By Valorie Vernon
Last fall I was able to spend a semester abroad at Swansea University in Swansea, Wales. While I loved the classes I was able to take, the best part of the education I received came from the experience.
I had visited England once before, but never made it out of London. This time instead of just seeing Big Ben I was able to see the people and culture. It is amazing how different another English speaking culture can be. It is like moving to a different world with the convenience of keeping your own language. The food, laws, money, and people are very different from Oklahoma, but that is what made it so interesting.
Some people have told me that they would be scared to go somewhere alone, but the beauty of it is you are not alone for long. At college everyone has to start over so it wasn’t like I had to break in to premade social groups. Within the first couple of weeks I had made friends with people from more than five different countries, not to mention a couple of Americans that were doing the same thing I was.
The other Americans were great to get to know because many of them had similar mindsets to me. I got to be really close to another girl that turned out to be from Muskogee. We had homework parties, movie nights, and taught our other house mates a little about good food. We made our own sweet tea and our moms shipped us taco seasoning, ranch mix, and Swedish Fish. We deemed ourselves travel buddies and went on many great adventures.
One great thing about studying anywhere in Europe is that travel to other places for a weekend trip is easy and fairly cheap. I was able to visit France, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, not to mention traveling around England and Wales. Because I was there during school I was able to miss a lot of the tourists and do more instead of waiting in lines (and offseason prices are way more fun).
I lived with a girl from Ireland and we became pretty good friends. I went home with her one weekend and she took me on a tour of the city. Then I got to hang out with her family and friends. I also had a good friend from London that showed me around the last few days I was there. Being a tourist can be fun, but it is so much more interesting to be shown around by a local.
Studying abroad has been my best experience so far. It was challenging but incredibly rewarding. A lot of people say they will never get an experience like that but if you look for it and work at it, the opportunities are available. It all depends on how much it is worth to you.
I was able to go on a scholarship from Governor Brad Henry’s office. I had help from a number of different people from RSU, who helped me apply and encouraged me to do it. RSU has a number of opportunities to go places, all you have to do is ask.
I will graduate May 7 and fly back for a little visit May 8. I loved it so much that I simply can’t stay away.