During the Fall 2021 semester, I studied abroad at the University of Reading in England. This was a long process due to facing a year of deferral due to the pandemic; however, it was certainly worth the wait and turned out to be the most enriching experience of my life. I knew when starting university that I wanted to study abroad, so when the time finally came around, I was beyond excited and ready to expect the unexpected.
Ultimately, I decided on England because I have family living here and knew from a young age that I wanted to spend an extended amount of time there. After attending a study abroad fair at UTC in my freshman year, I picked up several books from various programs to explore what my options may be in the UK. Eventually, I came across USAC which had some very affordable options and a choice of universities that I knew were very reputable. Although they only offered four locations in England, this was still a very difficult decision. I ended up choosing Reading after doing some research and discovering its proximity to many popular places in the UK, the green campus, and reputable business school which would allow me to find classes that would satisfy my credits at UTC. In retrospect, I am so glad I chose the University of Reading for a number of reasons. Before the semester started, one of the girls from the USAC program in Reading reached out and organized a group chat for everyone attending. This made the housing process much easier and made for a comfortable transition since I had met everyone via video chat beforehand. This is something I highly recommend doing if it is possible in other programs because it was really helpful to connect with other international students.
Because of the diversity on campus, I was able to meet many students from other countries and cultures which really enhanced my time abroad. This afforded me with the opportunity to learn about new customs within the UK as well as places around the world. Whether it be trying new foods, receiving advice about things to do from local students, or just indulging in opportunities that I am unable to do back home, I made an effort to take advantage of it all. One of my most memorable experiences was partaking in a 14-mile hike along the English coastline that was organized by the USAC program director. Another instance was when my American friends who were also a part of the USAC program and I made an American dessert for some British friends that we made who made us a British meal. Immersing yourself as much as you can in the culture is imperative and you will learn so much about yourself and your host country along the way.
The fast and efficient public transportation system and Reading’s proximity to so many places made it easy to explore the beauty and history of the United Kingdom. Oxford, which is known for its prestigious university, was just a short 20-minutes from Reading. Having the chance to explore the campus, much of which inspired the Harry Potter films, was fascinating. Snowdonia National Park in Wales, which was approximately 4 hours away, may have been one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been to. We explored part of the park as well as some nearby villages and encountered three rainbows in one day! For our “reading week”, we visited Edinburgh, Scotland which was filled with exciting memories. When we visited, the United Nations climate conference was also taking place which meant that almost everything was booked. This was my first time staying in a hostel, which happened to be situated right next to Edinburgh castle. Later in the week, we saw the President of Kenya who was in the country for the conference which felt like a very special opportunity. The amount of history I was able to relive, the beauty I was able to witness, and the inspiring people I was able to meet in all of these places are things that I will never forget.
At the end of the semester, I could not believe that it was all coming to a close. It was quite difficult to come to terms with, but ultimately I know I achieved my goals. I made the most out of everything, made new friends, explored new places, kept an open mind, and expected the unexpected. The Fall 2021 semester in Reading left me with new knowledge, a higher level of independence, growth, and memories that will remain with me forever. As I continue to reflect, I know I will continue this growth both personally and professionally. The feeling that this opportunity gave me makes me so excited for the next one.
Nathalie Lopez (BS Marketing) spent Fall 2021 studying abroad in Reading, England with USAC. Nathalie had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad was by far the best decision I have ever made for my personal and professional growth. This experience truly expanded my mind and challenged me to embrace new cultures and perspectives. I feel like I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of through this experience and it makes me want to pursue opportunities like this any chance that I get.”
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