Sarah Lyon '13

Why did you decide to study abroad?

 536521_2355067675814_1922114163_n
 St. Anthony's Chapel ruins on a warm day at the end of May
I hadn’t had much experience traveling outside the United States, so I was eager to experience life in a new place. Also, I had always heard great things from other students who had gone abroad in previous years, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel while I was still in college without too many other responsibilities. I wanted to become accustomed to the place where I was studying, but I was also looking forward to traveling to various other countries.


How did you choose where to go?

Even though I had taken Spanish, I wanted to study in an English-speaking country to make the transition to a new place easier. I had just traveled to London the summer before my junior year and really liked it, but I had also heard great things about Scotland and was aware that lots of Colby students had studied at the University of Edinburgh in the past. The reviews I had read from previous students were all very positive. Also, I wanted to go somewhere in the UK or continental Europe so that I could easily travel around to other countries when possible.

 432091_2190704486837_1641700015_n
 Colby students on my Butler program during a stop at Loch Lomon

Can you briefly describe your program while abroad?  

I was one of about 50 American students (along with several others from Colby!) participating in the Butler University program. The program started with a three-day orientation at a hotel in Edinburgh, and this was a great time to receive tons of general information about the city, the academic system, and more. The orientation also gave me the opportunity to get to know the other people on my program before moving into our flats and starting the semester. Everyone was so nice and eagerto meet people. I also really enjoyed being on a program because we got to go on two trips during the semester. These trips definitely prompted me to explore Scotland more than I would have on my own, as they were both in locations several hours away, and it would have been difficult to do so many activities in a short time period if it hadn’t been for Butler. Additionally, the program had three directors who were all from the UK and constantly offered us their support and advice throughout the entire semester on everything from travel to exam preparation, so that was definitely a great resource to have available.

What were some highlights or memorable moments of the experience for you?

I really liked just getting to know the other students on my program and meeting other people throughout the course of the semester. Other than my flatmates, who came from several different countries, my friends were all Americans, but it was still fun to get to know people from other universities and different parts of the country. I’m still in touch with many of them. It was great to have people to travel with during breaks, and we also had lots of fun just hanging out and sightseeing during the semester. I did a lot of exploring in Edinburgh, but I also had the opportunity to travel to Prague, Paris, and London, so that was definitely a highlight of my experience as well. However, I didn’t travel as much as I thought I would, because even though I had three-day weekends every week, I found myself not wanting to leave Edinburgh or my group of friends. I feel like as a result, Edinburgh really became my home for the semester, and I got to see a wide range of places during the four-and-a-half months I was there.

What was your greatest challenge?

The transition to the academic system was pretty difficult, especially during exam time. We only had two assignments in each of my three classes over the course of the semester, so two of my final papers were weighted very heavily—75 percent of my grade. While it was definitely possible to do well, I felt more overwhelmed during exam time than I had expected, as classes had ended several weeks before and I wasn’t able to receive as much guidance from professors as I would have gotten at Colby. It was a little overwhelming going from a four-day reading period to one that lasted about six weeks for one of my classes! Also, during the semester, there is very little class time and students are expected to be reading and keeping up with the syllabus on their own by selecting which books they would like to focus on, so that was pretty different as well. I only had class three days a week, which was also very different from life at Colby.


How have you and/or your perspective changed after returning from study abroad?

As much as I like being at Colby, it was refreshing being somewhere new for awhile. I think knowing I would still get to return to campus in the fall made me eager to take advantage of everything Edinburgh had to offer during the relatively short time I was there. I liked the experience of living in a city, and I think my semester abroad made me more prepared to live in New York City in a similar apartment-type situation this summer. I feel a lot more comfortable doing basic things like buying my own groceries and living in an apartment with roommates I just met, since I was so used to knowing people at Colby and going to the dining hall every day. Overall, I just appreciated experiencing life on a campus very different from Colby—while it made me realize that I enjoy life at a smaller school better than at a large university, having a different experience for a semester was still worthwhile.

 385674_2236688116399_160706303_n
A view from the Edinburgh Castle (this was in April, despite the snow on the mountains!)
What advice would you give to prospective study abroad students?

I was a little unsure if I wanted to study abroad because I really like being at Colby and taking part in various activities on campus, but I would definitely encourage students who are on the fence to go for it and spend the semester somewhere new! It was nice to have the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, and I really liked living in a city and having so many chances to travel and try new things, especially since I had gotten so used to a certain routine at Colby.