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Experiences brought period of endless exploration, self-discovery

This summer will be forever known to me as a period of endless exploration and self-discovery. Partaking in the University of Cambridge Summer Program was possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made. To be able to attend one of the most prestigious and oldest institutions in the world was not a possibility I expected to have. The thought-provoking lectures triggered a sense of motivation that has inspired me in many aspects of my life. Although, the learning experience within the inner walls of the classroom exceeded my expectations of what it is like to study at a world class university, living in Cambridge was as mesmerizing and dreamlike.  Away from the lecture halls was the beautiful city of Cambridge, filled with mysterious charms on every block. Furthermore, the friends I met in program became a huge part of my Cambridge experience, people and events that I will always hold in my memories. Indeed, looking back now as I am writing this paper, the experience has exceeded far beyond my imagination of what I had originally believed before arriving in Cambridge.

The schedule for the four-week program was split into two terms. The first term was the interdisciplinary term, in which I studied Literary Influences, Sustainability, and International Development, all new subject matter for me. One of the topics that left a profound impact on me was the Sustainability lectures that were offered in rotation by four professors, who gave their personal experiences working in the environmental field. I learned the broad impacts of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and all of the risks that are associated with the rise in global surface temperature; I also learned how to address the issue of climate change and how current businesses can transform their business models to become more sustainable. The knowledge that I acquired has reinforced my understanding of the environmental challenges and fortified my personal responsibility to promote sustainability. Granted that I was still riding on the motivation train from the interdisciplinary term, but my inspiration grew even more intense as I began the Business and Entrepreneurship (BEP) term during the second two-week term. Because I studied finance in undergraduate school at the University of Alabama, I was very aware of why I chose the BEP at the Cambridge Judge Business School, and that was to learn more about entrepreneurship. From digesting concepts about product design and intellectual property protection, BEP gave me a high-level knowledge of entrepreneurship from the very beginning steps of development to the end phase of execution. In addition to the core sessions, the program provided me with many opportunities to interact with my fellow students to work in teams and create a new venture, w guidance from seasoned mentors. Being part of the whole business creation process and completing the final pitch on our venture to professors and fellow students made me more confident as a young professional. Surprisingly, the value of the program came not only come through the lecture slides, but also through the lenses of each speaker.  These speakers ranged from CEO of startup companies to established faculty/researchers of the Cambridge Judge Business School, provided many different perspectives. Throughout the entire four weeks, I have gained so many insights and knowledge in all aspect of my academic and career interests.

Time outside of the classroom at Cambridge was equally cherished. The city itself was a living museum, jam-packed with architectural masterpieces. Living in Gonville & Caius College, one of the oldest colleges at the university was fairy-tale like. Around the city were nearby colleges, such as King’s College and Trinity College, that provided gorgeous sights as I walked to and from class. Aside from visiting all the colleges, there were plentiful activities that consumed much of my free time. Punting down the River Cam with friends was a delightful time; but propelling the boat with long sticks took a little more effort than I anticipated. Less strenuous and equally enjoyable activities included examining 16th-17th century artworks at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and brousing through the Market Square where local vendors sold a wide variety of global delicacies. In addition to the free periods when we could explore, there were other events that was hosted daily by university coordinators.  Among these were the daily evening talks, which offered many interesting discussion topics from the history of Alan Turin, to the Enigma machine to the description of Medieval England life. Twice a week, instead of evening talks, the university hosted social events. One particular enjoyable event was Scottish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling called “Ceilidh.”  The energy from everyone in the room created wonderful but somewhat embarrassing memories for me. This dance along with a choral concert at Trinity College Chapel, and a piano/voice concert at West Road Hall will always be remembered as joyful memories while living in Cambridge.

I believe that one of the most important aspects of life are the relationships we create and build throughout our lifetime. Attending the Cambridge Summer program has provided with so many opportunities to foster friendships, whether through meeting someone for the first time in class or unexpected casual conversations at social events. Before attending Cambridge, I would never thought that I would develop such close bonds with people I have only known for two weeks. Living in Gonville & Caius College, my fellow residents quickly became my close friends. From breakfast to dinner, there were always constant chattering and conversations amongst the group.  From morning lectures to late-night chats at local pubs, there was never a moment of boredom or loneliness. Granted that we all recognized our limited time together; we spent every minute of every day including the weekends together.   Joyful memories of traveling to Peterborough, a small English town forty-five minutes away, would not have been the same without my companions from the first term, and long treks around the city of London with my fellow BEP students. Thankfully, living in the digital age means that we will always stay in contact, one way or another. Talks of five-year reunions, and casual meetups when two of us are in the same country were often mentioned. The saying, “People come and go” is a proverbial pill that’s difficult for me to swallow, especially since I now consider my fellow Cambridge colleagues as lifelong friends. Although saying goodbye is never easy, I firmly believe that the connections I have made will not end soon. I realize that my Cambridge colleague come from all corners of the world and are in different stages of life, but the commonality of our shared Cambridge experiences we shared will keep us connected.

Having this opportunity to study at the University of Cambridge has been one of the best times of my life. During the program, my life has been transformed in numerous ways. I had the opportunity to study abroad for the first time. Before Cambridge, I have never experienced a choral and piano concert live. The skills and knowledge I have acquired from a renowned university will always be with me in my career in business. Finally, I have developed a strong network of friends that I expect to continue. This experience would not be possible without the generous support from the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to Mr. W. Robert Brown, the Murray Findley family, and the Foundation for providing me with the International Study Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. I sincerely thank you for everything. Your fellowship has led me on an amazing path with new doors and beginnings. Once again, thank you for being an important part of my story.

Written by Daniel Nguyen