British Summer Studies Program: Casey Perez

Casey Perez - BSSP Alumni ambassador

Each day of this trip was jam packed with history lessons and field trips. I went places I only dreamt of, saw things I’d only seen in books, and learned about things I had only heard about.

During the first week in England, we visited some of England’s famous historical sites. Our first trip was to the Tower of London. There, I was able to see the Crown Jewels and Royal Armouries up close, as well as learn the history behind the tower. On another trip, we visited the famous Globe Theatre to see the work of one of the world’s best-known Britons. There I saw the play Much Ado about Nothing acted right before my eyes. I learned much about this great playwright and poet from our daily study sessions. Another destination was Hampton Court. There, I was blown away by the fantastic gardens. It was one of the most picturesque sights I have ever seen.

At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, I stepped aboard the HMS Warrior and saw the very spot where Britain’s great naval hero, Lord Horatio Nelson took his last breath. At Waverley Abbey, I studied and read the poetry of the great Romantic poets while surrounded by nature. Later, I saw the works of Andy Warhol and countless other great artists at the Tate Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was amazing to have all of this art right there in front of me instead of just looking at its picture in a book. I visited Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. I climbed up all 530 steps to the very top of St. Paul’s Cathedral and looked in awe over London.

From talks of our cultural backgrounds, right down to sharing the local phrases and dialects of our hometowns, there was never a dull moment.

One of the most exciting destinations of this trip was Wales. I gazed over some of the most beautiful landscape there is, a wonderful supplement to our study of Romanticism. While there, I went canoeing for the first time in the River Wye. I also got to explore the depths of a coal mine on an exciting tour and study of the Industrial Revolution. Our stop at France was one of the most new experiences I will ever have. We went through the Chunnel crossing and visited Arras and Calais. We went for a tour of Vimy Ridge and I got to stand in the very trenches where brave soldiers of World War I once stood. I got to browse the shops and sample French pastries and be surrounded by a completely new culture and language.

I grew not only from the countless trips to new sites, but from the people as well. Never before had diversity become so much more obvious to me. Even though most of the other participants of this program were American, there were endless questions and discussions amongst us. Like a private investigator, I found myself constantly questioning each one of my companions, amazed at our differences, even at the subtle details that would seem trivial. From talks of our cultural backgrounds, right down to sharing the local phrases and dialects of our hometowns, there was never a dull moment. My encounters were not limited to my fourteen classmates. Throughout the trips, I encountered people from all backgrounds. I found the diversity of England to be a close rival to that of the U.S.

Prior to this, I seemed like a mere houseplant growing in what I thought was an ample sized pot. My experience in England transplanted me from the confines of that now seemingly modest sized pot, into the boundless free soil of a completely new country and culture. I thrived in those two weeks. My roots were free to shoot out in all directions, every new bit of knowledge stimulating growth. This trip was truly a blessing. I was exposed to more in those two weeks than I could have ever imagined. When I left, it was more than just souvenirs that I brought back with me in my suitcases. I brought back enough memories, insight, and knowledge that would fill a million suitcases. It would probably take a lifetime just to unpack them all, and most certainly, that is how long they will last me.