For senior English education major Kiah Sexton, Rhinelander, a semester abroad in Winchster, England had some high expectations to live up to. For many of the reasons she expected, and a few she did not, the experience did not disappoint.
Although the lasting impressions and lessons of her time at Winchester may be yet to fully revealed themselves, Kiah took some time to share the following thoughts about her experiences. It was important for her to pass along a few reflections for current and future Blugolds who might be considering a trip across the pond.
Kiah Sexton, '17, English education
My study abroad experience in Winchester, England was fraught with the typical buzzwords that were thrown at me before my departure; “Life changing experiences”, “getting out of your comfort zone”, “expanding your cultural awareness”, and “make life long friends and memories” to name a few. All of these things happened while I was abroad — they weren’t lying during orientation — but these phrases are so much more than just words on paper or highlighted points by the Study Abroad students who traveled semesters before my own adventure.
When the plane touched down, my excitement was through the roof, even as I fought bravely against the dreaded jet lag. I felt like I was well prepared to take on whatever came my way, thanks to my family, friends, and UWEC professors. While being in a completely new place, a comforting realization was that I wasn’t the only person going through this experience. Because we were all going through the same feelings, bonds were formed. I met so many incredible people throughout my semester that have changed my life forever.
The group of people I ended up spending the most time with were six international students. Three Americans (Carly, Sarah, and myself), a Finn (Sirkku), an Austrian (Mona), and a Czech (Lukáš). Towards the beginning of our friendships, we would always say hello if we saw each other and then normally move on to where ever we were headed, but as the weeks stretched on we became a close knit group of individuals.
We traveled together, made banana bread every week, and a few of us participated in a Cathedral University Choir Festival hosted right in our own Winchester Cathedral.
Each week we would would catch up with how everyone was doing, new things happening, sharing confusion at English slang (i.e. “You alright?” the answer to which confounded us all, but we were firm believers in "fake it till you make it"), but we also had wonderful conversations about politics, our respective countries, and hometowns among other topics.
Four of us were Education majors and in a shared passion. I learned so much about how education systems work in other countries, while also analyzing the English higher education system that we had all been plunged into. These conversations and the interactions with my classmates enabled me to question not just my own American education system experiences, but also this new system. Trying to navigate the differences in systems while adapting tools from one school to the other was at times frustrating, but I was lucky to have such wonderful friends to talk to and help get through my road blocks.
Thanks to this group of people I really feel like I filled my study abroad experience with as many learning moments and happy memories as I could. Being able to attend Winchester University while also staying on track for my degree also enabled me to really get as much as I could out of the classes I was taking. Studying abroad is an experience that I will promote for the rest of my life because it is an experience unlike anything else. The Center for International Education enabled me to take this major step toward independence as a well informed and prepared student ready to adapt to a new place. The combination of Education in a completely new setting is a terrifying, marvelous, and enlightening involvement for which I will forever be thankful.