By: Lillian Lema, Staff Writer
As a new semester begins students dread the anxiety of balancing school, work, and classes. Students who study abroad face other worries and concerns. Two weeks before USM student Denae Walton left for England for the Fall 2019 semester, she experienced a bit of cold feet. “I was freaking out about traveling, classes, the different school systems over there…and so many other things,” the senior sociology major said.
Coming from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Walton felt that she needed to expand her knowledge of other cultures and groups of people. After missing the study abroad deadline for the Spring 2019 semester, due to lack of advertisement from USM, Walton didn’t lose hope. She was determined to go the following semester. “If you have to do it then, do it!” Walton said.
While most USM students are trying to switch from vacation mode to learner mode right after Labor Day weekend, Walton didn’t start her classes abroad until late September. She attended the University of Winchester where she took electives in sociology, psychology, and gender studies.
Once in England, Walton experienced a culture shock with the different ways the British behave.
“Shops would close at 6pm or 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays, but on Sunday they would be closed all day… there isn’t like a Wal-Mart where you can get everything you need in one place, but rather mom and pop shops to get your essentials,” Walton said. While hanging out with friends she learned that using the backwards peace sign is considered vulgar and rude in British culture. “It was definitely a learning experience,” Walton said.
Food was another learning experience for Walton as she tried new dishes, such as curry, which she describes as being “amazing.” She had a bite of their sausage rolls and was hooked. But as someone with a sweet tooth Walton really enjoyed the pastries in England.
Walton’s time abroad didn’t just consist of studying and eating a variety of amazing British food, but also traveling outside of the United Kingdom. “My friends and I traveled to France, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Germany,” Walton said. How does a student get to travel during the school week without falling behind? “Attendance was mandatory, but there wasn’t really any homework… it was suggested, but never checked… we had one big project or paper to write for each class at the end of the semester that would determine if we passed or failed.”
After class on Thursday or Friday, Walton and her friends would head to Europe by bus or plane to explore all its wonders and be back in England by Sunday night or Monday morning. Just in time for her Monday morning class. While in the Czech Republic, Walton visited the Prague Castle and witnessed the Velvet Revolution parade, she ate a crepe under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, took a trip to one of the Holocust’s deadliest concentration camps, Auschwitz, in Poland, and went to Mozart’s house in Austria. During the holiday season, Walton went to Germany and had a chance to experience the Christmas markets where there are vendors selling traditional Christmas ornaments, food, and drinks. “I was having so much fun and didn’t want to leave,” Walton said.
Unfortunately, for Walton as the semester came to an end so did her time in England, since she only signed up for a half year program. “I was so sad when I left because I loved traveling, meeting new people and learning about different cultures,” Walton said.
Looking back at the person she was before this trip Walton describes herself as being someone who was really shy and introverted. Her semester abroad has helped her become less scared of stepping out of her comfort zone and more independent. She also learned that asking questions are very important when traveling abroad and that there is no dumb question. “If you don’t ask a question then you are done… every question is valid,” Walton said.
Traveling has allowed Walton to view the world from a different perspective and be removed from her comfort zone. “Everyone should travel internationally when they are young… it helps with becoming more social and interacting with people different than yourself,” Walton said. “Just travel!”