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.