Even Storm Desmond was not enough to deter students from all over the world attending a residential module at the University of Cumbria in Ambleside this week.
The 16 students flew in at the weekend from Nigeria, Nauru, Pakistan, Ghana, St Kitts, Switzerland, South Africa, USA, Ivory Coast, Qatar, Mali, Kenya and Sudan – only to be met with news of the disastrous weather conditions affecting their final destination.
Realising the unfolding scale of the problem, staff from the university made contact with the students on Saturday to advise them that if possible, they should stay in the major cities they had flown into (London, Glasgow, Manchester) and await further instructions.
Ann Thanaraj, principal law lecturer at the university explains:
“By Saturday morning it was becoming apparent that the situation was very serious, with reports of road and rail closures as well as increasing numbers of flood warnings across the Lake District and beyond.
“Even though many of the university staff were dealing with their own crises of flooding and power cuts, they pulled out all the stops to make sure our international visitors had somewhere safe to stay and were kept abreast of the unfolding situation.
“We worked many long hours to ensure we could go ahead with the residential and amazingly, by Sunday evening, a revised timetable and travel arrangements had been finalised and on Monday morning travel and pick up appointments were put in place so that all the students were able to make their way to Ambleside.
“After their long and tiring journeys, students and staff were able to have a celebratory meal on Monday evening, before the start of the residential.”
The students are studying for a Master of Laws (LL.M) in International Business Law, which is an online course delivered by the University of Cumbria in partnership with Robert Kennedy College which has its headquarters in Zurich.
Attending this residential module is the only opportunity they have during their studies to meet up in person. It is an invaluable experience for them, as it brings together mature students from numerous countries, sectors and organisations, many of whom are senior executives employed by large international corporations or bodies.
Derriann Charles journeyed over two days from St Kitts in the Caribbean, and had arrived at Preston railway station on Saturday before realising she could get no further. She remembered that the only UK-based participant coincidentally came from Preston and made contact with him. It turned out to be exactly the right thing to do as she says;
“In what can only be described as true humanity, Stephen opened up his home and his family to me, a stranger. I was made to feel very welcome”.
Derriann works as in-house legal counsel for a real estate developer on St Kitts and she goes on to say: “It certainly was an unexpected start to this trip. I knew that the Lake District had a reputation for being a beautiful part of the world and I was looking forward to seeing it. I didn’t expect that to be from a Land Rover!
“Thanks to the staff at the university, the course has still been able to go ahead despite this awful weather and flooding and I’m so pleased I was still able to come here.”
Another student, Olckers Koikanyang, from South Africa said of his journey to Ambleside: “… we were determined to make it and I was ready to change into my short trousers and wade through the water with my suitcase on my head if that was what it would take!”
The students will be in Ambleside until Friday this week and, weather permitting, will have the opportunity to visit Lancaster Castle and Crown Courts before they leave.