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BISC alumni reflect on their time at the castle

By Anita Jansman

Queen's in the World

Over its 20-year history the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) has seen a few thousand students enjoy the unique learning environment it offers at Herstmonceux, the medieval castle in which it resides.

In 1994 Andrea Holmberg-Strachan became one of the first students to attend the BISC and describes it as the best educational experience she has ever had. She spent the fourth year of her concurrent education degree at the castle and soon found that she was in a fitting place to complete her history major.

Andrea Holmberg-Strachan

“The BISC was the most unbelievable place to study history,” says Ms. Holmberg-Strachan. “We would talk about the battle of 1066, then jump in the minivan and head down to the town of Battle and walk on the plains where it took place. When we studied medieval households, we visited the oldest standing medieval house, just down the street.”

Ms. Holmberg-Strachan now lives in Singapore, where she is a primary years program coordinator at the Canadian International School. She also leads teacher education workshops throughout the Asia-Pacific region for International Baccalaureate. Reflecting on her studies at the BISC twenty years ago, Andrea believes the experience shaped her as a person and as a teacher.

“I learned the importance of learning outside the traditional classroom walls. Learning is lifelong and is something that is always happening in our lives - school is just one small part of the learning we do,” she says.

Lisa Krawiec, a graduate of the University of Toronto, also had a meaningful learning experience at the BISC. She studied there during the 1998-99 term as part of her degree in English literature. For a young person from a small town who had never traveled overseas, the BISC was an ideal way to broaden her horizons.

“The BISC gave me a new appreciation for different subjects. I studied art history and Geoffrey Chaucer when I returned to U of T as a direct result of my time at the BISC,” she says.

Ms. Krawiec counts her trip to Vimy Ridge among the most memorable events. To be in a location in which her grandfather fought during the war made the excursion a deeply personal experience.

Lisa Krawiec

“It was the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I. As part of our history course we travelled to the Canadian National Memorial in France for the ceremony,” she explains. “To see the craters in the ground at Vimy where bombs went off and realize that no-man's land is a mere 25-metre expanse was very powerful.”

Fifteen years have passed since Lisa was a student at the BISC, but she remains connected to the friends she made there, even though they are scattered in different cities around the world.

Now a communications advisor and executive assistant to the president of the Council of Ontario Universities, Ms. Krawiec believes that the investment she made by going to the BISC has paid off many times over.

“It was the most transformative year of my life in so many ways. The hands-on and immersive learning approach that was taken at BISC was unparalleled; it turned me on to new subjects that I might not have otherwise discovered. The faculty members were engaging instructors,” she says. “Truly, the whole year and experience were memorable.”

More about the BISC

This article is one of a series of stories celebrating the Castle and its 20th anniversary.