Alumni Spotlight: Claire Olson


Claire was a student from St. Cloud State University who studied abroad for her freshman year in Alnwick, England and is majoring in Nuclear Medicine Technology.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because of the location. While studying abroad in one location is an amazing opportunity in and of itself, I also wanted to be able to take advantage of traveling to other countries besides where I was staying. England ended up being the perfect location. I was able to go to as close as Scotland and Ireland, to as far away as Malta, a tiny island off the coast of Italy. Over the course of 3 months, I was able to travel to 7 different countries. It was an amazing experience!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

This program was very unique because a St. Cloud faculty member lives and works at Alnwick Castle. He is there as a resource for you to use whenever you need it. He is literally one text away. The university assisted us with information on classes and our flight to and from England. Once we were there, the university still had a big influence to our class schedule and Friday field trips.

The main thing we had to organize on our own was any extra travel plans we had. Even with faculty members staying at the castle with us and having resources we could tap into, they encouraged us to figure things out for ourselves.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Because extra traveling on weekends and breaks was such an important part to studying abroad for me, I would encourage other students who are thinking about going on this program to start brainstorming ideas of where they would like to travel.

If you want to make the most out of your experience, you have to start travel planning right away.

My friends and I spent the first 2 weeks of our time abroad booking flights and hotels. If I had already looked at where I wanted to go, I could've managed to cross a few more countries off my list!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

This program had a pretty set, regular schedule when it came to classes and extra activities. Classes were Monday through Thursday every week starting around 9 and either ending at 5, or an occasional late night class that ended no later than 7:30. Even though night classes sound bad, it was actually a lot of fun! It also split up the day so you weren't constantly sitting in class.

We were also provided lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday. A hot breakfast is also being provided Monday, and then resources were given to us to make our own breakfast the rest of the week.

On Fridays, we had field trips to different regions of the country provided by the university. They gave us a bagged breakfast and lunch to go along with the field trips. The field trips lasted all day and were guided by one of the British professors who taught a couple of classes during the week.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

The fact that I decided to study abroad my first year of college, leaving all my friends behind, gave me the fear that I would be living and traveling alone for 3 months because I wouldn't make any new friends. This was definitely not the case! I ended up meeting some of the nicest people I never would have encountered on the St. Cloud campus. After becoming good friends, we all talked about how scared we were about coming to England alone. We were all in the same boat!

You just have to put yourself out there and get over the initial stage of making friends, and it will end up being a great experience! If I were to study abroad again, I would not be so scared of going alone. This past semester has instilled an independence that put that fear behind me.