Exchange Diaries Herstmonceux: First-year at the BISC

Paulina Malcolm is spending first-year at the BISC in in Herstmonceux, England. She’ll be sharing her experiences every three weeks as a regular contributor to Lifestyle.

This time last year, I wasn’t thinking that I would spend my 18th birthday exploring the streets of London. I wasn’t anticipating that my first legal drink would be in a pub across the street from the British Museum, either.

The opportunities that I’ve been given so far during my time at the BISC have been amazing — and it’s only been a few months. I never imagined taking classes in a 15th-century castle in the middle of the East Sussex countryside when I first applied to university.

Herstmonceux Castle and its grounds are beautiful, even in the wintertime during an intense rainstorm. It does take a while to get anywhere else, though, since we really are in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve learned a lot about the history of the castle itself and how the BISC got to be what it is today. Most of the classes I took in my first term related a lot back to the history of Europe and, more specifically, England. This made travelling feel as though it had more of a purpose to me and I was able to understand a lot of what I saw in more depth.

Somewhere that doesn’t require too much travel time from the castle is Brighton, one of my favourite cities I’ve visited so far during my time here. The high street displays more mainstream stores while side streets are dedicated to quirky gift and trinket shops.

I can’t stop myself from going into the huge antique warehouse every time I go to Brighton. It’s filled with vintage teacups (which make classic, cheap gifts for everyone at home in Canada) and an overload of Barbara Streisand records (they must have really liked her here for a while and then decided all at once that they were over this phase).

I saw Sharon Van Etten in Brighton last November with a friend in a small church. After having seen The National play their last tour show at the O2 arena, St. George’s Church seemed the perfect venue for a more subdued, yet no less wonderful, show.

On the mid-term trip to Edinburgh, I saw a city that seems to have a life to it that I’ve never felt before in a place. I felt as though the city maintains much of its history even today.

The week after the mid-term trip was Reading Week and I spent it in Barcelona. The first few days were carefully planned out and followed I strict schedules with the friends that accompanied me on the trip.

I was lucky enough to have gone with people who seemed to know a great deal about Barcelona. Personally, I didn’t do much preparation for this trip. And so, with a vague understanding of direction and few destinations left that I felt compelled to see, my last day was dedicated to a relaxed wandering of the streets.

My favourite souvenirs from this trip were various Picasso-themed trinkets from the Picasso museum and a CD I picked up on my last day of a trio of street musicians.

The things I’ve done were so different from how I imagined they would be—and I think that’s been for the best. So far, it’s been the things I wasn’t expecting that have made this experience worth it to me.

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