When and where did you study abroad? Did you have a study focus?
I studied abroad at Regent Park College, which is a college under Oxford University in England. I was there for the winter/spring semester as an associate student through Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada. I am an English major and went to complete four of my required courses, as well as explore a new part of the world.
What made you want to study abroad?
I always wanted to travel and as an aspiring author, I have always been interested in walking the same streets as some of the greatest writers. Although studying abroad seemed so glamorous, I was worried about the language and cultural differences. Going to England helped ease some of those worries because at least I know the language. When I learned about the Oxford Program at Crandall University, I knew that was where I was meant to go.
How did you search for programs? What made you select your program?
I attended a college fair and approached a booth for a small Christian university in New Brunswick Canada. At the time I wanted to study journalism and wasn’t totally convinced the program was for me. It wasn’t until I learned about the Oxford program, in which I would be able to live and study Shakespeare and Drama at Oxford University, that I became intrigued. I looked at a few other universities at the college fair that had studying abroad programs, but the cost was reasonable at Crandall’s, as well as the living situation.
What was the biggest surprise about your study abroad experience?
The biggest surprise I experienced was at how at home I felt. Instead of living on the university campus, we were placed in host homes in a small town just outside of Oxford. I was able to learn about the culture in a cosy setting as well as get to know many residents of the town. At the university itself, we were always around students from Oxford, whether it was in the dining hall or the library, and they were nothing but welcoming.
What made your study abroad experience abroad a success?
My success came from my desire to be there and to really get everything out of the experience. Although it was not a typical study abroad program in that we were all students from Canada who were in the classes and had tutors from other colleges come in and teach us. I still strived to succeed in one of the highest esteemed universities in the world. Remaining open minded and making the best of every situation was the key to my success.
Do you have a classroom story that gave you particular insight into other cultures?
In Canada, many of our classes are lecture based with a heavy importance put on note taking. About halfway through my first class at Regent Park our tutor asked us to put down our pens and to debate an issue found in the Greek tragedies. From there on all of our classes were discussion based which involved breaking into smaller groups to combine ideas to present to the class. It really is a better way of learning because it caused us to really think and gain the confidence needed to speak our opinions.
What is your number one tip for anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
If I had one thing to tell someone, I would tell them to take every opportunity to explore each place they visit. I had the opportunity to see London, Oxford, Bath, as well as Florence and Rome in Italy, and I regret that there were some places I didn’t visit because I was nervous to go alone. So, to anyone studying abroad they should take advantage of invites from people as well as solo adventures to see everything they can.
Do you have any final observations on your experience?
I never would have thought that I could fall in love with a place as much as I did with Oxford. I felt comfortable walking around the city at night just looking at the lights and going into small art and book shops. I learned more in those three months than I would have expected and memories from classes are something I will never forget. I made great friends while I was there and am already making plans to go back. Students should try and take even just a small amount of time to travel because it builds appreciation for study and for the world.
Describe an experience from your time abroad that made a particularly strong impression on you.
The first full day I was in England, was the day that is impressed most in my mind. I met members of the community as well as some of the people in charge of the program. It became surreal that I was living my dream of living and studying in England. That night my host took me to a pantomime. I was expecting it to be a play about Christmas, since pantomimes are performed at Christmastime in the UK. But I was mistaken, as I actually spent the following two hours laughing until I cried at a creative rendition of Aladdin. That first day made me realize how wonderful English culture is.
What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career?
At the moment I have no future plans set for going abroad as I am finishing my degree and looking for a job. I will certainly go back to England either for conferences or workshops in order to progress in my career. I want to be an author as well as work in publishing and going abroad would really help my career. I learned a lot about different cultures which influences my writing as well as broadens my appreciation for the type of work other countries do.
Ashlee’s story highlights an ideal first trip abroad for a young student who is curious about the world, but still wants some of the structure and comforts of home. As an aspiring author, we definitely recommend traveling abroad again, and expanding your cross-cultural learning even more. Every experience in a new culture, whether interning, volunteering or working, will enrich your life, career and writing. Consider heading to Eastern Europe or Asia as a way of dramatically expanding your cultural horizons. The world is waiting!
- Marketing Your International Experience to Employers is a valuable article for anyone returning home after an extended period abroad. It will help you assess and discuss the skills you built in a way that future employers will appreciate.
- 24 Ways to Go International lists a variety of ways that students at any level can build valuable international experience at home or abroad.