This past summer, seven Luckyday Scholars spent four weeks in London with the USM British Studies Program. A few staff and administrators from Southern Miss and the Luckyday Program had the opportunity to visit London for several days in June, going on tours with classes and experiencing just a portion of what these students get to be a part of through their month-long program. Here is a glimpse into one student’s experience which fulfilled a dream she had cherished since her senior year in high school.
Carley Pierce, a recent graduate of Southern Miss, majored in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and minor in marketing. She took the British Journalism and Culture class while in London, taught by Professor Maggie Williams. Carly shared with us her thoughts on the trip and some insight into her experience.
When did you decide that you wanted to study abroad?
When I was trying to decide on colleges, I saw a USM British Studies Program handout. I knew then that I definitely wanted to pursue that program during my college career. After entering college at Southern Miss and thinking about my years ahead, I wanted to go on the British Studies program during the summer after my sophomore year but the money just didn’t work out. I found out soon thereafter that I would be graduating a year early, and I thought I had missed my chance of studying abroad. However, after talking with my advisor, we made a plan for me to travel during the summer of 2016.
What did you do to prepare financially for this trip? What advice would you give to students who maybe aren’t even considering studying abroad because they think it is financially too difficult?
I knew my parents couldn’t fund this trip, so it was up to me to find a way to make it work. Aside from the Luckyday scholarship, I was also able to get a scholarship through the Study Abroad office. I also received only cash for Christmas instead of gifts, just in case there was a way I could make the trip work. Still, it wasn’t going to be enough, and I knew I couldn’t save up that much money during the few months I had left. I went to the financial aid office and applied for a loan. Never having taken out a loan before, I thought it would be overwhelming and difficult. My only advice is to take out only what you need, make a plan to pay it back, and try to only take out loans that you don’t have to pay back until you graduate. Even though the money is tough, I can tell you from personal experience that you cannot put a price tag on the knowledge and self awareness that you will gain from studying abroad.
Can you expound on that knowledge and awareness that you gained while you were out of the United States? What did you learn about the British people? What did you learn about yourself?
Wow, this answer could get rather long-winded, but I’ll try to keep it short. I’ve learned a lot about the UK referendum and how different journalism is in the states compared to the UK. Although we may speak the same language, our news and media sources are far from similar. British people are actually really nice and love to talk to people. They also have a very in-depth knowledge of American politics. You will find that we actually know nothing about Europe (it’s a bit sad).
I’ve learned to plan, but I’ve also learned that it’s okay if things don’t work out exactly how you planned. I’ve learned how to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends. Not coming here with a specific person really forced me to talk to other people. I realized that other people may have something to offer that you never knew you needed. I’ve learned to be a bit more fiscally responsible. I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought, and the world really isn’t as scary as we make it out to be. I’ve learned to be okay by myself. On this trip, if you want to see something, sometimes you just have to go for it. Those experiences ended up being some of my favorites.
Speaking of experiences, what is a funny, unique, or surprising experience you had?
Before I left the states, I had been looking for jobs close to the Mississippi area, even though I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was just scared of being alone, away from my friends and family. While I was in London, I had several great conversations with one of the professors. He told me that this is the time of my life, that the world is my playground and this is the prime time for me to go play. We started talking about where I wanted to live before I got scared, and I mentioned a lot of places including Austin, TX. He told me I should find the “next Austin.” Three days later I am on a bus exploring Normandy by myself (because it was something I always wanted to do), when I started talking to another American. He started telling me about this town in Colorado that is the “next Austin.” So, I decided to start job searching by looking into opportunities in Colorado. I think if anything, this trip opens your eyes to how big the world is, and how capable you are of exploring it.
What advice would you like to give other students or something you would like to let others know about studying abroad?
Don’t let your family or friends or boyfriends or money or anything else stop you from experiencing a trip like this. Never again will someone help you pay to go study for a month. Even if you came on this trip outside of the program, you wouldn’t get the chance to see the places or talk to the people with whom this program puts you in contact. The classes are phenomenal, and I’ve learned so much. After you get a job, you probably will never get this experience again. Personally, it changed my life as it has for many of the students who have been attending this program for the last 40 years. Don’t sell yourself short by not studying abroad before you graduate!
You can read more about Carley’s adventures during her time with the British Studies Program on her blog: Media Donuts.