Living Large in London

Sydney Levy, an SMU junior double-majoring in mathematics and education, spent a month abroad in London this summer on SMU’s London Communications Program. Here are her reflections on the program, living in Britain, and how she changed because of this unforgettable experience.

Sydney Levy

Majors: Math and Education

Semester Abroad: Summer 2018

Program Name/Location: London Communications Program

Why did you want to study abroad?

I have wanted to study abroad since I was very young. My mom used to tell me stories about going on Semester at Sea and how she was able to see the world, so I wanted to do the same. Also, after my brother studied abroad when he was in college, I got to see how much experiencing life in a new country impacted him. I wanted a chance to branch out and find new things I loved, make new friends, and just explore places I had never been before. I originally wanted to do a semester, but it did not work in my schedule so I chose to do a summer instead. I think this was a good amount of time for me and by the end of my trip I was ready to come home.

Does England have any challenging societal differences?

Because I chose to study in London, some things were very easy to adapt to, especially with no language barrier. However, because life in London is so centered around a fast moving city, similar to New York, I had to adjust to this. Growing up in a place where I would drive at least thirty minutes to go anywhere, having to walk anywhere I wanted to go was quite different. At first, I loved it because I was able to experience something completely different and I thought it was so much fun to see the city and even get lost in the many interesting areas. But, towards the end of my trip I began to get tired of walking everywhere and was overall just exhausted. Looking back on my time I definitely loved the city life, but I learned it is not something I could do forever.

Would you recommend the London Communications program to those interested in studying abroad?

Yes, I would definitely recommend going to study abroad in London. When I chose this program, I was nervous I would not like London because I am not a huge fan of New York. However, I fell in love with London; the people, the food, the city, it was all so much fun and interesting to experience.  I think that the program was very geared towards political science and advertising majors, so I think if that is what your interested in, then it is a great program. I decided to do this program to get UC credits I needed and I still enjoyed them even though they are not my main interests. However, beyond just the classes, I think this program is designed for everyone because we had the opportunity to experience so much and see so many different things.

What new skill or strength did you gain while abroad?

While abroad, I really improved my sense of direction. I always found myself to be the person in my friend group leading the way, and by the end of the trip I was able to walk around parts of London without using a map. I was honestly very proud of this because when I travel with my family, they never let me be in charge of directions since my brother and my dad are very good at it. I think that I also became more adventurous and more willing to try new things. I loved trying all of the different foods in London and I learned that I enjoy many interesting foods that were new to me because of this.

Highlighted Student of November 2018 – Antoine Mellon

Antoine Mellon is the highlighted SMU Abroad student of month

Antoine is a Biology major at SMU. He studied in northeastern Tanzania during the spring semester of 2018. Being a STEM student at SMU, Antoine was told that it would be very difficult to study abroad with his course load. Determined to take advantage of this opportunity to study in another country, Antoine researched various ways so that he could find a program that would work with his course load and provide valuable hands-on experience. Antoine is interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. 

What influenced you to go abroad? What have you gained from the experience?

I wanted to experience a different type of teaching and learning, and I needed something much more interactive than simply a classroom experience. Coming to Tanzania through SFS gave me the learning experience that I was looking for. In this program, we learn the basics in class, and then we go apply them in the field. Whether it be our wildlife management course – where we further our understanding by going on safaris, or our political economy class, in which we go to nearby towns and interview locals to get first-hand information on their lives. I feel that these experiences further my understanding and appreciation for the material I am learning.  

Why did you choose this program?  

I am a Biology major with a strong interest in wildlife and potentially veterinary medicine. During the study abroad fair at the beginning of the year, I saw a flyer with pictures of lions and zebras. I was immediately interested due to my love and interest for wildlife. By talking further with the SFS representative, I learned more about this program. This program therefore allowed me to earn Biology credit for SMU while also learning about wildlife management and ecology.  

Can all STEM students study abroad?  

I was told several times by professors and classmates that studying abroad as a Bio major on the pre-health track may be difficult or impossible. I decided to do my own research and find a way to make this experience work. It is definitely possible to study a whole semester abroad and earn enough credit in order to graduate on time, even if you think your major is not designed to allow this. Advisors may tell you that it probably isn’t possible for your major, but there is definitely a way to make it happen.  

What has been your favorite part of living in Tanzania?  

I came to Tanzania because I wanted to see the animals and go on Safaris. The locals have singlehandedly made this experience amazing. Through various community service projects, the interviews we have conducted in nearby towns, and simply by playing soccer, volleyball and ultimate frisbee with them every day, I have realized that I was ignorant in thinking that I only really wanted to see wildlife in Tanzania. There is much more to a country than just the scenery and the wildlife. Engaging with the community and learning from the culture should always be a priority when visiting a new country.

Summer 2018 Abroad Reflections – October

Below are reflections from two SMU students, Elena Skaribas and Dylan Furner, about their experiences abroad this summer. These students went to very different places and had completely unique experiences, yet both grew tremendously from their unforgettable time abroad!

Elena Skaribas

Majors: Psychology & Biology

Program: STEM Summer Research – Glasgow, Scotland

What life lessons and skills did you learn while abroad?

I never thought I would travel abroad during my time in college, and taking the step to apply for a research program abroad was a huge step outside my comfort zone. Being left to my own devices in a foreign country was intimidating at first, but I made some amazing, life-long friends who helped me feel more comfortable and adjust quickly. I made sure to make the most of my experience abroad: traveling, exploring, shopping, and taking lots and lots of photos to document my time. I had to learn how to travel around and between cities using public transport as well as learn how to organize my time between doing research at the University and exploring Glasgow. I would say that researching abroad made me more mature and independent by making me step outside my comfort zone and pushing me to enjoy new experiences.

Was your abroad experience impactful? Why?

On an academic level, the research I did was very impactful because it taught me an entire skill set I hadn’t known or used before. I was able to study and use fMRI data and complete data analysis using programs like Matlab and BrainVoyager. At first learning these new skills was hard and overwhelming, but the support I had from my professor and the graduate students over-seeing my lab helped me gain confidence and eventually master high-level data analysis. Now I have the knowledge and foundation to carry out even more neuropsychology research on my own, given the skills I obtained during my research experience abroad.

Did you adopt a new favorite activity that is unique to Scotland? 

During my time in Scotland, I traveled up to the Highlands with a group of other students in my program to attend the Highland Games. The Highland Games are events that are held in Scotland during the spring and summer during which people participate in traditional Scottish/Celtic sporting events and dance. It was very exciting to attend a traditional festival to understand more of Scottish culture and the people there welcomed us warmly. During our time in the Highlands, we also toured Loch Lomond and learned more about the history of Scotland.

Dylan Furner
Majors: Computer Science, Mathematics
Minor: Economics
Program: SMU-In-Costa Rica. Located in Heredia, Costa Rica
What life lessons and skills did you learn while abroad?
I learned quite a few. I learned how to handle myself in a room where I don’t speak the language and I learned how to survive in a country completely foreign to me. The lifestyle I lived in Costa Rica was completely different from anything else in my past, including time spent living in Hong Kong.
Was your abroad experience impactful? Why?
My Costa Rican ‘parents’ were some of the best people I have ever met. They welcomed me into their home, cooked my meals, tutored me through my classes, and taught me more Spanish over the course of dinner every night than I could have ever learned in a classroom. I try to carry their unapologetic kindness with me as I move my life, and I will never forget how incredible they truly were.
Did you adopt a new favorite activity that is unique to Chile?
I only watch Netflix in Spanish now. Although Netflix and Spanish are definitely not unique to Costa Rica, if it were not for my Study Abroad experience I would never have achieved the level of understanding that I have today in Spanish.

Highlighted Student of the Month – October

Lili Johnston

Major(s): Finance and French

Semester Abroad: Fall 2017, junior year

Program: Institute for Field Education, Field Studies Program, Paris, France

Why did you want to study abroad?

I wanted to go abroad because of my interest in traveling, to learn more about French culture, and to advance my French language skills in an immersive environment.

Does French society have any major differences to the United States? Was it challenging to adapt to the differences?

I think most people think that Western Europe and France are similar to the U.S., and they are in many ways given that they’re both some of the world’s most developed countries. However, they are still very different and I faced many daily challenges that I don’t face here in the U.S. It was challenging to adapt to the differences, but I also went abroad because I wanted to be challenged.

Would you recommend your program & country to those interested in studying abroad?

I would say that my program isn’t for a student who wants a light-hearted experience abroad. The classes were long and hard, there were a lot of educational field trips, I was working full-time at my internship while taking night class, and had to write a 30 page dissertation. That being said, I loved the immersive nature of the program. My French improved so much, and the challenging nature meant that I matured and grew so much and gained immense self confidence. Looking back, I’m somewhat glad I chose such a challenging, demanding program; even though I had to struggle in the short term, it means that I have gained skills that will last forever.

What new skills or strengths did you gain while abroad?

How to deal with uncertainty, how to make the best of what you have, independence, and learning how to spend time alone.

How has study abroad impacted and added to your college experience?

Studying abroad has infinitely added to my college experience. I can tackle my French classes with ease, and my cultural sensitivity and I’ve been able to apply the experience I gained from my internship in the U.S. Trade Department at the U.S. Embassy in Paris to my business coursework. I think my experience abroad has impacted my life beyond college, as my international business experience and foreign language skills have been attractive to employers. Those are tangible impacts, but the more intangible impacts, such as the amount I grew and the experiences I gained, have also been great, too.