by Dan Blackwell
Easily mistaken for something from the pages of a fairy tale, Herstmonceux Castle is a picturesque 15th-century moated castle in rural East Sussex, England. Throughout its storied history, the castle grounds have hosted everything from royalty to a royal observatory. Now, the castle is home to Bader College—and, thanks to the Bader International Bursary, a select group of talented Victoria College students.
For one of those Vic students, Lukas Urban, the opportunity to study at Herstmonceux Castle was a life-changing experience. As a third-year major in political science and art history, Urban was seeking a change of pace.
"I wanted to experience something different," he says. "I was just browsing the internet, searching for study-abroad programs, and up popped this opportunity in south England. How many chances are there in a person’s life to go study in a castle?”
As a recipient of the Bader International Bursary, Urban enjoyed the full Herstmonceux Castle experience. The bursary covers up to $13,500 for one term of study at Bader College and is granted to students to support their participation in the International Studies Program. The college, which was purchased by philanthropist Alfred Bader in 1993 and gifted to his late wife and Vic alum Isabel Overton Bader Vic 4T9, Hon. 9T5, offers small class sizes, interdisciplinary learning opportunities and courses taken right on the sprawling castle grounds.
Urban says the college’s unique learning environment allowed him to fully engage in his studies. His biggest class had just 16 students, and in one of his courses, Urban was one of only two students.
"It was essentially one-on-one with my professors," he says. "The small class sizes allow you to build a lasting relationship with your professor, where you learn about their history and experiences and how that informs the material they are teaching you."
Along with the invaluable learning opportunities provided by the Bader International Bursary, students also get the chance to live just minutes away from the castle in nearby Bader Hall.
"This was my first experience living in residence," says Urban. "The student life was great and the setting was beautiful. Most of the students there were from different parts of Canada, but the actual environment that we were in was completely British and completely intercultural."
Urban says he also loved the program’s wide range of unique extracurricular activities, including hikes and trips to the in-castle pub for evening trivia, along with trips throughout East Sussex. "Each day was different," he says. "It brought a lot of excitement to the experience."
While living and learning at Bader College was unforgettable, Urban says the highlight of his time at Herstmonceux Castle was his midterm trip to London. More than just a few nights in the big city, the trip included a class visit to the British Film Institute (BFI) where he got the chance to watch a film that explored the history of the European Union. This experience was a reflection of Bader College's interdisciplinary approach to learning, where subjects merge. In this case, it brought together art and political science—something Urban says he won't soon forget.
"I think that experience was probably the most meaningful for me," he says. "I've never experienced learning that was so unique and engaging and so personal."
With his semester abroad completed, Urban is now back in Canada, beginning the new academic year at Victoria College. While he says the memories of his time abroad are something he'll cherish forever, it's the newfound sense of curiosity instilled in him during his time at Herstmonceux Castle that will have the most enduring impact.
"Experiencing this has made me a lot more open to new possibilities and ways of thinking," he says. "The International Studies Program exposed me to students and professors who were interested in so many different and diverse academic pursuits. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. I think that the more experiences like this I have, the more that I want to chart out a new path for my own life."
While The Bader International Bursary is one of hundreds of scholarships, bursaries, and awards offered by Victoria College, the unique experience it provides for students makes it truly exceptional, says Louise Yearwood, executive director of Alumni Affairs & Advancement at Victoria University.
"Isabel Bader believed that an international experience was an important learning opportunity for students," she says. "It gave her tremendous pleasure to support this particular student award."
To learn more about how you can chart your own path in the International Studies Program, and apply to study at Bader College, visit the Bader International Bursary webpage on the Victoria College website.
Philanthropic support for this unique student experience was made possible thanks to the generosity of the late Isabel Bader. To learn more about how you can support student scholarships, awards and bursaries, visit our Defy Gravity webpage.