Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because of its location in the historic town of Canterbury and the wide variety of classes that were offered. This program offered me the chance choose from a truly massive array of classes in my major (for which I received direct IU credit), and also to take classes with British students in their university.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. I loved both of the classes that I took while I was at the University of Kent, but my favorite has to be the "Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama" module. In this course, we read, watched, and analyzed the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We also took several field trips to locations such as Canterbury Cathedral and Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London. I also happened to be in this course during the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, so this was timed especially well.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in a student flat with five other students. All of my flatmates were British and we each had our own rooms and bathrooms. My housing was also self-catered, meaning that I did my own cooking and had access to a full kitchen. This option was a bit more expensive than living in a house or a dorm, but the privacy and freedom made it absolutely worth the price.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Although the UK is similar to the US, it is a very different country, and you will most likely experience culture shock, especially at first. My advice is to keep an open mind and stay curious so that culture shock does not bog you down. Also, try to be friendly without being overbearing and do not be afraid to approach British students, as they probably will not approach you on their own.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My best memory from my time abroad would have to be the solo trip that I took to the north of England. I spent a week traveling the Lake District and the Peak District completely by myself, and it became a time of growth and reflection for me. I realized during this time that studying abroad had truly made me more independent, as I was able to arrange everything, see what I wanted to see, travel on the trains, and deal with any predicaments that occurred without help from anyone else. In that moment, I felt like I could do anything, and I carry this sense of independence and accomplishment with me to this day.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? Perhaps my biggest surprise was that this program is very independent. Everyone attends an orientation for all international students at the beginning of the program, but after that, you are pretty much completely on your own. It was nice to be treated exactly the same as the British students, but also a bit daunting at times. However, this independence helped me to be more responsible, as I was in charge of everything about my experience.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I would say that for me, the reverse culture shock when I returned to the US was more difficult. I truly loved my time in England and felt very integrated into British life and culture, so when I came back to the US, I had to do some serious re-adjustment. The moment I stepped off the airplane in Chicago, the heat hit me like a wall and I missed the cooler climate of the UK. I also seriously missed the ease that comes with train travel in Europe. Being able to hop on a train and be in London in an hour was absolutely amazing. Having to drive after almost a year away from the wheel was a strange and somewhat frustrating experience. To be honest, I still miss my time in the UK very much and often think nostalgically about my time abroad.
“If I could do it over, I would…” If I could do it over, I would try to meet more British people. I made many incredible friends during my time abroad, but I would have loved to have made more British friends. I would join more clubs and try to be more involved in programs at the university if I could go and do it again.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Obviously, after living in Britain, I know much more about the culture and customs of this country. But even more than this, I feel like I know myself better after studying abroad. I always felt like I had been trained, but never tested in life, and living on my own in a foreign country gave me the testing that I had so desired. I was able to see how I responded to crises and challenges and grow because of this new self-knowledge.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? I wish that someone had told me how hard reverse culture shock can be. Although it has been over a year since I moved there, I still seriously miss many aspects of British life, the places I came to know, and the friends I made. That said, this is one of my most treasured memories, and fear of reverse culture shock should never stop anyone from going and having a wonderful experience abroad.
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge was probably meeting British students. I am not a shy person normally, but the thought of just approaching British people seemed intimidating to me. The best way to get over this challenge is to join clubs and activities on campus, as this is a fun and inclusive atmosphere that welcomes participation from everyone.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” While I appreciate the efforts that IU has put into making our campus a diverse and culturally-rich place to study, there is truly nothing like studying abroad for experiencing other cultures. I feel so grateful that I was able to go abroad and learn from another perspective, one that made me critically question my own thought systems and beliefs and analyze them under a different light. Studying abroad, even in an English-speaking country, gives you a completely different cultural perspective and helps you to grow as a person both outside and inside the classroom in a way that I'd never before experienced.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I found scholarships on the Education Abroad website and departmental websites (for example, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese's webpage).
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I would highly recommend applying for the HIEP grant. Although the GPA requirement is somewhat high, you do not need to be a member of Hutton Honors College to receive this grant, and they are often very generous.