Experiencing diversity abroad

By Wesley Harrington, Student Writer

My name is Wesley Harrington and I am a graduating senior here at The University of Akron. I had the opportunity to study abroad in London, England, in the fall of 2014 at Richmond University. The campus is located in the borough of Kensington, which is on the west side of the city. During my five months studying, I took 12 credit hours, all based within my political science and economics degree.

My time abroad could be described in the most common way by saying it was “amazing “and” I can’t wait to go back!” However, my experience living and studying in a whole new place has had a profound impact on me as an individual, a student, and a future professional. I would encourage any student to pursue a study abroad experience because of the personal growth you can achieve.

There was not one specific moment that I looked in the mirror and knew I was changing, but in the everyday experience I was growing. I was fortunate to be able to do some additional traveling to other amazing sites in Europe, like Prague, Paris, and Edinburgh. Learning to be aware of your surroundings while maneuvering a foreign international airport brings the best out of an individual as they think critically and independently. My confidence grew weekly as I became more proficient in my daily travels and ability to blend in to life in a big city.

As a student I have seen my GPA rise consistently and noticeably since my time abroad. I find myself participating in more classroom discussion and having more motivation in my academics as a whole. These are the obvious and necessary areas of growth that I wish more students could experience. I feel a new sense of rejuvenation as I take on my classes each semester.

I am currently applied at several universities as I look to continue my education through graduate school. My study abroad experience has been a fundamental part of my pursuit of acceptance into a program. Students who have studied abroad learn how to compete in an international classroom. They have seen different education systems and worked alongside students from all over the world. My perspective has grown immensely as I had the chance to immerse myself in a society and classroom very different from my normal setting. If I can conquer metro and bus systems, airports, foreign city streets, and a new educational classroom I feel more confident and prepared to continue my education.

I also want to make the disclaimer that none of my family members or friends have studied abroad. I am not some success story of everyone I know has done it and I just followed along. I went alone. I had to learn as I went to finalize my enrollment in the program. Asking questions and following the help I received from the Study Abroad Offices here on campus afforded me the most valuable experience in my college career. It also showed me how a chance to spend time abroad as a student is doable for nearly anyone, especially here in Akron where we have many unique opportunities just for our students.

One of my biggest regrets is that I did not begin to learn and ask more questions about studying abroad sooner. I went the fall of my junior year. If I would have gone sooner I could have went again before I graduated. As I have since spoke with students upon returning I urge them if they are even just the slight bit curious then ask! There is no commitment or fee for learning about what time abroad could mean for you.

My time abroad has given me amazing pictures, A passport full of stamps, life long friends around the world, perspective on life outside of the American view, a well-rounded resume, future employment opportunities, and more than anything a confidence and satisfaction from investing in myself as a student and person. I urge you to explore such an opportunity for yourself!