Far From Home (by Eleni Bow)

Far From Home: Traveling Great Lengths to Learn

By Eleni Bow

In 2015, Carrie Bradshaw graduated from Delta with a dream to study abroad one day. Since then, she has attended Ball State University to continue her education. Yet that still didn’t satisfy her. “I knew I wanted to study in England, and that I wanted a smaller campus,” Carrie says. She researched the three available programs “extensively,” and made a decision. 

Unfortunately, when she first explored the idea, she found out there wasn’t enough time for her to go. So, she dropped it for a few years, and looked at it again. “I decided that I would find a way to go,” she explains, “so I went back to look at my notes and there was a star next to Keele University. To be honest, I don’t remember why I had picked Keele, but my friends and I joke that it must have been fate!” 

Carrie arrived at Keele, a village in central England, in late September 2019. The country was a lot different from what she expected. “I think I expected just a fancier America, but that wasn’t it at all. I think the food was the biggest thing. Everything you hear about British food is absolutely true. There is no variety and it’s all very bland. I just missed options!” Carrie says. She stayed for a majority of the semester until December, when she had to leave early due to starting student teaching back home in January. 
Student in Versailles
Carrie Bradshaw, 2015 DHS graduate, visits Versailles, France, while studying abroad in England.

She took literature classes at the university. Her favorite classes were Postcolonial Literature and American Literature. “I loved Postcolonial because I learned things that we just aren’t taught as Americans; it was really eye-opening,” she explains, “American Literature was fun because I felt so smart- I had read all of the stories in eighth grade when everyone else was reading them for the first time. Thanks Mrs. Decker!”

She chose to live on campus to make friends easier. “I was lucky that two other foreign students lived right next to me, so we all became best friends immediately,” she says. “We ended up befriending a large group of foreigners who lived in our accommodation with us.” 

Carrie made friends from Dubai, Iceland, Tanzania and other parts of the globe. 

When she first got there, she didn’t get out much when she wasn’t busy. “Being away from home was hard, so for the first half, I spent a lot of my time in bed watching Netflix. DO NOT DO THAT!” she says. “Once I got out of my shell, my group of foreign friends and I went on lots of trips together - sometimes just into town, sometimes to another country.” 

Eventually, she joined a board game club that met every Thursday and would play Dungeons & Dragons on Fridays. 

Carrie got around using the local subway system. 

“Oh, god- the public transportation was something. First, I had never taken a public bus or train before England, so it was all new anyway. Everything was always late. I guess that’s just how it is there. Drove me nuts!” she says. 

In the stations, riders could face a fine and be kicked off if they got on a train different from the one on their ticket. “My friends and I made that mistake once coming back from London,” she says, “but we got lucky—the man noticed we were all foreign and very confused so instead of fining us and kicking us off, he just had us pay about 20 pounds and upgrade to first class. Not too bad!”

One of the things Carrie was surprised by was the locals’ acceptance. “Racism is just NOT a thing over there, which was so refreshing. Anywhere you went, big city or small town, there were people of all colors and all nationalities, and no one batted an eye,” she explains. “Gun violence is also something that they just don’t experience (often), though I was there during the London Bridge shooting, so that was an important time for them that I got to experience.”

She was also fascinated by their way of talking. “I started keeping a journal of all the different words they have,” she says. Some of her favorites were “jacket potatoes,” otherwise baked potatoes, and “quid,” slang for a pound, England’s currency. “One time, a random girl asked me for a ‘bobba,’ which I think means hair-tie, but I’m still not sure,” she says. 

When she returned home, Carrie noticed she felt more capable. “I went to a whole different country and navigated it myself. I made friends from other countries. I passed classes that were completely different than home. I am so much more confident in everything I do now,” she says. 

Carrie encourages anyone that goes abroad to process the homesickness. “Like I said before, I had a really hard time the first half of my semester. I missed home so badly that I didn’t get out of bed much. My advice is to push through that, and the sooner the better,” she says. “Make some friends, join a club, go out! Don’t lose yourself in your fear. Enjoy everything and every moment around you!”

She might not have gone if it wasn’t for the inspiration from her teachers. “I had several teachers who had studied abroad in some aspect, specifically Mrs. Raleigh and Miss Craw. I talked to them all the time about studying abroad, and they gave me a ton of tips,” Carrie says. “I also took French with Mr. Stevens for three years, so that helped a ton when I went to Paris. I remembered way more than I thought I did!” 

Along with England and France, she has also gone to Scotland, Belgium and Dublin, Ireland.

Miss Amanda Craw teaches English 9, and like Carrie, studied abroad in England. She stayed for the fall semester in 2005, during her senior year of college. 

Craw attended Queen Mary University in London, taking a communications class, a history class, a sociology class, and a poetry course. 

“I really loved the poetry course because there was lots of reading aloud,” she explains. “I was one of four Americans in the class of 75 people, so they always wanted me to read - they loved my accent. It was fun because I was pretty good at it and it helped me to make a lot of friends.”

While she made friends in school, Craw was surprised by how “cold” the locals appeared. “It hurt my feelings at first, but when I found my people, they would just remind me that those types of people aren't rude - I’m just overly friendly. Adjustments like that take a little time,” she says. 

However, they made up for it with their “hilariously sarcastic insults and jokes.” Craw’s personal favorites included “dodgy,” “knackered,” and the phrase “Well Bob’s your uncle,” meaning “there you go” or “there you have it.”

In London, the subway is sometimes referred to as “the tube,” and it can be more costly if you live outside the main zone lines. Which side of the platform you stand on determines which direction you and the train will go. “I ended up on the platform going the wrong way on multiple occasions at first, but it's a good thing I usually double checked,” Craw says. 

She was in London when Thanksgiving was happening back in America. Instead of celebrating, she had to just talk to her family on the phone. “I sat on the floor in the laundry room on a pay phone with my international calling card and talked to my family for a few hours.  I won't lie - there were tears,” she says, “But that experience really helped me to be more self-reliant and independent. Before studying abroad, I was definitely a homebody.  Now I live for adventure and new experiences.”

Craw found lots of adventures while abroad, taking day trips with her friends. “I loved being so close to different cultures and countries,” she says. 

Craw is a huge fan of the Beatles and visited some of their classic sites. “I went to Liverpool to The Cavern and saw Strawberry Field and Penny Lane.  I took a few Beatles tours in London too--walked across Abbey Road, and saw some of the family homes of the Beatles. Also some of the sites of famous shows and recording studios,” she says. 

She also visited the London Bridge and Westminster Abbey. At the Old Victoria theatre, she watched Shakespeare’s Richard III, where Kevin Spacey played Richard. “He signed my ticket. That was cool,” she adds. 

Along with cities, Craw also visited nearby countries. In the Netherlands, she went to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and saw what Anne’s room was like before they took down her room decorations and made it more into a museum. She also went to Paris for a long weekend. 

“I remember eating so many crêpes under the sparkling Eiffel tower at night and then walking several blocks to the Seine River and sitting along the wall drinking pink champagne with my friends,” she says. 

When she came back home, Craw says she missed her friends and independence. Her experience was one she didn’t ever want to forget. 

“I felt like people here were much more narrow minded and it was hard for them to understand why I loved my experience so much. I guess that's why I want people to travel out of the U.S. so badly,” she says, “I love living in the U.S. and it will be my home forever, but it's amazing the perspective you can gain by looking at our luxuries and ‘rights’ from another perspective.  It certainly humbled me and helped me as an educator to see many more perspectives.”

While she already has been to more than 30 countries and about half of the United States, Miss Craw wants to explore New Zealand and travel to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. For any students considering going abroad one day, she says, “Go ANYWHERE with an open mind and willingness to do something you've never done before and do something differently that you have done.”

Mrs. Dawn Raleigh teaches English 11, Film Literature, and the theatre classes. In the winter of 1985, she traveled to England with the London Centre program offered by Ball State to study abroad for the quarter. “I have so many fun memories from my London Centre times,” she says.
Students at Roman Coliseum
While a Ball State student in 1985, Mrs. Dawn Raleigh (left) and a friend visit the Roman Coliseum.

When she was there, Raleigh tended to stick to the more familiar foods. “I'm not a ‘foodie’; I am picky and don't like meat much,” she says. “With the tour packages, breakfast and dinner are usually included; I got to try some of the traditional food for the area we were exploring.” 

She liked the nicknames the locals gave for some dishes, like “fish and chips,” actually fish and french fries, and what they called “biscuits,” she called cookies. Once, Raleigh and her roommate got stuck in Kensington Gardens. “We had gone into the area for a jog, but we did not realize that all the gates were locked at 4 p.m.  We had to find a Bobby to unlock the gate to let us out!” she says. A “bobby” is British slang for a police officer. 

Another time, they went to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days. “We stayed in a youth hostel - much more affordable ‘hotel’ for college-aged students and actually met other students from the University of Notre Dame! What a small world!” Raleigh says.

Coming back home, she had to adjust back to her normal ways of transportation. “Driving a car again was the most ‘difficult’ adjustment; I had gotten so used to walking everywhere or to taking the tubes,” she explains.

Since she’s been a teacher, Raleigh has been on two tours abroad with students in 1994 and 1998. One of them involved visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

“If you can imagine a coach full of 18-14 year olds traveling and joking and being typical of the age, you can hear the laughter and craziness. As we approached the camp, however, silence fell. Silence,” she says. “We moved out of the bus and moved about the historical site without discussion. Many tears fell that day, but very few took photographs; it felt sacrilegious. It was a very moving experience to be there, and it was one I will never forget.”

Mrs. Raleigh has been to several countries across Europe, and now wants to visit Australia. “Travel and interaction with other people and societies is essential to the growth of an individual,” she says. “If one has the opportunity to study abroad or to travel for pleasure, they should do it!  So many colleges offer programs that are not that much more expensive than being on campus, and there are often scholarships available to offset the cost.”

Anna Groover graduated from Delta in 2016 and has been learning French for almost seven years. Now, she attends Indiana University in Bloomington. “I decided to pursue a French minor at IU, so I wanted to try to gain some level of fluency in the language while studying abroad,” she says. She chose the program the university runs in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence, France. 
Student at beach
Anna Groover, 2016 DHS graduate, visits Cassis, France, a Mediterranean fishing port in southern France.

Before she was able to go, Anna had to match some criteria. First, there were a certain amount of upper-level French classes required. Then, she had to do an interview in French. She was accepted and was there for a semester, about five months. 

The program allowed her to choose her housing situation, so she went with a homestay with an older woman named Jeanine. “We had a lot of the same interests and would often spend an hour at the dinner table talking,” she says. Since then, Anna has been keeping in touch with her through social media, and has been gaining perspective on the coronavirus situation in France. 

Two of the courses she took were offered by the program- medieval French literature, and another on improving French-speaking skills through theater training. She took the rest of her classes at the university. “The geography courses at Aix-Marseille University were with actual French students, so I got a first-hand experience of the French university system,” she explains. 

The first few weeks of navigating the university and adjusting to the language were tough for Anna. “My French wasn't bad when I arrived there, but the language barrier was exhausting at first. I'd walk home each day with all the interactions I'd had -and all the ways I failed at them- jangling around in my brain,” she says, “I eventually got a handle on the language and the different cultural norms, and that felt awesome.”

The thing that surprised her the most was how the public behaved. “There's a reason why some French people think Americans are loud—and it's because they talk really, really quietly in public spaces,” she explains. Once, she couldn’t hear her classmates speaking, even though they were sitting across the table from her! 

Another thing she noticed about the locals is that they weren’t as aware of others walking around them. “Sometimes I'd be walking down an extremely narrow sidewalk in Aix and almost crash into someone else because people often don't move out of the way for you,” she explains. “We're more concerned with inconveniencing people in space, but the French are more concerned with inconveniencing people by way of sound.”

Anna enjoyed trying all of the foods France had to offer. “There was a crêperie in Aix called Crêpe-a-GoGo that I frequented all the time - my favorite crêpes were their ratatouille and cheese crêpe and their Nutella and banana crêpe,” she says. 

The city is in the Provence region of France, known for its outdoor markets. “Aix had a market a few times a week, so it was always a lot of fun browsing and buying fresh fruit and pastries,” she says. She remembers one of the market stalls very fondly, a man selling jams of unique flavors, like strawberry basil. “The week before I came home, I bought several jars of jam from him,” she adds.

Learning a foreign language is important for being a citizen of the world,” Anna says. She also believes it’s important to be “empathetic and welcoming toward foreigners and immigrants whose native language isn't English.” She learned this lesson by her French classmates being forgiving when she didn't understand or know how to talk about something. “Speaking a foreign language is really hard, as is simply living somewhere where your native language isn't what's spoken there,” she says.

However, there are lots of tricks she used to navigate around the language barrier. “I definitely think the most important thing is to keep trying and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Simply by way of being around native speakers and being inundated in the language constantly, you'll get better,” she explains, “I think it also helps to carry around a notebook and write new words down to review later- that helped me a lot.”

When traveling, Anna says to soak it all in, and try to learn from where you’re at and the people. 

As far as choosing where to go, I think immersing yourself in a different language, whatever that may be, is a great idea,” she says, “But I don't think you can truly go wrong- there's stuff to learn everywhere.”

As for places she hasn’t visited yet, Anna would love to go to Loch Ness, Scotland, and try to hunt down Nessie.