Haocheng Xie and Andrew Flanigan: Stories from the UK
BY JINYU WANG
Every semester, students leave Westminster to explore the world by studying abroad. Haocheng Xie, ’17, and Andrew Flanigan, ’16, are currently studying and having their adventures in the United Kingdom.
Xie is a junior at Westminster and is majoring in Mathematics. He is in a one-year exchange program with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and is one of two students to receive a scholarship for international students from the school.
Q: What are you learning there?
I’m taking four advanced courses in math and economics here, which really wear me out. We have three semesters per year divided into 11, 11 and eight weeks, and the last semester is only for final exams!
Q: There must be a lot of differences between your imagination and the reality, right?
Yes. Before I came here, all I heard about studying abroad is [that it’s] just like a wonderful travel to another country, but the facts are not the case. I haven’t even been able to visit Big Ben. LSE is a top university with a quite serious academic atmosphere, which makes me feel both stressful and motivated.
Q: How do you spend your spare time?
I am in a Christian club. We meet every week to not only talk about the Bible, but also share our life story [with] each other. Meanwhile, I build many deep relationships with new friends from all over the world. Sometimes I also go to visit museums because there are a lot of famous museums around our campus. What’s more, I enjoy their musical play. I once watched “Billy Elliot” in a theater and love it. I hope I will have more opportunities to watch more.
Q: How did you adapt there?
I adapted to the new environment quite well, and many interesting people and experiences squeezed out my anxiety. Excitingly, Chinatown is very close to the campus. So when I am down, I will go get myself a big meal! Nevertheless, the way of teaching in big classes with hundreds of people did bother me a lot the first few weeks.
Andrew Flanigan is a senior at Westminster and is majoring in history. Flanigan, who says he has been waiting to study abroad since before applying to Westminster, chose to study abroad at Queens University of Belfast in Northern Ireland with a scholarship sponsored by Westminster.
Q: What are you learning there?
I’m taking two classes on British history and one on Medieval Ireland. As a history major, it’s incredible to be able to see the history that shaped the land I’m in and learn about the historical context of several of the issues that face modern-day Britain and Ireland.
Q: Have you experienced any culture shock?
Yes! So. Many. Potatoes (laughing). Also, I’m slowly getting used to the weather here — there’s little change in the seasons, and it’s been fairly consistently rainy and chilly for several weeks now.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
I try to maximize my time here, whether through traveling around this lovely isle or going to various festivals and events here in Belfast.
Q: What is your favorite part of life there?
I would say the opportunity to meet so many people from so many different backgrounds. This experience has given me a multitude of opportunities to meet people from around the world, and my conversations and dialogue with them have expanded my worldview in ways I never would have thought possible.
Q: Have you experienced any traditional manners and festivals?
Christmas markets are pretty common over here and are pretty much the most magical thing you can imagine, so I’ve been to the one in front of the Belfast City Hill several times. I’m also slowly picking up some of the “wee” slang here as well and gradually learning how to understand “Northern Irish.”
Q: How does this study abroad experience influence you?
Studying abroad has challenged me to think more globally. I’ve realized how connected the world is and how easy it is to isolate yourself from that in the U.S. I’m coming away from this with even more of an appreciation of the need to celebrate and engage the diversity present around and the friendships it can bring.
Although Xie and Flanigan are enjoying their time overseas, both students mentioned that the farther they travel away, the more they miss Westminster and their professors and friends here.
Editor’s note: Some parts of these interviews were edited for clarity.