Long before I was accepted into a university, I always knew I wanted to study abroad. As a high schooler, I was not sure about too many things – except that I was bound and determined to become a network news anchor and that I would “travel the world.” Despite my career goals taking a shift over the past four years, I was right about one thing from the start – I was able to become a global citizen during my college career. As a double major in Mass Communications and Communication Studies, I needed a program that would fulfill some of my major’s credit requirements, and the British Studies Program was the perfect opportunity.
During the summer of 2011, the Communication Studies Department was offering classes in England. As I looked into the program, I realized just how unique this opportunity was going to be. Not only are you living in a completely different part of the world, but we would have the opportunity to live and study within the walls of a medieval castle. That’s not something too many people can say they’ve done! What makes this program special to St. Cloud State University is the longevity of this particular program. We have sent close to 3,000 students to Alnwick, England over the past 32 years. As I worked through the application process and began to prepare, I became more and more excited to go overseas for the first time.
Our group departed at the end of May and we anxiously boarded the plane. For most of us, it was our first time leaving the country. We were feeling a mix of anticipation, excitement and a little nervousness. Once we landed in Glasgow and took the bus into Alnwick, our driver parked on top of a hill and we got our first glimpse of the castle. In that moment, I knew all of the pre-departure stress was worth it. The Alnwick Castle is a truly magical place and difficult to put into words.
As we settled into our new home, we began classes and weekly field trips. In addition to the SCSU professors that teach classes in England, there are two British faculty that teach courses every semester. Christine Mitchell is the history professor – and let me tell you – this woman is a walking encyclopedia. She is truly a fountain of knowledge in regards to British history and culture. As part of the program, you take field trips every Friday. These field trips are valuable because you learn about all these cool places in class and you’re actually able to go out and see them in person. Christine does all of the walking tours and points out things that we never would notice on our own. There are two overnight field trips – London and The Lakes District. The rest of the field trips are day trips. It works out great because on those weekends, you are free to travel on your own. In addition to exploring the beautiful country of England, I was able to travel to Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris during our time off. During the summer, you get a one week holiday break – enabling you to travel a farther distance if you wish to do so. We spent our time in France. Other students went to Turkey, Greece, Wales, Ireland or stayed in England and enjoyed the break simply relaxing. The travel possibilities are endless because flights and train rides are very affordable once you’re that close to continental Europe.
In addition to field trips, classes and independent travel, another huge benefit to the British Studies program is the opportunity to give back to the Alnwick community. There are tons of volunteer opportunities that fit all kinds of interests. Because I love broadcasting, I was able to score a weekly radio show at the local station. Me and two other guys on my program volunteered at Lionheart Radio every Thursday. We would play songs, respond to calls, texts and emails from listeners and fill the air time with our travel stories and perspectives as American students in a foreign country. It was a unique way to give back to the community and gain on-air experience in a new setting.
Overall, I’m so glad I chose to have my first overseas experience through the British Studies program at SCSU. The program taught me so many valuable skills – inside and outside of the classroom. Students who choose to go abroad will learn flexibility, adaptability, patience and will gain new insights and perspectives as a result. Studying abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you become a globally aware human being.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”