This time last year I was heading off across the pond solo to study history at the University of Cambridge in England. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 – meaning it’s over 500 years older than the country I live in! It’s where Sir Isaac Newton thought about gravity under his apple tree, DNA was discovered, and Stephen Hawking taught and worked as a Director of Research until his death earlier this year. Numerous actors, artists, scientists, politicians, and kings have attended the University of Cambridge – and now I can proudly say I experienced life as a Cambridge student too!
The University has an International Summer Program where folks from around the world can take courses in literature, science, art, business, Shakespeare, and more as part of its Institute of Continuing Education. Being the nerd that I am, I chose the history program. To be able to study history in a place that has made its mark on the world was an absolute dream!
To get the full “college experience” I decided to stay in the dorms – Selwyn College to be exact. But, these aren’t your average American dorms, my friends! Have you ever seen more gorgeous buildings?
It should be of no surprise to you that the campus was some of the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films. While food didn’t magically appear before us, it was brought to us by servers and there were even candlesticks and white tablecloths on the final evening of the program. I must say colleges in the U.S. are doing something wrong with their bland cafeterias…
I used my early morning runs and my afternoon breaks as a time to explore the different colleges within the University and the town of Cambridge.
Punting down the River Cam was also a fun pastime! A punt is a flat-bottom boat (below) that is propelled through the water by pushing off the bottom of the river with a pole. You can rent a boat or get a guide (below; pictured taking a break while I give punting a shot). It’s a lot harder than it looks!
Exploring was loads of fun! However, I was also at Cambridge to study. After breakfast, each morning started with an optional lecture within your program’s subject matter. The history lectures ranged in everything from the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1701 to Indian Nationalism in the late-1800’s. I, of course, attended all of them. #GiveMeAlllllllTheKnowledge
After the morning lecture, everyone broke away to attend the morning and afternoon classes of their choosing. (These were decided during the application process.) There were tons of options of courses to take, but I ended up picking classes on Winston Churchill and King Henry VIII.
One neat aspect of learning about these two gentleman at Cambridge is that they both left their footprints on the campus. For example, the King’s College Chapel was finished in 1515 under King Henry VIII. He even built the rood screen (below) in honor of his marriage to wifey #2, Miss Anne Boleyn.
We actually got to take a field trip during my final Churchill class – across campus to Churchill College! While Sir Winston did not attend Cambridge as a student, he was a trustee to the school erected in his honor. Built in the late 1950’s, this college obviously looks a lot different than the more traditional ones, but I enjoyed the contrast.
If I remember correctly, this chair (below) was given to Winston by King Edward VIII (Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle who abdicated the thrown in order to marry Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee). It now sits in the trustee board room. Yes, I felt fancy!
We also got to check out the Churchill Archives Centre at the college which houses one of the largest collections of papers, private letters, and photographs pertaining to Sir Winston Churchill and his career as Prime Minister.
I very much enjoyed my time in Cambridge, England, and I hope to one day return – maybe even as a student again! If the University of Cambridge’s International Summer Program sounds like something you might be interested in doing for 1-4 weeks during the summer, applications open up in December. I definitely recommend it!
As Oscar Wilde said, “you can never be overdressed or overeducated!”