For years, Krista McPherson and her husband Pat had discussed the idea of returning to England and the Alnwick Castle, but ultimately never ended up making plans to do so.
That was until Krista, a 1999 graduate of St. Cloud State University, received news that her alma mater was planning a trip to return to the place she called home for six months as a student in 1997-98.
“We talked about going back to England and financially we were talking about how we could do it. I wanted to go back for the last 10 years, it just hadn’t gotten to the point where we could plan anything,” she said. “Then an email came up about this trip and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“It was the perfect time for us. That’s why we had to jump on the train – literally.”
Spanning from June 30 to July 6, St. Cloud State’s Alumni Relations office, in collaboration with its Center for International Studies, offered its alumni the opportunity to return to England and the Alnwick Castle as part of the Alumni Alnwick Experience.
“When we began planning for St. Cloud State’s Sesquicentennial, we wanted to come up with an event that brought alumni together that spoke to our international and study abroad successes,” said John M. Brown, Associate Director of Alumni Relations at St. Cloud State. “Our alumni who studied at Alnwick Castle represent one of our most enthusiastic alumni affinity groups and having what we have at Alnwick Castle, a week-long experience trip back there, seemed a natural fit.”
The program allowed many alumni the opportunity to return to a location they spent time at as students while enrolled at the University, revisiting and reliving the endless memories they created during their initial trip to England.
“This experience provided those who participated opportunities to re-kindle fond memories of their time at the castle, connect with fellow Alnwick alumni and re-connect with some classmates, while helping us celebrate our 150th anniversary and the special relationship we have in Alnwick,” Brown said. “Some alumni had not been back in 20 or more years. It also provided the opportunity to re-connect with St. Cloud State and hear about what we are doing in Alnwick.”
Some features of the trip included a six-night stay at the Alnwick Castle, various excursions and lectures led by British faculty member David Young and Dr. Gareth John, professor of British Studies at SCSU, endless exploring and much more.
“Everything about it was such a great opportunity, it’s just so different from anything else that you can do.” – Krista McPherson ’99
“It was really nice. Overall, it was a good time and was nice to meet some of the other students from different programs,” said Jason Beck, a 1997 graduate of St. Cloud State who spent nine months in England as a student in 1989-90. “It’s a different experience when you are there as an adult. You really savor that time and savor the experience, while wanting to learn more about each place. It was a really great experience.”
Beck, who visited Alnwick in 2014 and 2017 prior to returning once again this summer with his wife and friend, found it memorable to not only revisit Alnwick but also return to visit his homestay family that he stayed with about 20 years prior.
“The castle has changed dramatically from when I was first there. Seeing all of that was really cool,” Beck said. “We also spent a lot of time with my homestay family, spending three days with them. That was definitely my favorite part.
For many who made the trip back to Alnwick as part of the Alumni Alnwick Experience, it was great to experience and revisit the endless memories they created during their time in England as students.
As for McPherson, she hopes she’s able to make the trip back soon. Maybe even bringing her children along to expose them to the same memories she created in Alnwick when she was younger.
“Everything about it was such a great opportunity, it’s just so different from anything else that you can do. It was kind of a no-brainer if you have the opportunity to go,” she said. “It’s something that I think, until you’re there, you don’t quite get it. It’s so incredible.
“I think St. Cloud State did a great job in planning and putting this on for the alumni. We will be back.”