London studies program celebrates 10 years of cultural immersion
Published in the Oct. 26, 2016 issue of The Bells
Ten years ago, four students were starting packing lists, making sure their passports were in order, buying clothing appropriate for cooler weather, and meeting with each other, preparing for the journey ahead.
While the rest of the student body was getting ready for the end of the fall semester, four students were getting ready to spend their spring semester in London, England. These four students were the ones who received the opportunity to go on the maiden voyage of the London Studies program at UMHB.
Ten years later, the program has given many other students the opportunity to spend the spring semester of either their sophomore, junior, or senior year experiencing the city of London.
“[This program] has been a remarkable experience for all the students who have participated,” said the professor in charge of organizing the program, Dr. David Holcomb. “It is amazing to see students transformed by living and studying in London.”
The London Studies program is a luxury trip compared to students that study abroad in public universities. Students don’t just attend classes in London, they get to experience the history and culture that the city has to offer.
In fact, this program has discouraged the use of classrooms. Rather, students learn with the city as their classroom. Some of the classes are held at historical sights or at museums, while others visit these attractions many times.
In addition to learning outside of the classroom, students go to at least one theatrical production a week, and every Friday they go on day trips, visiting other nearby cities or famous attractions in the area.
The highlight of time spent in London studying abroad comes halfway through the semester when the students get to go on a 10-day coach tour of Northern England, Scotland, and Whales. This short trip includes visiting and experiencing the cities of York and Edinburgh, as well as staying a couple of nights in a lodge in the Scottish Highlands.
This program offers a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity. And the cost is kept at just a small number above the price of tuition.
“Very few programs take you on trips,” Holcomb said. “This trip is unmatched for what is included in the program.”
Since the first four students went to London in 2007, some positive changes have occurred. One of the best changes is that students now get to live in London flats that offer a kitchen. The first year’s students were living in European-style hotels that didn’t offer as many comforts as what they receive now.
The program, which had once just included Hardin-Simmons and UMHB, has also added Howard Payne to the mix. Despite these changes, the most significant change has been the expansion of the program. After those first four students went and came back, the program started to sell itself. It has earned a positive reputation of being an influential program.
In fact, the number of students has gone from twelve total between the three schools, to some years being over 30 students.
London Studies also offers the best education possible. Students who are a part of the program have nine classes to choose from. Six of these classes are taught by various professors from UMHB, Hardin-Simmons, and Howard Payne. The other three classes are taught by professors from London. These professors are some of the best around in their particular fields.They are acclaimed and well-known in what they teach. Students receive the best of the best when they take classes in London.
Over the past ten years many students have been impacted by this trip. Senior accounting major Allyson Baker went to London in spring of 2014. She enjoyed everything about the trip, especially the freedom she and her classmates had to explore the city.
“It was incredible. [The] thought that I had over and over was that everywhere we turn, we get to see buildings and monuments that have been around longer than our entire country,” Baker said.
This program is a good way to build independence for a young adult looking to find themselves, she said.
“I really got to know myself and experience what it felt like being an adult so far from home,” she said.
In fact, this trip helped Baker realize that Psychology wasn’t for her, and that she needed to find something that would fit her better.
Baker would love for the opportunity to go back.
“Every year when I see the new trip’s posters up, I joke with Dr. Holcomb that I am going to go again.”
Baker is just one of many who have had the opportunity to go through this program. This successful program has given many students opportunities that they would not have otherwise
In the next ten years, program organizers hope that more students can experience this unique opportunity.
“By all accounts it has been an amazingly successful program filled with rich and meaningful experiences,” Holcomb said.