Kayla Whitehead and Makayla Palmer didn’t think they would have an opportunity to live out their dreams of studying abroad. Whitehead only had two and a half years of college to include studying abroad in her education and Palmer had already been let down due to COVID-19 for a past trip abroad. These two students not only went abroad but were able to earn honors credits through projects that let them deepen their connection to their host countries.
Whitehead traveled to Harlaxton, England, and Palmer to Limerick, Ireland. They were nervous about traveling to a new country by themselves but agreed they would go back to their host countries in an instant.
Palmer went to the University of Limerick in Ireland with a major in actuarial science and a minor in theatre arts. COVID-19 disrupted her high school choir tour during spring break to Austria and the Czech Republic. She always wanted to study abroad and knew she would never have this opportunity again.
Palmer felt the best way to experience a new culture was to immerse herself. She knew that Ireland would be different from Wisconsin, but she felt Ireland was the right choice because she didn’t need to learn a foreign language and could communicate easily.
Whitehead has a major in communications sciences and disorders and a certificate in child welfare. Whitehead loves traveling, so studying abroad has always been a goal of hers. Because she’s graduating from UWEC in 2 and a half years, she did not think she’d be able to go. That was until she discovered Harlaxton had a summer program where she could also earn honors credit.
She’s always found England’s history fascinating and remembered thinking, “I get to live in a castle! I have to!”
Honors Project Opportunity
Being able to complete honors projects abroad kept both Palmer and Whitehead on track for graduation. Their projects connected to their passions, both coincidentally involving music.
Palmer, who has loved musical theatre since a young age, was cast in a musical through the Musical Theatre Society at the University of Limerick and decided to write a journal about her experience in the show as her honors project. She used the journal to reflect about the experience and how her thinking about acting, Ireland, and more changed before, throughout, and after the musical.
Whitehead completed two honors projects while in Harlaxton. The first was an extra research project outside of her British studies literary perspectives class that looked into how speech-language pathology related to British literature. Her second project was on Taylor Swift. This project consisted of Whitehead taking pictures of things around the manor she lived in, finding a Taylor Swift song that fit the object/picture, and then relating it to a poem from the English Romantic period.
Reflecting on the joy she felt in the musical and journaling for her honors project, Palmer claimed: “With study abroad… if you had something you were passionate about, you could find an honors project that would fit that passion.”
The honors projects Palmer and Whitehead finished abroad allowed them to dive deeper into what they were passionate about and earn credits for it.
A Life-changing Experience
Palmer and Whitehead both had life-changing experiences while abroad. They came home with new perspectives on the
world and what they believe is possible for themselves.
Palmer’s best times abroad were spent traveling to other places. There were weekend trips to iconic places in Ireland like the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry. She also got to explore places outside of Ireland, such as Germany, Croatia, and Belgium.
She learned “There’s a whole world out there.” And that after living her whole life in the Midwest “when you go abroad, it’s like wow... and there is so much more culture and people, and there’s just so much more out there.”
Whitehead thinks everyone should study abroad if they have the chance. Although it was nerve-wracking to go, she would go back for a semester or a year in a heartbeat. Her advice to anyone studying abroad or thinking about it is to “believe in yourself, you can do hard things.” and “don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.”
A favorite take away from Whitehead’s time in Harlaxton was that she “Got to make lifelong friends and live with them in a castle,” she goes on to say, “I’m basically a princess now!”
Dreams Turned Into Reality
These two students got to go abroad when they didn’t think they’d have the chance. Despite the obstacles, they were able to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences they would recommend to anyone. They were able to stay on course to graduate with the honors projects they completed, adding to their experience and fond memories.