The Year of Adventure

Yearly Themes
I subscribe to the theory of yearly themes. A yearly theme is a looser and broader New Year’s Resolution that can be used as a guiding force for decisions made throughout the year.

The Year of Adventure
My theme for 2019 was The Year of Adventure. I am nearing the end of my college experience and wanted to focus on gaining new experiences. The Year of Adventure was meant to be a focus on trying things that were unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

Studying Abroad
As part of this search for adventure, I ended up applying to study abroad. Not just study abroad, but I wanted to go to a country that was unlike my previous experiences. This meant no English speaking countries and no Asian countries. I landed on going to Germany. Their culture was different from what I grew up in and the program offered a language course that would help me learn the basics of German.

Making New Friends
One of the greatest parts of studying abroad is the people you meet. For the most part, everyone was happy to meet me and were supportive of my attempts to use German. When my attempts inevitably failed, we usually could fall back on English. This fit in with my Year of Adventure in that I was expanding my social skills by interacting with lots of new people who were very different from my friends back home. They were raised in different states and countries and were interested in very different topics.

US Students
In the beginning, you first meet with other students from the USA. These people come from very different backgrounds than the people I would usually meet in classes. In my computer science courses, I would only meet computer science majors. This typically meant they have a similar background and interests as me. Through the program, I met students who were in different majors like business or political science and vastly different backgrounds than myself.

European Students
After classes started, I had the opportunity to meet and befriend other students. While it was stressful at first, most European students seemed to be interested in talking to American students. The most popular topic was American politics. While it can be hard to approach people when you don’t share a primary language, a lot of the courses were taught in English, so the students were fluent or near fluent in English. I can’t say this is the case for all study abroad programs, but I would assume if courses are offered in English, the student body would be well versed in English.

Taking Courses
The other way I stretched myself was in the courses I took. I took Philosophy of Time and Financial Accounting Around the World. I had never taken a finance course before or a philosophy course, so I was exposing myself to two brand new fields that I was vaguely interested in. The courses were interesting and gave me some insights into how decisions were made and the thought process that many computer scientists would likely follow.
I wouldn’t let the subject matter prevent you from studying abroad. I believe that it is good to take courses outside of your major. Innovation happens when ideas from two different fields meet and create something new.

Closing
Experiences are what make us all unique from one another. My entire year of 2019 was dedicated to trying new experiences in order to really help define who I am and what I’ll be doing after college. I won’t say that studying abroad magically changed my life or who I am as a person, but the experience of studying abroad can’t help but contribute to who I am as I person in the long run. Everything we do shapes us, and studying abroad is no different. It is a unique experience that I would encourage any individual to pursue if they have the chance.

-Cooper Le, Exchange at Philipps-Universit├Ąt Marburg, Spring 2019

University of Reading, Spring 2019

During the spring of 2019, I was thankfully able to study at the University of Reading, which was my first pick when applying for study abroad. The school was located about 30 minutes outside of London so it was as close as I could get to my favorite city, my happy place, and a place I always love to visit. This school was also 40 minutes away from my family who live in London so it allowed me to connect and get to know them better in the six months I was abroad. This experience was definitely full of lifetime memories and something I will always cherish. Looking back, I wish my study abroad experience was longer so that I could create further bonds, go out with friends more, and just create new memories.

Despite the experience being several months ago, many of the friends I made still keep in touch on our various group chats. We check in on each other and also share memories and how much we miss one another. These bonds will always be close to me as we, mostly, all were from different places and did not know what it was like to be so far away from our family, friends, and the way of life we were used to. Because of this, we all become close with each other so that we can push ourselves, often meeting for lunch, forming study groups, to grab a cup of coffee, to go into downtown Reading, or take a trip within England or even other European countries. One of the most memorable trips I had with my new friends that I met while at Reading was about 30 minutes away, to Oxford, England. My Friend Theodora, Will, and I all took the trip one of the first weekends of being abroad as we wanted to see Oxford University and the city. We ended up taking a tour of the ancient castle and jail within the city, which also doubled as a background to the city. While there, we were selected to participate in the animated stories which created laughter and memories we still talk about. We also took a group picture of a “mug shot” with a silly crime that kids were often locked up in this jail for, ours was stealing a snuff box. We ended up buying this picture so we each could have it and look back at the fun, which was a great decoration for my apartment.

Oxford Castle and Prison

While on this trip, we also had an authentic British meal, meat pies, at a pub. While this wasn’t my first time having this, it was theirs and it was cool to bond and talk about how we enjoyed the day exploring a new place. While studying abroad, I also took advantage of the close airports and visited numerous countries within Europe, exploring where many of my ancestors grew up and many places I have learned and seen pictures of but never have been to myself.

Studying abroad was a dream of mine since freshman year in high school and I never thought it was possible. Despite being nervous about moving so far, adjusting, and the logistics of being gone for so long, I can say this was the best experience I have ever had. I am forever thankful for the lifelong memories that were created and the irreplaceable bonds I now have with the people I studied with. The decision to study abroad was the best I have ever made, and I will always encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity.

-Cameron Carr, Exchange at University of Reading, Spring 2019