Emerson’s Kasteel Well campus welcomes fall arrivals

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Photo: Aaron J. Miller

The exterior of the Kasteel Well castle

By Ashlyn Wang, Staff Writer, Photographer

Two main red brick buildings and asphalt-colored roofs, surrounded by moats and lush gardens, greeted approximately 80 students as Kasteel Well welcomed its fall semester residents. 

Kasteel Well, a 14th-century medieval castle in Well, Limburg, is Emerson’s campus in the Netherlands. The college offers a three-month study abroad opportunity for students interested in exploring Europe and learning about its history and culture. Students will focus on diversified liberal arts subjects, including intercultural communication, world history, and sociology, among others.

“It’s super calm and quiet,” said Colette Lauture, a sophomore journalism major. ” [Arriving] was like going to Hogwarts.”

During her days at the castle, Lauture found herself reflecting on the moment she applied in October 2021, amazed that what had once been an application was now her reality. 

She first heard about the castle when she took a tour of Emerson during her junior year of high school. She recalled when the tour guide described how popular the program was, and how students were able to travel across Europe and live in a European-style castle for three months. 

“I think this program allows me to see another part of the world that I wouldn’t be able to see every day,” Lauture said, who said she had always dreamed of traveling to Europe. “I’m being exposed to new cultures, new ways of life, and new interactions with different people…It opens your eyes.”

“I knew I wanted to study abroad. I just wasn’t exactly sure when or where,” Carys Hirawady, a sophomore visual and media arts major, said. “Kasteel Well seemed like the best option because we get to travel to so many other places as well, and there’s a lot of opportunities to explore Europe on your own.” She considered the semester in the Netherlands to be an attempt at scheduling her own trips without assistance from adults.

Nicole Townsend, a sophomore journalism major, sees her decision to study at Kasteel Well as an opportunity to explore Europe deeper. Townsend first visited Europe at 16 and has been eager to return since. She describes Kasteel Well as a fairy tale setting and is passionate about discovering concealed rooms within the castle. 

“It totally blew away my expectations…it looks small on the outside, but there are a bunch of little layers that you have to peel back to find the hidden gems,” Townsend said.

The students at the castle will also go on excursions coordinated by the Kasteel Well program to different countries and cities around Europe. On Sept. 23, the castle took a trip to Amsterdam, where the group of students visited museums and went for a city walk. 

“It was super informative,” said Lauture. “You’re never really bored in Amsterdam.” 

Following his summer trips in Europe, sophomore visual and media arts major Jacob Shafran plans to continue his European exploration whilst studying at the castle. He has already planned a trip to Oktoberfest in Berlin for this week. 

Shafran is in Emerson’s honors program, in which the curriculum is slightly more rigid than regular Emerson courses, he said. Kasteel Well is an opportunity for him to enjoy living in a castle and travel across Europe while continuing his time in the honors program.

“They have a sophomore honors seminar [course] at the castle, so I don’t lose any progress from the honors college while I’m here,” Shafran said.

Kasteel Well and its location offer students plentiful resources helping them relax:card games in common rooms, bike riding, hiking, and reading in gardens. Shafran said he took a bus to Venlo, a city near Kasteel Well, where he shopped and walked along a river.

Even though Shafran said he had anticipated the campus would be in a rural area, he was still surprised when he arrived. 

“You don’t really know how rural it is until you get there,” he said. “But when you walk outside, it’s flat, green, and there are lots of plants around.”

At the castle, students are exposed to a more lecture-based teaching system with an intensive workload, which, according to Lauture, is a little more “academically challenging” than school at Emerson’s Boston campus. After the first week of class, she felt that balancing her workload and free time was especially important. The library quickly became one of her favorite rooms. 

“It’s so cozy, and it just feels like you belong there,” she said. 

With a heavier workload, Lauture’s biggest goal is to balance her work and social life, aiming to get to know every student at Kasteel Well. 

“Hopefully, by the end of [this semester], we will come out of it as a close unit…as soon as we get back to Boston, we can still hang out.”

“We’re not in a city climate…because in Boston, we’re in the middle of the city,” Townsend said. “We have to be calm and courteous and just adapt to our [new] surroundings.” She discussed the notable difference between Boston’s city campus and Kasteel Well’s countryside campus. 

When in Boston, Townsend found herself constantly caught up in school work, but now she tries to take time to relax, travel, and self-reflect. 

“I’m always going to study and shoot for good grades, but that’s not my main priority this semester,” Townsend said. “[I’m] enjoying myself because I don’t know when I’m coming back to Europe.”

Hirawady is also enjoying her time abroad like her classmates. Getting ready to push herself out of her comfort zone, she hopes to make new friends during the semester and use the experience to inspire her script, film, or photo series projects. 

She was pleased with the castle and her dorm, which she said was much better than she expected. “Everything is just so picturesque. It still feels pretty surreal that we get to just live in this castle for three months,” Hirawady said. 

Kasteel Well students who shared their experiences displayed anticipation for this semester’s European experience. They found the program to be an opportunity to explore a school atmosphere and lifestyle different from Boston.

“It’s not every day that you get to live in a European castle,” said Lauture. “So I’m trying to soak every day in and just appreciate every day that I’m here.”