The Benefits and Challenges of Studying Abroad: Q&A with Cooper Smith
BY LUKE GERAU
Business communications major and Westminster soccer player Cooper Smith, ’18, has been studying abroad at the University of Winchester in England this semester. To learn about Smith’s experience in England, I talked with him via video chat. Portions of our conversation have been edited for clarity.
Q: How did you decide to study at Winchester?
A: I chose Winchester based on stories my friend Mitch Steward had told me about his experiences there. After hearing his stories, I wanted to see what Winchester had to offer for myself.
Q: What did your first overseas class have to offer?
A: Class was amazing. For the first time, I was hearing accents from all over the world — accents from Japanese to Norwegian to British. It was a new experience for sure. The students and professors were very interested in the United States and had lots of questions for me.
Q: What does Winchester have to offer socially?
A: Well, on campus, students come together at the Lounge or the Vault. These are on-campus bars, and since the national drinking age is 18, all students can meet up and grab a beer. I found that I spend a lot of my social time hanging out with friends there, meeting new people.
Off campus, Winchester offers an exciting social life. While walking down High Street, you will see many bars that are always busy with people having a good time. You can also visit local landmarks or go hiking to see the city in full. The city is made up of cafes and great restaurants on every corner, which makes a great urban atmosphere.
Q: Was it easy to make friends when you arrived? Where did you start meeting them?
A: I have met new friends in a few of my classes, and we regularly go out for drinks. I would say that the people I spend the majority of my time with are the other exchange students. This is mostly Americans because we live in the same dorms, but the others are from countries such as Switzerland, France, Poland, Czech Republic, India and the UK.
Q: Was this challenging for you?
A: Yeah. The most challenging thing that I would say is that you have to be very open to meeting new people and making new friends. I came over here alone and it was a bit challenging not knowing anyone, but you just have to put yourself out there and you’ll make friends.
Q: To contrast, what has been the most rewarding thing about being abroad?
A: I would say it’s the ability to travel with ease. With flights, trains and buses going to just about every country within a couple hours of you, you feel like the world is at your fingertips and will want to explore it all. And that’s exactly what I have been doing and has made me want to continue this trend, of visiting different places around the world, for the rest of my life.
Q: To conclude, what advice would you give students who want to study abroad?
A: I would say that if you want to study abroad, you should be aware of the culture shock when staying in your country of study. For me, I enjoyed it and it was really eye-opening. I would also say to pack efficiently, make new friends no matter where they are from, and finally, to just have a good time and experience it. It’s not every day you get to be overseas for a semester or, if you’re lucky, longer.