Same Language, Different Culture: A Student’s Study Abroad Experience
Reading tabloids about Kate Middleton is the closest to England that some Americans will ever get. That is not the case for UA students who choose to take advantage of the many study abroad opportunities, like senior Jeremy Page, who studied in England during the fall 2011 semester.
“I was definitely excited and looking forward to living in another country,” Page said, though he admitted he was nervous and anxious. He said that upon first arriving, “you’re so out of place.” Getting used to everyone speaking a different accent was the biggest adjustment, he said.
Page studied abroad through a program called Globalinks. He said he chose England because he always wanted to go there and because he is not fluent in any language besides English, so he wanted to study in an English-speaking country.
A public administration, political science and economics major, Page went to Queen Mary University of London to study politics and economics. He said there are some things that cannot be taught to the fullest extent in an American classroom. Because he took a political science class where he was able to discuss whether or not the Euro would fail with people it would directly affect, he got insight he would not have been able to in the United States, he said.
“It was interesting to hear opinions from Europeans because it would have more impact on their lives,” he said.
Page stayed in a flat on campus with seven people. He had his own bedroom and an en suite bathroom. The flatmates shared a kitchen. Page’s Chancellor’s Scholarship and additional money from Fulbright Honors College helped pay for his semester.
Traveling to a different country from Arkansas and traveling to a different country from London are not quite the same. Page was able to take affordable, short train rides to Italy and France, instead of long, pricey flights, so although he was only able to choose one country to study abroad in, studying abroad also provided him the opportunity to visit other European nations.
Page said he was also able to go see “The Phantom of the Opera” for about $20 in its original theater.
Page said what surprised him the most was that “they all really like Americans.” Page said he was well-received and almost instantly made friends. He also took note of how many American influences he saw in London. American music was played on the radio, and there were billboards advertising American movies and American TV shows, he said.
“American culture has flooded other countries,” Page said.
Although there were reminders of home, some aspects of British life took some adjusting.
“They’re much more open in discussing politics and religion,” Page said. “They’re things you talk about within the first few days of meeting someone,” Page said. In British culture, people are more casual about subjects that Americans are not as relaxed about, he said.
Most people watch TV online because they have to pay to watch broadcast TV, he said. British TV is also not as censored as American TV is, and the comedy is primarily dry humor. People also tend to talk much quieter than they do here, and people wear black and dark colors; bright clothing is rare, he said.
“And everyone smokes,” he said. “London was really clean, and they had really great public transit.”
In fact, he said he had to adjust to taking public transportation everywhere. London is a big city. Everything is expensive, and there was a lot of ethnic diversity, Page said.
“I would definitely suggest (studying abroad),” Page said. “It allows you to experience new cultures, new people and new ideas. There are so many things to do and see outside of America.”