Here’s the next installment in our series about the experiences of Consular team members. This time, a consular officer talks about her international education experience in the UK.
“Choosing to study abroad in the United Kingdom was a decision that set my life irrevocably on its present course. The irony is that the decision was the result of one short but serendipitous conversation I had with a friend. At my part-time campus job, I noticed a fellow student putting the final touches on his application to study abroad and I began to ask him questions about it. Although I only had three hours to spare before the window for applying closed, I collected the forms, requisite signatures, bank loan guarantee, wrote the compulsory application essay, and delivered the completed package to the program directors just under the wire. Less than two months later, I moved to London.
I attended classes near the British Museum, in a mixed facility which enrolled students from several large American colleges and Universities. Half of the faculty associated with the study center was on sabbatical from the U.S. and the other half were British academics. I also attended courses at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies, which offered a great portal into the practical differences between higher education in the U.S. and the U.K.
I had never lived outside my home state of Wisconsin before moving to Britain. Until that time, the biggest adjustment I made was moving from my parents’ house in my hometown of 700 people to my dorm room at UW-Madison, in a city of 300,000. Moving to London at the age of 19 literally opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. It was intimidating and intense—and maybe a little difficult financially, but I knew instantly that it would not be the last time I lived and worked abroad.
I found Britain charming and hospitable; rich with culture and history and natural beauty. I used my semester in London to see as much as my meager savings would allow. I traveled extensively by train throughout the UK and Ireland and even managed to afford a trip to mainland Europe in those few months.
It is impossible to underscore how valuable the exposure to different lifestyles, cultures and languages was for my educational and personal development at that time. It was a critical time of exploration and maturing; of learning self-reliance and money management. In addition to making lasting friendships, my study abroad experience informed my continuing intellectual and personal quest to learn about other people, places and cultures. I would not be working in foreign affairs now but for that important and timely opportunity. For those reasons, when the time comes, I will encourage my own children to study abroad as well.”
Don’t forget, its International Education Week 17-21 November 2014. Information about #IEW2014 is available from their website – http://eca.state.gov/programs-initiatives/international-education-week.