Study Abroad - England from The OSU Foundation on Vimeo.
For some, those three words bring back memories of a 1980s hit comedy, but for a group of OSU students, the three modes of transportation will forever remind them of what it took to go from the familiar surroundings of Stillwater to a small town in England where they connected to the world.
The students are participating in OSU’s Study Abroad/National Student Exchange Program, which provides educational opportunities in many countries worldwide for a semester or an entire academic year. It allows students to continue working on their degree while immersing themselves in a different culture.
The University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, England, aggressively recruits students from other continents and is currently home to seven Oklahoma State students. Some of Hertfordshire’s students are there for four or more years, while others are enrolled in study abroad programs like the OSU group.
Located 19 miles north of London, it takes about 20 minutes to reach Hatfield by train. With a slightly larger student population than OSU-Stillwater, Hertfordshire is proud of its international reputation. A hallway in the university’s Learning Resource Center – their version of the library – features flags from the dozens of countries that its students represent.
Before arriving in Hatfield, OSU sophomore Monica Mitchell, a business marketing major, had only been to Mexico.
“All the people we live with are from different countries,” she proudly declares while describing life in Hatfield.
“Up to now, I have only known people from Texas and OSU,” says Jacy Mercer, a junior studying strategic communications. Both students say they see the world much differently now that they live and study with people from other countries.
One of the most significant adjustments for many U.S. students, especially those from the West and South, is the reliance on public transportation in Europe. Bus and rail lines do booming business as commuters try not to crowd the already congested roads in the major cities where the residents only wish they had rush hours. In London, for example, traffic is heavy all the time.
“We’re used to driving everywhere. You have to be patient with public transportation,” says Lauren Heaton, also a junior studying strategic communications, as she describes waiting for buses and trains to arrive.
But access to public transportation has made it easier for the OSU students to see other parts of Europe. They take advantage of weekends and other breaks to visit nearby countries. In the United States, a long weekend might consist of visiting another state or two. Here, the same period allows students to see one, two or even three countries.
Despite all they have learned while visiting historic cities and sites in Europe, there is also work to be done on campus. All of the OSU students have classes, papers to write and tests to take, but there is also more independent study time here, which means it is up to each student to keep up with their work as the semester goes on.
OSU sophomore Kaley Uptergrove is majoring in marketing and management. She chose the University of Hertfordshire partly because of its proximity to London and the upcoming Olympic games. When London was awarded the 2012 games seven years ago, the University of Hertfordshire began developing courses focusing on how the Olympics are organized.
“All my classes are related in some way to the Olympics,” Uptergrove says. “My management class is how to deal with people in mega events, the sports management class deals with athletes and their charitable foundations, and another looks at Olympic impacts and legacies.”
She adds that studying abroad has opened her eyes to a worldly perspective and has allowed her to focus on her passion, which is Olympic work. Field trips to London also provided an opportunity to see some of the sites where the 2012 games will be held.
Longer study abroad experiences would not be possible for most students if they didn’t have access to scholarships. Mitchell, Uptergrove and sociology senior Kate Caudill are in Hatfield because of a generous gift made two years ago by Don, a 1971 industrial engineering graduate, and Cathey Humphreys as part of Branding Success: The Campaign for Oklahoma State University.
The $6 million gift will have a total impact of $15 million after matches are included, and fund, in part, OSU study abroad scholarships.
“Before receiving the Humphreys’ scholarship, my entire trip was still up in the air because of its cost. The Humphreys’ award guaranteed that I would be able to have this opportunity,” says Caudill.
The students say the experience in England has changed their lives in many ways, including allowing them to develop friendships with people from other countries that will continue long after the students leave Hatfield and later OSU to begin their careers.
“I always knew since I was little that I wanted to study abroad,” says Kristin Grewe, an accounting junior. “It’s always been one of my dreams to study in England.”
Dreams do come true.
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