Before coming to St. Cloud State University I had already planned to study abroad my sophomore year. I had always wanted to travel to Europe, especially to England, and had heard about the Alnwick, England program from a cousin of mine who attended SCSU. I automatically decided to go to SCSU for college, based simply off that particular study abroad program. Having known that I was going to study abroad in England since I was a junior in high school, I thought I was more than prepared when getting ready to depart. I studied abroad in the Fall of 2008 of my sophomore year. Not only was I excited to travel and learn about a different culture, but to make new friends and to live in the “Harry Potter” castle of course!
After saying goodbye to my friends and family and departing from the airport, I sat back to try and enjoy the eight hour plan ride to Amsterdam, Netherlands. From Amsterdam we got on another flight and flew for about an hour and a half to Newcastle, England, where we then took an hour bus ride to our new home in Alnwick. I’ll never forget the first time I laid my eyes on the Alnwick castle. Being over 900 years old it was quite a sight to behold. I’ve grown up reading about castles and seeing pictures but now I was looking at one right in front of me that I was going to live in for almost four months! Now that I was actually in a whole different country I began to realize that I wouldn’t be seeing home for the whole semester and I thought to myself “What have I done?” The first day and night was rough, I was home sick and I kept thinking of how many things I was going to miss back at home. I soon snapped out of my funk though as I got to know the 21 other SCSU students I was traveling with and became excited for the adventures that I would have for the next four months.
While in England we were required to take courses including International Studies, Modern and Contemporary Britain, and Early British History from 1529-1689. These courses, taught by British faculty, helped me to learn more about the British culture and to understand things such as their political, medical, and educational systems. Each semester the course offerings vary depending on which SCSU faculty accompany you on your trip. All courses are taught in the castle. SCSU study abroad students have the privilege of living and studying in the Alnwick Castle where the Duke of Northumberland resides along with his family.
While in Alnwick, England, students take classes Monday through Thursday and almost every Friday we went on fieldtrips around Northern England (one was to the capital of Scotland). The unique thing about these fieldtrips is that the faculty take the students to places pertaining to what you’re learning in class. I found that I got a lot out of my learning experience while in England because of this factor. Not only do the students learn in the castle but you live, sleep and eat there as well. There are dormitory rooms set up in the SCSU section of the castle where you and your roommates (usually two to a room, however, sometimes three people share a room) live. Also, there is a dining area where the students get three meals a day, Monday through Friday. The students also have computer rooms, a laundry room, a student kitchen to cook food in on the weekends and a lounge to watch movies in.
Along with the Friday fieldtrips, the meals and accommodations in the castle, there is a four day trip to London included in the program fee. I also participated in an optional three-day trip to Paris. While in England, students not only get these Friday fieldtrips, trip to London and possibly Paris, but also we were given a week break in September and a two week break in November (similar breaks are given in the Spring and Summer). This is a time where we were able to travel where we pleased or just relax at the castle and explore Alnwick. For my one week break I traveled to Ireland and took a Patty Wagon tour (something I highly recommend). Ireland was by far the best vacation I have ever been on and possibly the most fun I had while studying abroad. I also chose to go on the three day Paris trip and I definitely do not regret it. Along with traveling to Ireland, London and Paris, I traveled to Amsterdam during my two week break.
Being able to live and study in another country was the best experience of my life. I believe I learned more in those four months of my life than at any other time. I met lifelong friends who I traveled with from SCSU and met a variety of people while abroad. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. Even though I did miss a lot back at home while abroad and left a big dent in my bank account, the memories and experience were and are worth it all. I highly encourage all students to study abroad for it opened my mind up even more to the world and taught me so much more than I could have imagined.