globalization, the conflicts in the Middle East, Brexit and the European Union, trade and war, and challenges to the world order today. I learned from some of the most incredible professors – a former British Ambassador to Russia, a Senior Royal Air Force Officer, and several other distinguished researchers, authors, and professors. During my second term, I took both literature and science courses. Out of these, Paleopathology, which focused on ancient diseases, was my pick. This course took a hands-on approach, and we got to work with ancient and modern human bones to predict the diseases that afflicted them. I really enjoy anatomy, plus I am a visual learner, so this class was perfect for me.

While I did a lot of learning in the classroom, I really grew from conversing with a variety of people. Every night, we ate dinner in a large room with long tables that ran from one side to the other. This dinner facilitated some incredible conversations with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. It was such an eye-opening experience to engage with other students regarding topics as simple as our individual life goals to those as complex as our different countries’ governments. Everyone in Cambridge was so considerate, even when we had opposing views, and these discussions made a big impact on my time here.

Something that really stuck with me was when a professor said, “we all are diplomats.” I had never thought of it like that before, but it’s true. Whether we are representing our country, state, city, school, etc., we have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. There were 63 different countries represented here, and people of all ages (18-80) were taking summer courses. I learned that the world is only as big as we make it seem; we decide for ourselves if we will let borders, races, ages, and ethnicities divide us, or if we will unite over shared ideals and goals. Talking to other students my age from Ukraine, Sri Lanka, China, Brazil, and Austria (just to name a few), I realized that we have so much more in common than we like to think.

Traveling also helped to broaden my perspectives. On the weekends Peyton, Ian and I took the train to London for day trips. We happened to be in London during some protests, and it was interesting to observe first-hand the effects of President Trump’s presence in other countries.

After our courses ended, Peyton and I flew the Czech Republic to stay in Prague. This was my very favorite city that we visited this summer. The Prague history was intriguing to me, especially the fact that they have only opened their borders to tourists in the past 30 years. The buildings are an array of vibrant colors, and the cobblestone streets are so charming. Our final day there, we got to tour parts of the Prague Castle, the largest castle in the world. When Peyton and I left Prague to head back to the United States we had one final stop: a layover in Amsterdam, Netherlands. This allowed us just enough time to experience the Anne Frank House and grab some lunch. There are truly no words to accurately describe walking through her home; I had chills reading her diary entries, and it seemed surreal being in the same annex she and her family hid in during World War II. It was a good thing to end our trip on, as it left me very grateful for the life and freedoms that I have.

What I have learned over these six weeks, both in and out of the classroom, has shaped me into a better person. I know that these lessons will stay with me for life, and I will always cherish this experience abroad. This was a summer that I will never forget, and I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation for allowing me this incredible opportunity to learn at Cambridge University.