When my mother and I walked into The Maltings on the evening of Aug. 22, the night before the Harlow Campus 50th anniversary celebrations began, the memories began to flood back immediately.
The classes, the friends, the late nights, the adventures, the food . . .
So much seemed to have changed, yet so much remained exactly the same – for both of us.
She’d attended in 1982 and I in 2005 – 23 years later.
Inside and outside the classroom
Breathing in all those memories brought me back to a place rich with energy and potential: I was in my early 20s – just starting out in life – and embarking on three months of studying English Landscape and Literature with Drs. Michael and Annette Staveley.
There was so much to learn ahead of me, so many adventures to have, and so many connections to make – both inside and outside the classroom.
Returning to the campus almost 14 years later, I realized once again that the connections you make during your Harlow experience are some of the most valuable ones you’ll make in your life: you make lifelong friends, have inspiring moments and get unparalleled perspective both on yourself and on the world.
The celebrations were a fitting homage to the history of the campus so far: great breakfasts in The Portals (Chef Nick’s dining room), sleeping in the cozy dorm rooms, pictures of past classes posted around the campus and attendees and former students who were buzzing with stories about their time in Harlow, spanning from 1971 to 2015.
Following breakfast on our first day, we were given a wonderful speech on the history of the campus and how it came to be from David Wright: “it would be fitting if the oldest place in the New World was connected to the newest place in the Old World,” they’d said at the beginning, and so it was – and very much continues to be.
We were treated to a delicious barbecue that afternoon, during which we heard from both university and community representatives who spoke of the history of the connection between Memorial’s Harlow Campus and the community of Harlow, but also of the future connections that will present great opportunities for both the university and community.
From what we heard that afternoon, there’s quite a lot of potential for growth and collaboration in Harlow and certainly an appetite for it. Representatives from Harlow Council attended and spoke, and the event was covered by local press representatives, as well. There was a great atmosphere, and the late English summer sun was out in full force.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a reputation for being storytellers and there was no shortage of stories to tell or to listen to over the weekend, whether it was at the breakfast table, touring around Harlow, or (perhaps most commonly) over drinks at the pub.
“It was almost like having a whole new Harlow class.”
Many drinks and laughs were had at The Crown, a pub which many former Harlow students will remember, just up the street from The Maltings and Cabot House, and there were a few more told – along with some bad jokes and philosophical rambling – in the Common Room after the pub closed down for the night. It was almost like having a whole new Harlow class.
One thing that I noticed through the stories that I heard was that it seemed every former student could make a connection between their time in Harlow and how their lives developed after they’d completed their time there – there’s a pre-Harlow version of you and a post-Harlow version. NTV video journalist Leila Beaudoin called it a “transformative experience” and that’s most certainly true.
The staff at the campus made the weekend run so smoothly – from the historical sculpture walk, to the barbecue, to the trip to London to see the extraordinary Come From Away show, Sandra, Nick, and company were as the staff at the campus have always been: helpful, thoughtful and accommodating.
They made sure we were comfortable, well fed and safe, as they have done for so many students, and will do for many more.
World of possibility
Coming back to Harlow with my mother was wonderful: we reminisced about the past, made new connections together, and were reminded just how enriching the Harlow experience is.
She studied and was dedicated to special education both while in Harlow and for a lifetime once she returned home; I now live in the U.K. and always cite my time in Harlow as the reason why – it opened up a world of possibility for me and I fell in love with England.
Coming back to the place that started extraordinary stories for both of us and to celebrate with others who’d experienced the same was, as many from home would say, “somethin’ else.”
As we toasted to the end of the weekend in The Crown on Sunday evening, I held my glass up to 50 more years of incredible transformative experiences in Harlow – the little campus with a big impact.
Are you a Harlow alumnus? Come to Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s on Oct. 25 for the final 2019 reunion celebration of the amazing experiences shared at Harlow Campus, Memorial’s U.K. home away from home. Open to all alumni and friends of Harlow Campus, it will be a great night of memories (old and new) with an infusion of British décor, food, beverages and music.