Alumni Spotlight: Shanna Aberson

Shanna Aberson is a 21 year old female from Orange City, Iowa, and she is currently completing her senior year at Central College in Pella, Iowa. She spent this past spring semester studying abroad in beautiful Bangor, Wales. She truly loves studying abroad (having done so not only in Wales, but Mexico and Australia as well), but she also enjoys participating in athletics, expanding her movie collection, and making memories with family and friends.

Why did you decide to study abroad with CCA in Wales?

Shanna: Studying abroad was a key component when I originally decided on which college to attend. Central College has an incredible Study Abroad Progam with, on average, over 50% of each graduating class having studied abroad at least once during their college career. I chose to do a semester abroad to Wales in particular for a few reasons.

Shanna standing on part of the Criccieth Castle ruins

I have always wanted to spend time in the United Kingdom, and I am very intrigued with Welsh history as they are one of the original seven Celtic Nations. Beyond that I was very interested in the unique Outdoor Pursuits program that is offered exclusively through Central College. Finally, I have had several friends study abroad in Bangor, Wales, and each of them had an absolutely amazing time. That was enough to convince me.

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Shanna: There are several components that I could list to answers this question. Of course the Outdoor Pursuits class was an incredible experience where I was able to do mountain biking, sea-level traversing, outdoor rock climbing, etc., activities that I would never have been able to do back in Iowa. Also, the fieldtrips that the students go on are amazing, particularly the short Tour of Ireland that is included in the program.

(L to R) Regan, Elizabeth, Jade, Tecwyn (Program Director), Blair, Rachel, and S

Ultimately, though, what really made this program special for me was our Program Director, Tecwyn Vaughan Jones. Not only is the man a walking encyclopedia (seriously, he knows everything), but he demonstrated a passion for Wales and great concern for his students that instantly put me at ease. I know that I will definitely miss his charisma and leadership when I return to the States.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Shanna: The major thing that I will take away from my time abroad is that I know that I will continue to travel. Being here, seeing a good chunk of Europe, experiencing different cultures, cuisines, and ways of life, I know it is something I want to keep doing. Outside of that studying abroad has truly helped prepare me for the time when I will no longer be attending school, for when I am in the "real world."

I was forced to become more independent because I could not instantly call my family or professors back home if I had a problem. When I faced frustrations, be it through a cooking disaster or overcoming a challenge presented through Outdoor Pursuits, I learned how to take a step back, breath, and move on.

Highlights: There were so many amazing moments from my semester abroad, it is hard to narrow it down to one or two favorite moments. My favorite course from the semester was definitely Outdoor Pursuits. This course allowed us to participate in incredible outdoor activities from mountain climbing to gorge scrambling to kayaking. Probably my favorite day was when we did sea-level traversing which included everything from swimming in the ocean to horizontal rock climbing to even a few cliff jumps.

Outside of academics I absolutely loved the field trips we took as part of our program. Tecwyn Vaughan Jones, our Program Director, not only took us all over Wales but to parts of Ireland, too. Hands down, Ireland was the ultimate experience for me. I fell in love with its music, food, and lively atmosphere. It is definitely a place that I will be visiting again some day.

Morning: Living in Bangor, Wales, definitely took some getting used to if for no other reason than I had to cook all of my own meals. On a typical morning I would get up around 8:00a.m., go to the kitchen, and have my usual breakfast of eggs and fruit. I would then get ready for the day and perhaps work on some homework before heading off to my late morning classes.

Afternoon: Another thing that I had to get used to living in Bangor was the amount of walking that had to be done to get from place to place. The majority of my classes occurred between late morning to early afternoon, and it was definitely a trek to get from one building to another. Of course I got used to it soon enough, but walking up, down, and around those curvy European streets took a couple of weeks for me to conditioned for. Once classes finished up for the day I usually spent a couple hours time at one of the local gyms. I spent my time there staying in shape for next year's track season, and I met a couple of really great people while I was there. I became friends with a couple of the regular members as well as a few of the personal trainers, and I am happy to say that stay in touch with them.

Evening: My evenings varied depending on the night. A couple time every week I had a night class that I had to attend or else I would spend some extra time making a more impressive meal to eat at supper as compared to my breakfast or lunch. More often than not I would meet up with other people from my program to go on walks around Bangor or perhaps slip over to Llanduno (a city about 15 minutes away by train) to watch a newly released movie. I also spent a lot of evenings simply hanging out with my flatmates, often comparing cultural differences between the States and Great Britain, or whatever other topic struck us at the time.