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Choosing a Program: Finding and Creating a Home

Guest Blogger: Amanda Toledo

On the cover of a journal my mom bought me, there’s a George Bernard Shaw quote that reads “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about Creating yourself.” Cheesy as inspirational-quote journals may be, I like the sentiment, although I think that life is more a mixture of both seeking and creating. Deciding which study abroad program to go on is no less challenging for some than deciding which university to go to or what to major in. Many students enter the Resource Room knowing they want to go abroad but not knowing where in the world they’d like to go. Program Assistants work to assist these students in finding what works best for them academically as well as personally. When you’re going abroad, whether for a short-term program, a semester, or an entire year, the fact remains that wherever you go, you are creating a home away from home.

Leeds City Centre

When assisting students I often use myself as an example, calling myself a city kid. Even though I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, when I moved to the actual city in high school, I found that the vibrant, swift, and busy life of a city suited me more than slower, mellower pace of  suburban Illinois. When looking for study abroad options, I knew that living in a city would be integral for me. Like most students I’ve spoken with over the past two years, my first thought when it came to England was London. When investigating the programs in London, I discovered there weren’t any options in my price range at the time.

It required more research then, to look up what other English cities the study abroad office had programs in, and which offered classes in my major. I decided on Leeds, the third largest city in England. Of the city options, I chose Leeds because when looking through their class catalogue (“modules” instead of “classes” in the UK) I found a class that sounded interesting to me: an upper level course on the history of witchcraft in literature. In the end, it was a balanced decision between location and academics that landed me on a place I’d someday feel intense homesickness for.

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Gigantic Chess matches in the City Centre

 

 

Leeds gave me my fill of a city, but it also gave me the new experience of a walking city. In between classes and homework and day trips to different locations around the United Kingdom, I’d spend my time wandering down the cobblestoned streets of city centre; passing through the Arcades, stopping in at the (free!) museums and art galleries. As the weather grew warmer, I took the fifty minute walk from my flat to city centre instead of the ten minute bus ride, seeing rolling hills turn into the pubs, shops, and panini places that became familiar and comforting to me over the sixth months I lived there. A fifteen minute walk in the opposite direction from my flat landed me at the ruins of a monastery, towering into the sky, beautiful and stoic in its gorgeous park setting.

The ruins of Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey Ruins

This is not to say that life in Leeds was without its struggles, but through those struggles and those delights, I created someone confident, someone who relished the independence of exploring a museum with only herself and the art for company. I created a home away from my family and everything I knew, and discovered the power in that.

At the end of my semester, my mom came to visit for a week. Although her flight got delayed a day, and I really ought to have met her in London (where most of our week together had been planned), I insisted she come to Leeds, even just for the first afternoon. London is my favorite place in the world, it’s thrilling and beautiful on a grander scale than you can imagine, and I would love to live there someday, but Leeds was my home.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding cupcake at Cupackes by Charley in the city centre

The Sticky Toffee Pudding cupcake from Cupackes by Charley

I knew the best place to take my mom for fish and chips, I knew all the flavors at the local cupcake shop, and which ones to recommend; I knew Leeds.

I can honestly say I have only met one or two people that did not like their programs abroad. Most people feel about their cities the way I feel about Leeds, whether they picked a setting they knew they liked, or chose something that was perhaps out of their comfort zone, but an exciting challenge. I’ve heard students wax nostalgic about their host families, or excitedly recount their adventures of their host countries. Any program abroad will be a mixture of finding and creating a place for yourself in the world; but it’s a journey worth taking.

Begin your journey now! The deadline for this Winter Break programs and Spring semester programs is September 15th.

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Excursion Abroad: The Gower and Worm Head

Excerpt from the Blog of: Lindsey Watts

Studied Abroad: Swansea, Wales

This past weekend I explored the other famous part of this city called the Gower Peninsula. It has just been rated the 10th best beach  in the world and number 1 in the UK. Naturally, I was going to have to go check it out. I got a few of my friends  together and went for a Saturday afternoon. We were lucky because there was 0% chance of rain

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and though there were some cloudy skies and it was very cold, it was still a great day for an adventure. We got on the bus for free(!) and went to Rhossili which is a very small village in the Gower. The village is comprised of a church, a hotel, a few shops and that is it. The village is very cutewith all of the buildings made of stone. However, the village only takes about 10 min to look at. The real attraction is what surrounds it. Looking around for miles, as far as you can see, is beautiful landscape. A view that words can simply not express. I was standing on a piece of land that stopped at the ocean before me, creating stony cliffs, covered in bright green grass and Watts 4topped with hundreds of sheep.  Yes, I said it. There were hundreds of sheep both wild and owned living on the same land. They would be about 6ft away from us and then run away.

The Gower is composed of many cliffs and an island called Worm’s Head. There is a rocky sea floor tureen that bridges the cliffs’ main land to the island. Many people go across and hike on the island and then come back. However, you must be careful because when the tide comes in the water goes over the rocky bridge and you can be stranded on the island until the tide goes back out. The good news is that there is a small building at the end of the main land where some cute old men volunteer as a coast guard and watch out for those who go over. By the time we made it to the edge of the main land we only had an hour until the tide would be there. Most of us thought that we did not have time to go across and come back, though my friend, Paul, decided to go for it and ended up having to half run there and back. He said he had a great time though and would love to go back and do it when he had more time. I also would like to do that when my parents come and I take them there.Watts 9

After adventuring around (me climbing down a little bit off the cliff) and Paul finding some caves, we went to the small hotel and had a nice small meal. I had a nice lentil and vegetable soup with some bread and a side of chips (steak fries).  Watts 8We then looked in a couple of the gift stores they have and then hopped on the bus back by 2:30pm. Before we left we also got a glimpse of a very old church that had graves from the 1800s and some that were from just 20 years ago. I am sure it would be super spooky during Halloween, but it was pretty cool just to see.