“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.” – Oscar Wilde, 1887.
For the last 12 weeks, I’ve been studying at Saint Mary’s University, Twickenham in what are, effectively, the suburbs of London. I made the choice to study abroad rather late in the process, deciding sometime around the 12th or 13th of September 2017 when most students had built their academic career around the choice. Being completely serious, I don’t remember what it was that pushed me to want to study abroad but one morning I popped into my adviser’s office and asked if it was possible for me to study abroad, related to necessary courses and whatnot. With his approval, I went to the Study Abroad Office and, skipping the boring paperwork bits, I arrived in London on January 23, 2018. Since then, I’ve been plucking along, going to class, writing papers, and exploring the lands that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
There are two words in study abroad. “Study” and “abroad.” Each person’s study abroad experience depends on which word they gravitate towards. “Study” or “abroad.” For me, I’ve taken much more strongly to the “study” portion than the “abroad” portion. Studying abroad is just like going to college in America, except you’re abroad.
Sure, there are moments when I’ve had a profoundly foreign experience, like belting the Scottish ballad “I’m Gonna Be” in a hostel bar on the shores of Loch Ness, but, overall, it’s been largely the same as going to college at home. I go to my classes, I listen to my lectures, I do my readings, and I write my essays. I have breakfast and dinner in the dining hall and I watch sport with my newly-made friends. Maybe it’s because I chose to study in the country that Oscar Wilde described as having “everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language,” but my study abroad experience has not filled me with fiery passion for action and adventure that I know a lot of former study abroad students have felt. It has, however, filled me with a breadtheducationaltion experiences.
That fits who I am and has helped me realize exactly what being “me” is. I’m an academic. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in London and in the greater United Kingdom, inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve engaged in hearty debates on everything from Brexit to the Royal Family to Syrian airstrikes to whether Liverpool or Manchester United are the better football team (Liverpool is the correct answer). I’ve explored a Welsh castle from the 13th Century where King Edward I broke the local princes and brought Wales into the United Kingdom. I’ve walked the battlefield of Culloden, where thousands of Scottish rebels were slaughtered to end the final Scottish rebellion. I’ve stood where Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married. I’ve worn a kilt and wandered through the valleys of the Scottish Highlands along centuries-old cattle trading routes. I’ve learned so much about the Westminster system of government, something I already thought I understood.
Some of my favourite moments of studying abroad have been in the classroom or learning in the field. And that works for me.
Photo courtesy of Cameron Lapine ’19.