During the summer of 2004, I studied abroad though a program run through my college at Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge, England. While the study abroad experience did not academically offer anything that was a significant departure from regular college courses, the people I met and the culture I experienced significantly impacted my life. This trip was my first time traveling outside of North America, and after it was said and done I guess you could say I was fully afflicted with the travel bug.
The admissions process was handled entirely through my University in the United Stated. In order to qualify you needed to maintain a B average and have a professor’s recommendation that you were well suited to a study abroad program.
Most of the coursework I took satisfied electives required to complete my bachelor’s degree. There were only a total of four courses to choose from (each student had to take three) ranging in topics from English literature, history, and international terrorism. In addition to daily classes, papers, and tests, there were mandatory cultural excursions to cultural events and tours. Some of these included a trip to the British Museum in London, a weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, and a trip to Canterbury Cathedral. In addition to this there was paperwork required prior to traveling and after, including a daily journal and reflection on the trip and pre-departure article reviews on relevant UK newspaper articles. I would not categorize the paper work as taxing, and classes were an hour each per day with weekends off.
Actually traveling to a new culture for the first time was the most significant aspect of this trip for me. England and Scotland were a good first trip for me as they speak English and the cultural is similar than other areas of the world. During the semester we also had free time to travel during which I spent a long weekend in Paris. I was exposed to a variety of different things which I had never previously seen and everything from the warning labels on their cigarette packs to train travel was new to me. After this trip I developed a great desire to see more of the world and learn about new cultures. About two years after I studied abroad I backpacked across Europe seeing 10 countries and 13 cities in six weeks and since then I have not stopped trying to see as much as possible. Having never left the country with my family on vacation or for any other reason I don’t think I would have ever realized how much I love to travel without my experience studying abroad.