I’ve always had difficulty making decisions. Even a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s counter leaves me conflicted, and I inevitably end up sampling most of the flavors as I hold up a line of drooling youngsters. So when faced with the far more permanent and daunting decision of where to go abroad, I was at a loss. I have an open mind, eclectic tastes, varied interests—how would I ever narrow it down to a single location in this vast, vast world of opportunities?
In a moment of strength, I left my dorm and set out to the International Office, hoping that by seeking professional help I would find myself closer to my decision.
Upon arriving I tiptoed into the basement and found myself face to face with a literal representation of the many alternatives. I’m sure they had seen many others like me, wide-eyed and eager, staring up at a wall of brightly colored fliers. But this array of options left me more confused than ever. I had thought I wanted the rich culture and café riddled streets of Europe, but oh, to learn the musical language of Portuguese in Brazil or experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. I took a step back, and collected my thoughts. “Camilla, let’s be practical. What do you really want and need out of this experience?”
I began to collect fliers that suited my interests and skill sets. I had recently made the switch from a Music major to an English major, and I reasoned that an English speaking country where I could immerse myself completely in a rich tradition of writers would be an unsurpassable opportunity. I perused the Australia fliers, but there were none of the creative writing opportunities that I had been hoping for, and that would veto the idea of outside travel. I was in the midst of taking a class about John Keats, an English romantic poet, and as my eyes fell on the UK fliers, it clicked. Oh my, England. What could possibly be more steeped in the English writing tradition? My mind flipped through the images I had catalogued of England: green rolling hills, rainy skies, cobblestoned London, men in silly hats, fashionable women, cliffy coasts. So there I had it. England it was. I perused the fliers for some sort of mention of creative writing, and my search was quickly narrowed to three locations: Lancaster in the north of England, Goldsmiths in London, and the University of Exeter in the south.
I allowed these places to sit with me for a few weeks, researching each school and the surrounding area, perusing a Google image search for each. All seemed so wonderful and interesting, so I decided to meet with the UK advisor. He provided with more in-depth information on each of the programs and put me in contact with a student from the University of Exeter who was currently studying at DU. By this point I had narrowed it down to Goldsmiths or Exeter. Did I want the more urban city experience in a school that was known for their creative and non-traditional ways, or did I want to be along the coast, in a place of deeply rooted tradition and folklore?
If I could have chosen both, I would have. But after talking to Greg, the student from Exeter, I was sold. He loved the university; it was two hours from London, ten minutes from the coast. I liked the idea of being so close to the city center and not being swallowed up in a sea of people, as might be the case in a larger city setting. I imagined myself wandering along the green and cliffy coast, stopping to write, the ocean breeze whipping my hair haphazardly about my head. I imagined rushing into a local coffee shop to avoid the rain and spending hours reading the countless novels assigned to me for my English classes.
Perhaps I had created a romanticized version of my study abroad experience, but isn’t that was this experience offers? It offers the reality of a life that you might only dream of otherwise. It provides the opportunity to grow and change independently of DU or your family and to form new and life-changing relationships. It presents a unique learning experience in an unfamiliar educational environment. I giddily anticipate the transformation I will undergo during this period in my life. I see myself joining the student union, learning to navigate the extensive public transportation system, drinking tea and eating scones, and bashfully agreeing to share an umbrella with a debonair British boy (okay… I’m dreaming again.) Whatever is to come, I’m confident that the decision I made is the right one, and I am prepared (and determined) to make the most of it.
–Camilla Sterne, DUSA Blogger