Two UCA students participated in an exchange program with Edge Hill University in the U.K. for the fall 2013 semester.
Junior English and creative writing major Christine Massey and junior creative writing major Sabrina Runge decided to go for a trip around Europe first, so they left in the middle of August and returned home in December before Christmas.
Massey previously went to England in May 2012 and said she expected a similar experience to her previous trip. However, Massey visited Northern England in the fall, while she had visited Southern England the previous year.
Massey said she experienced a drastically different culture.
It was Runge’s first trip to England. While Runge said she expected the trip would be a fantastic experience, she did not anticipate that not every aspect of the trip was going to be great.
“There are a lot of lonely nights, terrible Wi-Fi, very little sleep, living out of a suitcase for long periods of time and less-than-desirable hostels,” Runge said.
“Despite all those things, we had an amazing trip, but for anyone wanting to study abroad, just remember that there’s a lot more to the trip besides the highlights you post on Facebook or Instagram.”
During their time away from home, Massey and Runge visited more than 30 cities in 11 countries: England, Ireland, France, Monaco, Italy, Vatican, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Wales.
Every second abroad was a learning and life changing experience for both girls.
The two girls met young people from all over the world in the hostels where they were staying around Europe.
Massey said it was extremely interesting just getting to know so many different cultures and types of people.
“We met Australians, Canadians, Brits, Argentinians, South Africans and more,” Massey said. “It was a blast.”
Massey and Runge made friends during school, mostly American students from different places all over the country, since they were the ones the girls were living with in the dorms.
“We all became so close since we were sharing the experience and going through all of the excitement and homesickness together,” Massey said.
The girls had the opportunity to try different kinds of food, including their favorite, Italian, and their least favorite, English.
Massey said traveling across Europe proved to be a much more daunting task than she ever would have thought.
“Mostly it was just nerve-wracking and stressful to be navigating Europe by ourselves,” Massey said. “But once we figured out how things worked, it was no problem catching international trains every other day.”
Massey said the most difficult part was making sure they didn’t miss their stops, especially when the train conductor was speaking a foreign language.
Massey and Runge experienced many new things abroad, such as biking in the Bavarian Alps in Germany and hiking up to Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for the Disney Castle.
Runge said one of their most memorable days was in Switzerland.
They spent a couple of days exploring Zurich, but she said they were eager to see the famous snow-capped Swiss Alps before they left. They took a tour to Jungfraujoch, also known as the Top of Europe.
“We rode up the mountain in a cogwheel train and it began to snow on us, which made the experience absolutely perfect,” Runge said. “We arrived at the summit of the mountain, and it was so cold that our phones kept shutting off. So we had quite some trouble taking photos. The tour was very expensive, but it was worth every penny.”
From the top they could see mountains in at least three other countries.
Massey said it was absolutely the time of her life and that she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I would love to go back to England–especially London,” Massey said. “But what I’d really love to do is go back and visit my favorite places–Paris, Florence, Germany, Switzerland with my family and friends so I can show them how amazing they are.”
Runge said studying abroad was life changing.
“It helped me grow more independent, fiscally responsible and strengthened my desire to see even more of the world once I realized that I was capable of doing something like that on my own,” Runge said. “I would like to go to England again, but more so mainland Europe. There are still so many countries that I did not get to see, so that’s definitely on my bucket list.”
Massey said she would definitely recommend going abroad to anyone.
“I honestly didn’t expect how much it would change me as a person, but being exposed to so many different cultures and figuring everything out on your own is such a growing up experience for any 20-something,” Massey said. “There are hard parts about it, like being so far from home and from family and friends, but the memories and the experiences you gain are more than worth it.”
Runge said it was an experience like no other.
“You can read books and watch movies about other countries all day, but you don’t truly know what any of them are like until you actually go there,” Runge said.
“Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures gives you a fresh perspective on the world. At the same time, it not only helps you realize that there is more out there than where you grew up, but makes you gain appreciation for where you come from. I will always love traveling, but there really is no place like home.”