Friday, April 27, 2012

How I became and American Panther in London.

In 2009 I was presented with opportunity to go on a May Term course to London and the English Lake district through Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. At the time I has just finished up my sophomore year as an undergraduate and desperately wanted to see the sights of a country I had once distantly dreamed of visiting. I spent just under a month in England and loved my experience so much that I decided to go again just one year later. My first trip as a student highlighted the written work of the poet William Wordsworth and my second trip focused on the various arts in London. In 2010 I spent around 3 weeks exploring the enchanting city of London almost exclusively, although I did do a brief stint in Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace). Sadly, the stresses that come with one's senior year kept me within the borders of the U.S.
The academic year of 2011 - 2012 was my first as a graduate student in Post-Secondary Education: Student Affairs (aka, helping college students make fewer bad decisions) at the University of Northern Iowa. During class one evening, a fellow student mentioned that the Study Abroad Center was looking for graduate students to aid as program assistants for short-term study abroad trips. I will take absolutely any opportunity to travel and set-up a meeting with the advisor for these programs the next day. My previous experience studying abroad made me a viable candidate to become a program assistant. I waited for a few months to find out where I was going. It was between one of three trips: London and Paris, Greece/Hungary/Romania/England, or England and Ireland. All three were immensely appealing and I was open to any of the options. My wait finally ended and I was placed in London and Ireland. When I learned of my placement I felt a air of relief. It had become clear that I wanted to end up in England and Ireland the whole time I was waiting. I'm an Irish girl infatuated with London, so it made perfect sense. I was absolutely ecstatic.
My departure was scheduled for May 16th and the trip would go until the 30th of the same month. I would land with 20 students in London on the 17th after a long day of flights and layovers. We would spend a week in the city and end our time in England with a trip to Stonehenge in Bath. Next we would travel to Galway, Killarney, and Dublin in Ireland. 
The control freak in me went in to immediate planning overload. I started a packing list of all of the things I needed, what I was going to take, and what outfits I needed to plan. My role as a program assistant who was also a busy graduate student gave me even more reason to buy the 3rd generation iPad when it came out. I needed little persuasion.
Taking on the role of a program assistant put an extra load of responsibilities on my shoulders. Now I was not only a graduate student, Assistant Residence Life Coordinator, and University Relations practicum student, I was also a program assistant. I was impossibly busy, working on different tasks for 70 hours a week. The only part of my apartment I seemed to associate with was my bed, but only for late nights and early mornings. The busy life is a good fit for me and the chance to go abroad again was worth all of the additional responsibilities and stresses.
As my trip neared and the semester approached its closing, I was asked by University Relations to serve as a summer news writer. It was requested that I spend time documenting my trip and writing about the experience pre- and post-departure. Of course I would! I decided to start this blog to keep me dutifully tied to my writing obligations. It will serve as a repository for all of my experiences and adventures abroad. I'll upload pictures here as time and internet accessibility permits. When I return my stories will begin to appear on the University of Northern Iowa website at