When I first signed up for a summer semester at the Bader International Study Center, I had no idea what I was really in for. Sure, the program was held in East Sussex, England, home to many a beautiful green field, and yes, classes took place in Herstmonceux Castle, but I didn’t dwell much on the location of the summer program itself.
Instead, my mind wandered to the trips I would take on weekends off: I would go to Venice, Amsterdam, and Paris, to start. This was my first time in Europe, and I had long dreamed of visiting the fabled cities that had grown to epic, impossible proportions in my mind. While of course I was looking forward to seeing what the countryside of England was like, I was way, way more excited to visit the cities I always saw in cultural media (alright, on Gossip Girl).
But I was in for a shock. When I first walked up to the beautiful castle that had featured on every “summer abroad” pamphlet I had picked up at Queen’s University that last year, I realized that a photo could never do the entire castle’s grounds justice. Herstmonceux Castle was absolutely stunning- and over the six weeks that I studied there, it became my favorite place I visited that summer.
The castle itself catered to every fairytale fantasy I had ever harbored. Yes, it had winding staircases and sweeping ballrooms. There were multiple gorgeous gardens found around the castle itself, including one called “The Magic Garden” (which warned visitors not to frighten away the fairies- I love it!); and of course, no English castle would be complete without a “Shakespeare Garden”. I kid you not when I say that peacocks were found wandering outside of classroom walls and by the castle’s entrance- the place even had it’s own ghost story, for god’s sakes!
Basically, it was beautiful, it was magical, and there was enough history and myth attached to the building itself that I could have spent much longer than a summer learning all about it. But I don’t think that’s the only reason Herstmonceux Castle became my favorite place I visited that summer in Europe- and now, I have some overly-sentimental musings to impart. I know that we all have heard the age-old maxims, “Home is where the heart is” and, “A place is only as good as the people in it.” I loved Herstmonceux Castle so much not only because it was beautiful, but also because of all the amazing friends I made inside of it. And that was something no elegant, exciting European city could top.
So yes, I recommend that you travel wherever you dream to go, and I especially recommend you sign up for the Queen’s University Bader International Study Program. But above all else, I suggest you take someone important in your life along with you. Or better yet, prepare to meet those important people along the way.
Jaclyn Marcus, Editor-In-Chief