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Studying abroad provides valuable cultural experience

Sept. 16, 2003

By Lacy

Elwood, columnist

While my colleagues were copy-editing at Newsday, experiencing the joy of the cop beat at Texas daily papers and writing religion stories in Florida, I did something ill-advised to journalism majors. I spent the summer studying abroad.

Last fall, as I was debating which internships to apply for and sweating the swiftly approaching deadlines for such, with the guidance of my English professor, I stumbled across a little known jewel of a study abroad program on campus, Baylor in Oxford.

Somehow, I found the money to pay for fees and airfare. Somehow I managed to convince my adviser I needed to change my minor in my junior year and somehow, I talked my parents into the idea of letting their baby travel overseas.

Obviously, someone out there knew this experience was exactly what I needed before I started my final year at Baylor.

I began my trip with high expectations but an abundance of anxieties. Rarely have I left the comforts of my hometown, and never had I before traveled overseas.

In the five weeks that would follow, I met people I had been attending school with for three years, but never known. Almost immediately, we grew from acquaintances to friends, due in part to the fact that you tend to spend lots of time with the people you travel abroad with.

Surrounded by foreign things and strangers, it felt so good to see familiar Baylor faces as we shared classes, city maps, hotel rooms and countless meals in Christ Church's Great Hall. Days spent exploring cities in England, France and Scotland turned into nights writing papers in our dorm computer lab.

Countless trips on the British rail system leant us time to catch up on summer reading, play competitive games of UNO and discuss the news happening at Baylor over the summer. Most of our time however, revolved around food; when we were eating, what we were eating and how to get around the bland delicacies of English food.

Late night runs to Sid's food cart, a van stocked with cold drinks and deep fryers for 'chips and cheese' provided much respite for our taste buds. Other fond memories of the trip revolve around impressing the British with our American accents as we sang karaoke on Wednesday nights.

But, most importantly, studying abroad offers educational experiences I never would have found elsewhere. Studying the Oxford Christian writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, among others, I was able to visit their homes, the colleges they instructed at and the pubs they frequented. This hands-on experience taught me more about the authors than my lecture classes ever could.

Baylor in Oxford is just one of the valuable study abroad experiences offered through the university. These programs are invaluable experiences.