On a sunny Friday afternoon, the 2nd of October, a few score General Course students stepped onto a bus that would carry them to Cumberland Lodge, nestled within the 5,000-acre Windsor Great Park. While situated less than a two-hour drive from the LSE campus, the students would be transported to a place of both learning and cultural discovery. There they would explore the intricacies of modern British politics, live the life of royalty as they learned about the current Queen of England, recount the fall of the European financial systems during the Euro Crisis, devote themselves to learning about the creation of new religions, and even find themselves embroiled in the political and social battles of drug reform. All within the span of three days.
Passing through the entrance gates, the students were treated to a spectacular view of the park. Ancient oaks aged over a thousand years, herds of wild deer, and beautiful ornamental gardens awaited the group as their bus meandered its way through the grounds. Setting foot on the ground outside Lodge, the travelers had a moment to take in the grandeur of the building before bustling inside to get checked in. The rooms looked as though they were taken directly from 19th century England with their elegantly decorated interiors. Many were surprised to find an expansive bathtub in place of the usual shower. Quite a few students remarked on the indulgence of taking a bath, especially after ages of washing standing up!
The events of that first evening set the ground for the educational enrichment that would be taking place over the next few days. The first lecture given was one on the Euro-Crisis by Professor Paul De Grauwe, a faculty member of the LSE European Institute, who educated the students on the causes of the crisis while passionately advocating for cooperation among EU members, concluding that the only path for EU survival is political, along with economic, union. After dinner, a talk by the director of the lodge himself, Dr. Owen Gower, was given on the history and importance of Cumberland Lodge. Next on the list was a presentation on drug reform given by LSE faculty member Dr. Michael Shiner, who explained the political and social battles of drug policy taking place both within the UK and internationally.
The next morning, students were treated to a full English breakfast, followed by a lecture on British politics over the past few decades by the General Course’s very own Dean Hoffman. This lecture got the students up to speed with contemporary political party politics within the political system. Wrapping up the lecture, the students then partook in morning coffee and tea before heading to their next talk on the life of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, by the writer Hugo Vickers, who described the importance of the royal family and monarch in British life and politics.
After lunch, the students had free time to do with as they pleased. Some chose to explore the beautiful Great Park and walk amongst nature. Others took cabs or bikes into nearby Windsor to explore the historic town and tour the beautiful Windsor Castle, a royal residence of the Queen. Saturday evening, the students delved deep into the topic of new religious movements (NRM’s) with Professor Emeritus Eileen Barker, founder of INFORM. Professor Barker spent many years with budding religions such as the Unification Church. She explained when and how NRM’s are likely to arise and gave valuable insights into her time spent with them. Afterwards, the GC students all gathered together to form teams and compete in a trivia contest to see who has the most knowledge of British culture, history, and politics, with winners receiving special GC prizes.
The next morning after breakfast, students had more free time, with an opportunity to either attend an Anglican service at the Royal Chapel or walk amongst the grounds with Dean Hoffman. Sadly, despite much hopeful prayer, the Queen was not in attendance at the service. After returning from their adventures, the group ate a lunch out on the sun-drenched grass behind the Lodge. Just as soon as the beautiful landscapes, sunny days, and engaging lectures had begun to grow on them, the students were again packing up to bid that place of learning and fellowship goodbye. Though they would not return to the Lodge for some time, they would keep with them the lessons and memories that were formed there for years to come.
Post written by Robbie Ryan, current General Course student