By Katie Grandin (ArtSci ’14)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only eleven-year-old who woke up half-expecting a visit from a fluffy owl delivering my Hogwarts acceptance letter. Unfortunately my owl never came; I had to accept the sinking reality that I was just a mere Muggle. Little did I know that my life-changing letter would come nine years later, in the form of an invitation to study for six weeks at the Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England.
I came across the Bader International Study Center when I was first looking into studying at Queen’s. I would be lying if I said that Harry Potter didn’t immediately come to mind; I was instantly drawn to the Hogwarts-esque castle. Though I enjoyed my first-year experience at Queen’s, I decided to broaden my horizons and applied for what would turn out to be the best experience of my life.
Before I knew it, I was destined to Heathrow to spend the first month and a half of my summer studying in a British castle.
My excitement upon arrival momentarily faltered as I realized I was in the middle of nowhere. I quickly found the magic in this seclusion: the fairy garden, the Alice in Wonderland-like grounds, the domesticated peacocks, the Shakespeare garden and the real life Whomping Willow. It was all unlike anything I could have imagined. I was also spending my days amongst a fantastic group of people in a real 15th century castle.
Cramming my entire experience into six short weeks seems unbelievable now as I look back; it was busiest six weeks of my Queen’s experience so far. , I tried to live by the mantra that I would sleep when I’m dead (or at least back home in Canada). To call it academically intensive would be an understatement — completing three courses in six weeks is a rewarding feat in itself. Yet I was in Europe, and my feet were itching to get out and travel.
I took advantage of every chance I got to explore the surrounding areas, whether it was tagging along with a class on a day trip into London, extending a mid-term trip to Dieppe, France in order to see more of the country, or, when I felt particularly adventurous, taking a long weekend to explore Croatia. I couldn’t pass up these opportunities, and I’m so glad I ventured the way I did.
This trip has influenced both my outlook on life and my future. I found a sense of belonging in London; a feeling of home where I hope to live in the future. My eyes were opened to new cultures and the beauty of new places, leaving me with a thirst for more. I developed independence and pushed my own limits while navigating these new borders on my own.
Though I wasn’t given a magic wand or a time turner (though I really could have used one), my experience was magical and eye-opening in its own right.