Celebrating Our Overseas Students

Kathryn in front of the Queen Victoria statue outside Kensington Palace, Hyde Park

Kathryn Phipps is a student from the U.S.A., studying with Swansea University for a semester on an exchange programme. Here’s what she had to tell me about her experience:

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Kathryn Phipps and I’m from Sacramento, California. I’m currently studying at California State University, Sacramento pursuing my BA in English and a TESOL certificate.

Why did you decide to study abroad and what made you choose Swansea?

Well, I love to travel and the UK has always been at the top of my list of destinations. And as an English major the UK is a wonderful place for further studies from a different perspective. Swansea’s proximity to the beach and the modules offered were my main reasons for wanting to study here.

What is the process you had to go through to participate in the overseas programme?

To participate in my program I had to fill out an application, which included my university transcripts and a recommendation letter from one of my home faculty advisors. Following this, I had to interview with two professors who were on my university’s study abroad committee and answer questions about my academic work, my desire to study abroad, and why I should be selected.

What were you most worried about before you came to the UK?

I was worried about if the UK education system would be too different from the US and whether that would impact my ability to succeed. As an older student I was also concerned about whether I would find people to spend time with socially.

What were you most looking forward to before you came?

I was most looking forward to coming to the UK and traveling, learning about the history, and seeing the places I had only ever read about in books!

How have you found Swansea University?

I have enjoyed my time here at Swansea; the students I met have been wonderful and showed as much interest in where I come from as I was interested in them.

The courses and lectures were interesting, but an adjustment. In my university student participation is present in both lectures and seminars while there is sometimes a distinction between lectures and seminars here.

I also had to adjust my way of studying to a more self-directed learning and it was a good challenge, but frustrating sometimes as I felt like I had to adjust my way of thinking in a different direction from how I’d been trained for an academic setting.

What courses have you done at Swansea University?

I have done several courses, including ones in English Language and Applied Linguistics, English Literature and an American Studies module. I also participated in a pre-sessional course about Britain. My pre-sessional course was a favourite, as it introduced me to some of the history of Britain and allowed me to learn how the Britain has developed into the country it is today.

The linguistics course was very interesting because it looked at the development of the English language from Old English to present day issues. The information touched upon in the module, while covering aspects from the UK and the US, was presented from the perspective of English in the United Kingdom, which  allowed me to see similarities and differences between the English I speak and the varieties spoken here in the UK. We looked at the way in which American English has deviated yet retained similarities with British English, and how the two countries deal with different issues to changing developments in English as the population and focus of academics vary.

 Have you got any funny stories, interesting experiences that you have had this year?

I went to Brecon Beacons, (waterfall country) with my friends one weekend and unfortunately I did not have the best shoes. The scenery was beautiful and as I admired it I slipped and slid my way through the mud, laughing all the time while trying to figure out how I would ride the bus back to Swansea without getting mud on the seats!

What has your experience been like? 

The cultural experience has been great, not only have I had a chance to learn about Britain by taking trips to places like Stonehenge, Bath, and Nottingham, but I lived in a multi-cultural flat. When I had questions about British politics or how something in the US compared to the UK, I had flatmates I could ask. I was also able to learn some about Italy, Malaysia and Hong Kong. One of my favorite things though has to be the Christmas market in Swansea, it was unlike anything in my hometown and I was able to get Christmas presents for my family that were unique!

This experience has definitely changed me. I have become more confident in my academic abilities while getting the chance to learn how to live with several people from different cultural backgrounds.

Anything else you would like to add?

Study abroad is a wonderful experience and I recommend it to anyone that loves to expand their learning, travel and see new places.