In April 2016, the RCPD had the honor of celebrating five students with the RCPD Study Abroad Scholarship. Three of those students decided to share their valuable experiences, where they learned more than just book material.
Rachel, Urban and Regional Planning
Rachel is among our five recipients of the Study Abroad Scholarship here at RCPD. It enabled her to take the opportunity to live in the United Kingdom for three weeks.
She found early on that sometimes the best memories are made from unexpected adventures. “A group of us decided to walk to Windsor Castle from the train station and proceeded to get very lost on the country foot trails. We found a cute thirteenth-century church and an awesome path along the River Thames.” After all of that exploring, they made it to the castle over two hours later.
Although she was immersed in rich historic cities like London, Oxford, and Manchester, Rachel found that climbing the mountains in the Lake District had the biggest impact on her.
“I gained a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of our environment, as well as a new respect for my body,” Rachel explained. She found that climbing rocky steps and over boulders was more difficult than expected, but it allowed her to overcome challenges.
“I felt like I was in control of my body instead of feeling helpless due to [my] chronic migraines. I suppose that day I understood for the first time that I am more than my condition and was re-inspired in my aspirations to study and protect our environment.”
In her thank-you letter to donors, Rachel took the opportunity to show her gratitude. “I cannot express in words how meaningful this award is to me and how much of an impact scholarships like this one have on students. Receiving this award relieves a great deal of financial stress. It and will allow me to take full advantage of my time in Europe and broaden my viewpoint of society and the environment, which will be crucial for my career.”
Rachel hiking in England.
Scott’s arrival to St. Andrews, Scotland seems to be among those travel horror stories one only hears about. After 30-plus hours of traveling on three planes (and being one day late), he found himself with no luggage, an issue with his wheelchair-accessible cab, and ill. Through all of that, Scott seemed to still find a silver lining.
The day following his first class, the TAs of the Business in Scotland program were giving a mini-tour of St. Andrews. Scott made do with the cobblestone streets on a rental wheelchair, not even worrying about the battery like he normally would, due to all of his travel woes.
“Here I was, looking out at the North Sea from coastal Scotland, further than I had ever been [from home], separated from my support network for the first time, ignoring every limit and caution I had learned over time to adopt for safety and certainty, and the sky wasn't falling,” Scott remarked. He recognized that while still having worries and being through so much, he was able to realize there was tranquility all around him.
After his hectic first days in St. Andrews, Scott was able to settle into his home of three weeks. Although the grand views became imbedded in his normal routine, they were among the most appreciated things about his experience.
“[It’s] the same world I know here, but with so much history and culture worn proudly around it. A place where you can pass a Starbucks on a cobbled street, a few blocks down from a quad that looked like the Brooms Class scene in Harry Potter, or come out of a fairly new, modern building and be looking directly at the oldest golf course in existence, crowned by a clubhouse that looks like it has held royalty, because it has.”
“This trip [represents] a significant achievement for me both educationally and personally,” Scott said in his thank-you letter to donors, “but such things are costly -- doubly so for disabled students -- and with every dollar accounted for, a great weight is lifted from my shoulders.”
Scott in the University of St. Andrews quad.
Nikki, Neuroscience/Genomics and Molecular Genetics
Nikki’s experience in England was nothing short of enriching. While many students have profound experiences outside of the classroom, Nikki found one during class.
“Many scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries had different ideas about how science was to be conducted. Charles Darwin revolutionized the meaning of ‘evidence’ by not having explicit data, but merely theories with generally strong backing,” Nikki explained. “My final project had some of this conflict in it and got me thinking of how science today may change in the way that it is performed.”
During their free time on a day trip to Oxford, she and some fellow J. R. R. Tolkien fans set out to find his house. It was there that he wrote some of his most famous works, such as The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. As they were taking pictures of his home and the commemorative plaque in front of it, an elderly woman came out and gave them suspicious looks.
Nikki and her friends excitedly explained why they were there, but the woman still seemed puzzled. “We gestured to the plaque. She then uttered, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot that thing was there… You know he’s dead, right?’” The group was taken aback. “She bade us farewell and we went on our way to take the train back to London, attempting to comprehend what all had just occurred.”
Nikki is working toward two degrees, Neuroscience and Genomics and Molecular Genetics, in only four years. Every semester will be comprised of 16-18 credits, the suggested range being 13-15. Studying abroad not only made one semester more manageable, it also gave her a valuable experience that she can take into her future career.
Nikki in London, England.
Scholarship experiences are made possible by generous donors who believe in the Spartan experience, and extending it to generations after them.