General Course students at Cumberland Lodge

London and LSE grow on you a little more each day. The initial weeks at LSE go in attending lectures, seminars, classes; selecting and reselecting your courses (it’s a tough choice to make when you have 300 courses to choose from); attending LSE and LSESU events.

It’s safe to say that LSE is a world in itself and the first few weeks can be pretty overwhelming. Thus, a weekend getaway planned for us at Cumberland Lodge, came as a refreshing, much-needed change for us. And what followed was the beginning of our intellectual awakening, everlasting friendships and cherished memories!

Our group of 50 enthusiastic General Course students arrived at Cumberland Lodge on the lovely evening of 6th October. Cumberland Lodge is a historic former royal residence in the heart of Windsor Great Park – making it the perfect venue for an intellectual retreat.

Our schedule was packed with discussions and talks given by stalwarts in their respective fields. The first lecture on Friday evening was given by Professor Sam Fankhauser on “An economic solution to climate change that could save trillions”. It was followed by discussion and a sumptuous dinner in the grand oak paneled hall of the Lodge. This was a wonderful opportunity to interact with our fellow GC Students. I feel that good food, great company, and witty banter are the perfect ingredients for wonderful social bonding.

After dinner, we were welcomed with a history of Cumberland Lodge. The facts we learnt about the Lodge made our stay even more special. Cumberland Lodge has an impressive history. It was built in 1650 by John Byfield, however, a little way down the road (centuries of battles, power struggles, etc.) it changed hands and finally went into possession of King Charles II. King Charles II then restored it and made it the official residence of the Ranger of the Great Park – a Crown appointment always held by someone close to the Sovereign.

It was also the home to Princess Helena (daughter of Queen Victoria) and Lord Fitzalan of Derwent (last Viceroy of Ireland). Lastly, it was a property, which saw many important meetings that evidently shaped the country’s history. During 1936, Cumberland Lodge was used for key meetings between the King’s Private Secretary and the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, which eventually led to the abdication of King Edward VIII. Fascinating, right?

Understanding how psychology impacts consumer behavior and in turn effects businesses is what we learnt in our next lecture that evening. We were enlightened on this by Dr Frédéric Basso. The topic itself was intriguing “Why people drink shampoo: food-imitating products are fooling brains and endangering consumers for marketing purposes”. We retired that evening with enough food for thought till next morning.

The following morning, we woke to a full English breakfast to set the right tone for our next lecture on the rich history of England. Sir Hugo Vickers had us in rapt attention for the next two hours. He walked us through the life of the Queen as a young princess to finally the day of her coronation, sharing with us some anecdotes of her brilliance, wry wit and grace.

The second lecture for the day was given by Dr. Michael Shiner on “Drug Policing: What is it good for?”. Discussion ensued and some novel ideas were shared to help find solutions for bettering the present drug policing system. Thus concluded our morning session.

Since we had limited free time, some of us decided to skip lunch and afternoon tea to rather spend the day exploring the beautiful Windsor Great Park and stroll around the old city. The city of Windsor is charming with its quaint Tudor houses, boutique shops and restaurants, English country walks and of course, Windsor Castle.

Rejuvenated from our sightseeing, we came back for a lecture to brainstorm on the hot topic of “Preserving citizens’ interests on the Internet”. Our speaker for this lecture was Professor Robin Mansell. Time flew by quickly and at the dinner table every one of us was enthusiastically forming teams and waiting for The General Course Quiz to kick off. The Quiz was an hour of excitement and zest. Fun fact – Dean Hoffman is undoubtedly a very good Quiz Master!

The next day, we got dressed in our Sunday best and walked to the Royal Chapel (The Queen still comes here for her private service). When the organ played with the choir singing in unison, it really reverberated the church, filling it with a beautiful melody. An instant flow of tranquility serenaded us. I had never attended a Sunday service until then. Thus, when we had to recite hymns and read passages from the Bible whilst kneeling down at intervals, it was really a soul-soothing, mind-calming experience for me.

We came back to the Lodge, revitalized for a lecture and discussion on “Who rules Britain” by Dean Hoffman. He summarized the overall eco-political scenario of Britain and outlined the important factors leading to Brexit, helping us to easily navigate the daily headlines and feel more involved in the political vibe of the city.

A last wholesome meal together in the royal property and a quick group photo to capture the moment spent with friends who soon will turn into families, marked an end to our wonderful weekend trip.

Now, I don’t know if it was the vast green spaces with trees dotted in autumn hues or the horses riding freely or the deer uninhibitedly living in their habitat a few inches away from me or simply the feeling of staying in a property that has survived nearly 370 years and hosted the Royals of England, but I felt alive every moment I spent in the Lodge. Being amidst nature and heritage is truly a beautiful feeling.

The long walks, cool breeze and the witty banter filled me with exhilaration and energized me for the week ahead in London. The weekend was indeed a treat for all the senses. Wonderfully blending knowledge with pleasure and simultaneously upholding the LSE motto “Rerum cognoscere causas”.

Picture of Krupa Saraiya

About the author, Krupa Saraiya

I’m a General Course student based in the Department of Management at LSE. Back in India, I’m pursuing my Bachelors in Business Administration at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. I love to travel and meet new people from across the world. I love art. In my spare time I like to listen to music, watch movies and read books.