Why did you decide ISA in Reading?
Stephanie: I decided to study abroad in Reading because the program was financially feasible. I also loved that from a location perspective, Reading was only a short train ride from London. As a native of Long Island, New York, I live a half hour train ride away from New York City and this program was similar to my experiences of living in only minutes away from a major city.
As an English Literature major, the academic aspect of studying abroad was also a crucial factor. At the University of Reading, I was able to study under internationally renowned experts on Shakespearean Theatre which was something I would have not been able to do at home. I loved that the program also allowed me to immerse myself in the British Culture through experiencing the dorm life at the University of Reading. I took classes with native students and was able to form lasting friendships with those students.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a future ISA student?
Stephanie: The best piece of advice that I could offer a student is to have an open mind and to broaden your horizons.Take time to befriend students from the country that you are studying in and try to transcend your comfort zones. Although I was tempted to gravitate towards hanging out with only American students, I attempted to make friends with other students on campus. That is how I met one of my best friends. Although she lives in the United Kingdom, we talk at least once a week.
Be open to cultural differences. Daily life in Los Angeles or New York is significantly different from life in London. Oscar Wilde once noted that the United States and the United Kingdom were two nations separated by a common language. Be mindful of the differences, they may surprise you. Be respectful of other cultures. For example, on the Tube, talking loudly is a tell tale sign of discourtesy. Be mindful of others. Also recognize that the academic system in the country that you study abroad can also be very different from the academic system for United States Higher Education. A 70 in the United Kingdom is actually an “A.” I remember when I received my first grade back I was extremely nervous until I realized the conversion difference. Finally, have patience. It takes more than a day to fully assimilate into the culture of another country. Do not be discouraged because studying abroad is worth it.
Describe your program socially and academically
Stephanie: The International Studies Abroad (ISA) Spring 1 Reading Program was a twelve credit three months intensive semester program. I left New York on January 10th and arrived back in the United States on March 23rd. Upon arrival we were greeted by one of the Student Services Coordinator and then received a tour of Reading. Over the course of the ten weeks that followed, I was able to study English Literature under some of the most renowned experts in the field. As an English major at my home institution, this was an ideal situation. Living at the University of Reading was a great experience. The dorms are difference in that there are no Resident Assistants and all of the rooms are singles. There was also a meal plan that was provided which was helpful. The classes were different than those offered in the United States in that the classes were seminar course held predominately in the offices of the professors as opposed to lectures.
The excursions were another part of the program that made the experience absolutely unforgettable. I saw Shakespeare’s House, Stonehenge, Parliament, the Tower of London and so much more. The traveling that I did on my own also played integral part of my overall experience I traveled to see friends in Cologne, Germany, spent a weekend in Dublin, took a pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s House and saw the studio lot where the Harry Potter series was filmed. The program was everything I could have hoped for and so much more. Leaving Reading was one of the hardest days of my life. I hope to go back one day, and see the town that taught me the importance of going beyond what I knew. My experience allowed me to become a resourceful and confident young woman.
Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?
Stephanie: The souvenir that I cherish above all else is my scrapbook. The forty page book of photographs, maps, and small trinkets is a representation of one of my greatest accomplishments. While abroad I took over 3000 photographs. I chose my favorite photos and maps and pieced together a fantastic story. Each photo in the book has its own story to coincide with it, from the picture of my mother and I at the airport to the picture of me standing on the fence at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton.
As I sit here presently, I am leafing through the pages of the book. The memories always come flooding back and I feel as if I am again in my dorm in Reading. The book is also filled with theatre and museum tickets as well as shells from Brighton Beach museum maps and brochures, tube maps as well as countless other small pieces of memorabilia from my trip. I highly recommend making a scrapbook. It is a living memory to your adventures abroad. This small book will provide you with the ultimate story book as well. Whenever I speak to students about the significance of studying abroad, I bring what I call my “extra textbook.” The scrapbook is a testament to the education I acquired beyond the walls of the lecture hall and I am proud to call it my most meaningful souvenir.
Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?
Stephanie: There were four pictures, which are featured below that were extremely memorable both when taking the picture and even now looking back at the memories.The first picture is a photograph that I affectionately call “Winter vs. Californians.” It was taken on the Reading Group’s first trip to London. It was snowing, a weather phenomenon that is not extremely familiar to the United Kingdom because of its topographical nature. I was with three of my closest friends. Although the weather was absolutely unforgiving, the bridge still maintained its beauty. In fact, I believe that the bridge looked even more beautiful covered in a blanket of snow than any other time that I walked across it. For my three friends, this picture is a conversation starter and a memory that will always elicit laughter.
The next two photos were taken at Stonehenge during an ISA excursion to Stonehenge and Bath. The first photo is one of the sun creeping through the stone formations, illuminating the blue sky and the damp green grass below. The colors were beautiful and the photo was a very lucky shot. The other photo at Stonehenge is of my friend Judy and I. We wanted to take a motion shot of the both of us jumping with Stonehenge in the background. During the shot I lost my shoe underneath the guard wire. It was a true sight to see me climbing underneath the wire to go and get it.
The final photo was taken by my best friend Caitlin when she came to London to visit me. I didn’t even know she was taking it. We were in Parliament Square and I was looking at Westminster Abbey and smiling with tears in my eyes simply marveling at its beauty. The photograph was taken on my last day in London. Within two days I was going home and that truth elicited some emotion that is evident in the photo. All of these photographs captured special moments throughout my trip. When I look at these pictures, I imagine myself going back and visiting the places I love all over again.