When I was in elementary school, I began doing science fairs. This was always a project between my dad and I, and it was one of my favorite parts of every school year. By high school, I was determined to become a scientist, and I took every science class I could cram into my high school schedule. Off I went to college, as a Marine Biology major.
No one told me what to expect of college, much less how to choose a college. There’s another essay (or therapy session) here, but suffice to say, but the end of my junior year, I’d had enough of professors who began the semester with, “I’m only here because it pays for my research.” Ugh! So, I quickly looked at my record and realized the only way to graduate on time was to A) become an English major (I’d been filling my schedule with English courses because they were fun) and B) do a summer semester.
I couldn’t afford to live on campus over the summer, and I lived two hours from my university. Back in those days, online classes were not a thing. So, like any logical young woman, I applied to the summer semester abroad program. There was financial aid for that! Lucky me, I was accepted, and in July I jetted off to Cambridge University for six weeks of classes.
There are no words to express how much I loved every minute of my time there. We were at Gonville and Caius College, right in the heart of Cambridge. I took a survey of the works of Thomas Hardy class, and one called History of England through Architecture. For the latter class, we went on one excursion every week, traipsing over the country-side to places tourists rarely visit.
It was heaven. At least once a week, I attended a play, usually Shakespeare (my concentration with 17th and 18th century English literature, with an emphasis on Shakespeare). We saw casual plays on the various Cambridge campuses, more official performances at The Royal Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon and at the Barbican in London. We visited Canterbury, London, Dover; the estate of Vita Sackville-West, the home (purported) of Shakespeare–we went everywhere. We also took an overnight trip to a college in Wales.
It was much too short of a trip, and I dream of the day when I can take my daughter there. Of course, her interests are very different, so I’m careful to remind myself that she likely won’t love it like I do. But, it will be lovely to share something that’s so very important to me, with her.
I maintain a love for all things English (well, maybe not the food), especially the writers. From the obvious, such as Dame Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to more contemporary choices, such as Louise Penny.
We recently turned our spare room into a library, and I’ve begun digging out my scrapbooks and the books I collected while in England. I’m working my way to shelving the British authors. Little gets accomplished as I try to unpack those boxes, but oh, what lovely memories I get to re-visit!