Tillsonburg's Olivia Marve to study at Herstmonceux Castle in England

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Tillsonburg’s Olivia Marve, 19, has always been a big city girl at heart.

Now she’s thinking globally.

“My plan was to go to Concordia in Montreal,” said Marve, who changed plans when she was accepted to study one full year in East Sussex, England through a Queen’s University study abroad program.

“I didn’t really expect to get accepted to my program at Queen’s – Queen’s Castle – the one I’m going to England.”

“It was a very last minute decision,” her mother Wendy Marve admitted.

After being accepted to the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle, England, the only Canadian program of its kind where first-year students spend a full year studying abroad, she celebrated even better news. In the last week of June, she received a one-year $10,000 bursary to fund a portion of her BISC tuition.

BISC only accepts a limited number of students each year, in the range of 150, said Marve, who will be studying both creative writing and English literature, eventually leading to a writing career.

“I want to be a freelancer, or maybe a journalist, and live in downtown Toronto or Montreal. Or depending on what connections I make overseas in England, I might work over there.”

Creative writing didn’t really enter the picture for her until Grade 12. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was one of her favourites, she said, and American poet Sylvia Plath was also an inspiration.

“I’ve always been strong with English, reading, and my vocabulary and grammar.”

Marve returned to Glendale HS last fall for a Grade 12 ‘half-victory-lap,’ finishing in January.

“My grades were high, but they weren’t spectacular. They were like 89-90 average…”

She applied to three Ontario universities – Western, Ottawa, and Queen’s – in addition to three out-of-province – Concordia and McGill in Montreal, and University of Alberta in Edmonton.

She was leaning toward Alberta, with its study abroad program in Cortona, Italy, and Concordia, which boasts an outstanding creative writing program.

“I didn’t really see myself going to any school in Ontario, which is why I was planning on going to Quebec. I just love Montreal. I love big cities.

“I’m kind of not a small-town person,” she said with a smile. “I kind of realized that growing up in Tillsonburg. I just have a greater appreciation for cities.”

The Bader International Study Centre is located in the centre of the County of East Sussex, about 100 km south of London, England.

“It’s in the countryside, but we have a shuttle bus that goes to London several times a week. We can request days. The van will go to small towns and bigger cities so we can get groceries or do some shopping.”

The castle has a gymnasium on-site, but the Tillsonburg athlete does not anticipate any competitive basketball, tennis, or badminton.

“There aren’t any varsity teams over there, but they have intramurals. And they have tennis courts.”

Herstmonceux is a brick castle, originally designed more for comfort and grandeur over defence, which began construction in 1441. It has a large moat and, according to castle legend, two ghosts – the Headless Drummer and the Grey Lady.

“Yep, Harry Potters, Hogwarts,” Marve laughed, looking at the Herstmonceux brochure.

Her international experience begins with a flight from Toronto to England on Sept. 4. She is most looking forward to the culture shock of England, both sightseeing and meeting people completely different from her current experience.

“She goes to school Monday to Thursday,” noted Wendy, “and three weekends a month they travel all over England. The fourth weekend the kids get together and plan independent travel groups – they can go to any country in Europe, and they do it with their professors. They try to do it as cheaply as possible. And every course has field study groups.”

Marve hopes the international studies will inspire her writing.

“I think it’s going to be really good for the writing process.”

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