Allison in London-land: A Study Abroad Experience

By Sarah Bangley, Chatham Undergraduate Student, ELP Intern

In the spring of 2016, Allison Albitz (‘17) studied abroad at Goldsmiths University, located in London. I sat down with her to talk about some of her experiences while in the UK.

SB: What did you enjoy the most?

AA: Being in the city was the thing I enjoyed the most. The whole geography of London is mapped into zones. One is the center of the city; we were in zone two, in Lewisham. I loved exploring and being able to go from quiet to bustling and back again.

SB: Did you travel anywhere while in Europe?

AA: I actually got to take a few trips. I took a tour to Stonehenge and stopped in Bath along the way— they had incredible Roman baths. I took a tour group trip to Ireland and visited Dublin and Galway. It was good and bad— I didn’t enjoy being in a group. I wish I could have just done it with friends, but I did get to see more of Ireland than I would have on my own. Our trip to Scotland was my favorite! We got to explore castles. That was one of the benefits of being in London: being able to travel to all of these places fairly inexpensively.

SB: What kind of classes did you take at Goldsmiths?

AA: I only took 4 classes while I was there. The Art of the Novel was a great lecture course in which we studied various novels, and it felt a lot like a class at Chatham. Modern American Lit was another English course, and I had a very interesting perspective to bring. It was more discussion-based, and I had a great time hearing about the impact American literature from an international perspective.

I took a course called London Theatre, which was made for study abroad students. Each week we saw a production at a different theatre in London, and it was a great opportunity to not only see various productions, but also experience different areas of the city. Finally, I took a class called Urban London in which we travelled to different parts of the city and learned about the histories of various areas. That too gave me the opportunity to go to places I wouldn’t have sought out on my own.

SB: What do you miss?

AA: The candy— that was one thing, especially with brands you can’t get here. I wanted to try as many authentically British things that I could. Anything Cadbury was always my favorite. I loved Wagonwheels— candy made with marshmallow and chocolate and cookie with jam in the middle— they blew my mind! Less specifically, I miss the free access to museums— my friends and I went to museums every weekend. I feel like that educated me a lot.

SB: What large-scale challenges did you face?

AA: I think I dealt with a lot of homesickness that I wasn’t expecting. I live in Dallas, so I already went to school far from home. I remember missing familiar amenities like grocery stores. Especially in the middle of it, two months in, it really hit.

SB: What small-scale challenges did you not expect?

AA: I think navigation was something that was definitely a learning curve as getting lost is not my favorite thing! I had to get more comfortable with getting lost since I was traveling so much. Also money— trying to figure out pounds (and pence!)

SB: What was the take-away from your experience?

AA: I generally learned a lot more just by being there than I did in the classroom— just a sense of self-sufficiency. I found myself very confident that I could go to an unfamiliar city, make friends, and navigate, just in the few months that I was there.

SB: What words of advice would you give to a student considering the study abroad program?

AA: Do it! I was terrified before I went. I was very anxious about the prospect of not knowing anyone in my program, but I ended up having experiences I never expected and made great friends. Don’t let fear stop you!

Use the resources that the University gives over there, because they’ll provide you with opportunities like trips and mixers that you wouldn’t get otherwise. Do the touristy things you want to do, but branch out and explore as well! We went to the big restaurants and museums, but we also went to the tiny restaurants nearby. And make sure you take a good camera!

Diverse Voices: An Interview with ELP Students

By Sarah Bangley, Chatham Undergraduate Student, ELP Intern

ELP Students, Summer 2016

Every year, students from around the world come to study at Chatham through the English Language Program. I recently sat down with students from Vietnam, Mali, Saudi Arabia, and India to discuss their experiences at Chatham.

We began our discussion with some of the differences between Chatham and their home school. The buildings on Chatham’s campus were a particular focus of comparison. A student who wished to remain anonymous said, “In Vietnam, we have to study in a small school. We don’t even have a student lounge. There are not as many buildings as here.” Hassana, from Mali, added, “Here, it is more developed than my school— for example, the computer and projector. In my home, it is just starting to be developed.” Bholika shared a larger-scale comparison of school systems: “In India, we have four year undergraduate programs and two year Master’s programs. Admission is based on 12-standard score— if we have a good score, we can go to a good university. But here, you can go to any school you want.”

I asked each of them about the issues they faced when speaking English. They expressed their own personal difficulties. The student from Vietnam told me, “When I want to talk with someone, but I will think in Vietnamese first.” Hassana encountered a similar issue: “[English] is kind of like French, but not really. I still pronounce some words like French.” For Bholika, English slang proved to be a hurdle, especially when she couldn’t find the meaning through Google. Abdullah, from Saudi Arabia, mentioned a class he took to help with that issue: “I went to Point Park and took an idiom class, and actually it’s helpful when people speak, like “piece of cake.” I didn’t understand idioms before.”

On the topic of idioms, two students provided me with sayings from their home countries. In Vietnam, they say: “Mot hon da trung hai con nhan,” which is similar to the English idiom “hit two birds with one stone.” Bholika told me, “One of the best idioms about mom is: ‘Ma te ma bija badha vagda na va.’ It means something like without mom you cannot do anything. Mom is the best character in your life.”

Although ELP students came here to study, they also find time to have fun. We talked about their favorite activities both on and off campus. All of them happily mentioned the field trips they took to visit some of Pittsburgh’s landmarks. Bholika in particular enjoyed museums. She said, “I like to visit museums, because I really want to know about your culture, and from museums, I can know something about your culture.” She recently visited the Andy Warhol museum. The student from Vietnam said she liked to go to the cinema for fun. “I watch cartoon movies— especially cartoon movies, like Meet the Robinsons, Finding Nemo, and Finding Dory.”

But for all the work ELP students put in, they still feel disconnected from Chatham’s community. Some only had friends within the English Language Program; others had brief encounters with other Chatham students. Hassana mentioned, “I haven’t had any trouble with the students. They are all friendly. Because I am from Africa, they are interested in my customs.” But Abdullah told me, “The other students don’t talk with me. I guess they don’t want to lose their time.” Part of this disconnect stems from the amount of time the ELP students spend here— the student from Vietnam had only spent three or four months at Chatham.

So what can we do as fellow Chatham students to include these lively, diverse voices in our community? Start small: take time to say hello to international students! Attend events hosted by International Affairs. Even better, become a conversation partner through ELP! In the brief time I spent chatting with these students, I brushed the surface of a vast pool of fascinating experiences just waiting to be shared. I hope future ELP students will have a chance to share their perspectives with the greater Chatham community.