Is Study Abroad the Right Choice for You? Read These English Majors' Study Abroad Stories

At some point in your college career, the opportunity may arise for you to be able to study abroad. Studying abroad is a truly valuable and life-changing experience for students of all majors. It allows one to expand his or her worldview, which can have a tremendous effect on career prospects, educational appreciation, and personal growth! 

If you are an English major who is considering whether or not to study abroad, check out these stories from fellow English majors who took their education overseas: 

Lyndsay Rogers - University of Southampton in the UK

Degree title: MA English Literary Studies

"My program was called 'English Literary Studies' and was a one-year long master's program. It began in September of 2013 and ended September 2014 with the completion of my dissertation. The program was split into two semesters with four classes in each term. There were mandatory classes that had to be taken during these two terms, with the option to take other modules as well. Each semester also had a class that was geared toward research and prep for writing our dissertations. To say the least, it was full on. I studied a breadth of subjects: creative writing, film, modernist writing, race studies, and Victorian literature. My dissertation researched New Woman fiction and cross-dressing at the turn of the 19th century.

"My study abroad experience benefited my English degree because it really fine-tuned my critical thinking skills more than staying home or in my home country ever could. I was physically forced to think outside of my comfort zone in ways I never even knew I would be challenged; and in turn, I became a more capable, confident, and well-rounded individual because of it. 

"Studying and completing my degree abroad benefited my job prospects for sure. When I first came back to the states, I was able to impress my colleagues with my experience and obtained a job teaching writing as an adjunct. Currently, I am self-employed as a copywriter, and I love it. Can I say my study abroad experience helped me with this? Yes and no. I could elaborate on that more if I had more words. If I did it over again, I would have selected a university that was less centered on the sciences and more on the arts. Also, I would consider going somewhere else in Europe that wasn't so expensive."

Jennifer Leavy - Florence, Italy

Degree Title: BA in English

"My program was called AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study). It lasted about 3 months. It consisted of classes, field trips, and weekend trips between 1-3 days. It was more general studies with classes in Italian culture, language, history, and then two English classes on Dante Alighieri & travel lit. Yes, it benefited my college experience and post-grad job prospects tremendously. I was more open minded, experienced, and "worldly" which appealed to the company that eventually hired me after I graduated. I wouldn't do anything differently. I absolutely loved studying abroad and I wouldn't change my experience for the world."

Julie Huff - Waterford, Ireland

Degree Title: BA - English Major, History Minor

"Almost 2 years ago now, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad through my university. I travelled to and lived in Waterford, Ireland for 5 months. I attended the Waterford Institute of Technology, taking classes in their BA program.
I had classes that I attended weekly, studying classic novels, creative writing, and an interesting class on the portrayal of family in lit. My professors were interesting and knowledgeable, and I met other students from Ireland who were taking the same degree and classes. Although there were no field trips, I made sure to explore every free weekend that I could—it is super easy to figure out some travelling there. 

"Study abroad helped me gain a wider understanding of literature, culture, and the world. It benefitted my degree mostly because I gained benefits personally—it was an experience that I can apply to writing, reading, and critical thinking. It definitely benefitted my college experience, as when I came home for my last semesters, I was more interested in being involved at my school. Honestly, I'm not sure if it has affected my post grad, but it was an experience of a life time and I wouldn't have changed it!"

Kirsten Casey - Institute of European Studies, University of London

Degree Title: MA English, Creative Writing BA English, Writing emphasis

"I studied during the fall of my junior year in London through the Institute of European Studies. As an English major, I had a Shakespeare survey class and a creative writing seminar, along with some art history. We took Shakespearean field trips, and it was wonderful to have context through living in London... the weather, the history, the architecture, the museums, the churches... it was an experience more than an education. I am convinced it made me a better writer. My wacky British writing teacher allowed us to drink red wine during meetings (a first for me), and ridiculed the girl from Brown who thought she was hot shit because of her overblown imagery. I loved it. If I could do it again, I would study less and go to more pubs... but I was wired that way. I am now a published poet and writing teacher, so everything about my time abroad has informed the rest of my life."

Alexa Cawley - Costa Rica and China

Degree Title: Bachelors of English; Secondary Education

"During my junior year of college, I signed up for a volunteer teaching program in Costa Rica through Cross-Cultural solutions for 2 weeks. It was not a program offered through my school; I saw it advertised online and just signed up on a whim. I lived within an inspiringly colorful home-base which was a small living quarter divided into a female and male section, along with a kitchen, eating room, and confence room. It was beautiful. I taught Mon-Fri at an underprivileged elementary school. It was located within a rainforest and every day birds and butterflies flew throughout our school. We were educated on Costa Rica's school system, how to plan a lesson, their country and language. Additionally, we participated in fun activities like salsa lessons and outdoor excursions.

"It benefited my English degree because when I got back, I began writing. I wrote so much that a piece of my writing about that experience was published in Folio's Literary Magazine and I was asked to read an excerpt of it in front of my peers, professors, etc., alongside famous authors and credible speakers. It also inspired me to continue studying and working abroad.

"After I graduated college, I moved to China for a year and worked for Jiangsu Educational Services for International Exchange (JESIE). I worked for a company that placed me in schools to teach reading and writing. My experience in Costa Rica helped me land the job. It was the most incredible, life-changing move of my life. Not only did I share my experiences through a weekly blog, but I began a book about my experience. Culture shock consumed me in the beginning, but over time I fell in love with the people, their schools, and their history. Suddenly diversity, teaching and advocating for social justice became a passion.

"Upon arriving home, I immediately landed a job in urban education. I'm a 7th/8th grade Language Arts teacher of Hispanic students in Trenton, NJ. I LOVE my job. The moment I stepped into the classroom, I could empathize with my students. I truly feel volunteering in Costa Rica is where it all started. If I could do anything differently, it might be working/studying abroad more before landing my current job. Now that I'm here, I don't want to leave. However, I do still travel. Last summer I participated in a Social Justice Tour where we traveled the Dominican Republic and learned about their social injustices as well as how we can help. English majors are usually writers, philosophers, analytical thinkers and teachers. The discoveries I've made through studying and working abroad are an English major's dream and I truly hope that every English major jumps at the opportunity no matter where they are in life."

Adam Kelly - Ireland

Degree Title: English Literature

"My program was called Freshman Irish Studies Program. It was the first semester of college from August until mid-November. We had daily classes, field trips all over Ireland, and plenty of free time to roam by yourself. It was general education classes, but I learned about many different things. It helped my major because I discovered I wanted to study English through it and I would say it was the best semester of my college career. It was a beautiful country and a great experience of life outside of home and the U.S."

Ashley Warren - London, England and Istanbul, Turkey

Degree Title: B.A., English Literature

"I went on two study abroad programs that were each two weeks long. One was in London, England, through the English Department and one was in Istanbul, Turkey through the Sociology Department. I got two class credits for each trip so I actually thought it was an efficient way to get the credits I needed for my degree. Studying abroad for a whole semester would have been really expensive for me so these shorter trips still allowed me to get out into the world while working toward my degree. They were both amazing academic experiences and I went with professors who were experts in these locations so I got the most out of the trip."

Erik Hanberg - Sea Education Association in the Caribbean and London

Degree Title: English

"I took two study abroad programs. The first was through the Sea Education Association. I spent six weeks in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and six weeks on a schooner in the Caribbean. It was mostly a science program but we also studied "literature of the sea." It was fascinating to read the poetry, short stories, novels, and nonfiction about the sea and how it is inspired so much of what we read.

"I also spent a quarter in London on an English program. We watched 20 plays in 10 weeks and frequently cast members would come speak to us in class the next day after seeing a play. The most interesting class was called "Novels of Place." We read books set all over London and the U.K. and then went to see where they were set. It was an amazing class!"

Here I am standing in front of the British Museum. #collegedays

Here I am standing in front of the British Museum. #collegedays

Alexis Glowka - London, UK

Degree Title: Professional Writing

"I studied abroad in London for two months and it was, by far, my best experience that I had during college. In my cohort you were able to choose two out of three classes: Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and independent publishing. I took the Jane Austen literature and independent publishing classes, both of which I absolutely loved. We were able to meet with independent publishers in London, go to conferences and readings by new, upcoming writers. While I don't have the intention of writing novels myself, I learned so much about publishing and the career opportunities I could have after graduation. Similarly, I had never been a huge fan of Austen before my class, but I left with a strong appreciation (though after a trip to Bath, anyone would be). We also got to see Shakespeare in the Globe theater, travel to Stratford-upon-Avon and more. By far, my best college experience."

This photo was taken outside of Trinity college in Oxford, we visited the university on one of our day trips outside of London.

This photo was taken outside of Trinity college in Oxford, we visited the university on one of our day trips outside of London.

George, a baby (at the time) Howler Monkey, was a resident in a lodge we stayed in.

George, a baby (at the time) Howler Monkey, was a resident in a lodge we stayed in.

Danielle Fatzinger - Peru

Degree Title: BA in English 

"The class I went to Peru with was called The Forest Online. It was a new type of class at my college with three parts: a class in the fall to gain necessary knowledge and skills, a trip in January to Cusco and the rainforest in partnership with an organization called ARCAmazon, and finally a class in the spring during which we discussed and presented our experiences. Throughout this, we blogged. The class consisted of twelve students and two professors, and our goal was to be able to assist ARCAmazon with promoting and improving their base in the rainforest on land they are working to conserve.

"It was very rewarding. The interdisciplinary environment allowed me to use my skills in writing, blogging, and creating stories to improve and add onto the ideas and work of my fellow students. I used my skills of research and analysis to learn about topics I previously had no experience with: environmental studies and the history of South America. I learned how to work with others that have different experiences than me, and I learned to put aside my expectations and assumptions in order to truly experience where I was. Most importantly, it was a real world use of the things my English professors taught me!

"I’m very grateful for my experience and would go back in a heartbeat. If I had the chance to do it again, I would definitely learn some Spanish first and would be more willing to ruin my sleep schedule so I could go on more night hikes. Card games and sleep seemed better at the time, but it’s the hikes and nap times that I miss."

My friend and I on the front of a peki-peki boat. I'm in the black.

My friend and I on the front of a peki-peki boat. I'm in the black.

I'm examining a Brazil Nut I tried to open with a machete after a few of us painted our faces with mud for fun. After this picture, I managed to finally get it open! It was a ten minute project.

I'm examining a Brazil Nut I tried to open with a machete after a few of us painted our faces with mud for fun. After this picture, I managed to finally get it open! It was a ten minute project.

Sarah Brookner - Rome, Italy

Degree Title: Educator

"I studied at the Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago for one term. I arrived early in August to do some traveling and then went home in late January. At the advice of my advisor on campus, I saved some of my core liberal arts requirements for my term abroad. I took Italian language, an English class on the Romantic Poets (what could be better in Rome??), a theology class on the non-fiction works of C.S. Lewis (one of the best classes I have ever taken), and Art in Rome, which met on site once a week for three hours. We did walking tours of the city. It was hands down the best thing I did in my four years of under grad work. If I could do it over, I might stay longer and I would have pursued a double major, one in art history as well. My dream job would have been working as a curator at a museum."

Teddi Strassburger - Paris, France

Degree Title: B.A. in English

"I went on a summer study abroad experience offered through my state's university system. I studied in Paris, but I also visited Normandy and the Loire Valley. My program lasted a little over five weeks. We had classes Mondays and Wednesdays, professor-led field trips Tuesdays and Thursdays, and three-day weekends. I took a French Literature class and a Cultural Anthropology/Literature class. Both of my classes contributed to my understanding of world literature, and I loved getting to study famous French works in France! I had taken several French classes before studying abroad, and I enjoyed the opportunity to practice and develop my French at restaurants, museums, and shops. I believe that my study abroad program benefited my job prospects - knowing another language and being confident in unfamiliar situations are helpful skills. I would absolutely do my study abroad program again, and I wouldn't change a thing."


Alyssa Christensen - London, England

Degree Title: B.A. in English (Creative Writing emphasis) 

"During the fall semester of my junior year of college, I participated in IES Abroad's Study London program. I absolutely LOVED it. I took five classes on English literature and history, and nothing can really compare to the experience of reading Mrs. Dalloway and then retracing her footsteps through London with your professor. After growing up reading books set in London or written by British authors, it was valuable to have more context and understanding of London and Britain in general.

"Through my program, I also had the opportunity to participate in day trips to other cities in England and longer weekend trips. I signed up for every single trip available. We spent a long weekend riding a bus around Scotland, we flew to Dublin, we took the ferry and a bus to Belgium with our history professor, we went to Stonehenge, we went to see where Virginia Woolf grew up, where Shakespeare grew up, and more.

"My class credits transferred well to my college, and so it was worth it in the practical sense, but honestly studying abroad was the highlight of my college experience. I don't think it has influenced my job prospects (although I kept a blog the entire time and used it as an example when an employer wanted to see my "casual writing"—and I did get the job in the end!), but it has enriched my life in so many ways that can't really be measured! I made new friends, met people who changed my perspective on politics, and learned a whole lot about the world in general. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, say 'YES!' and never look back." 

Posted on December 16, 2016 and filed under Articles, English Major Stories, Featured Articles.