The college that I went to, Ohio Northern University, is a small campus in a village in the wide open fields of Northwest Ohio. ONU had a great exchange student program, which is how I attended school at another small campus in a small village, the University of Wales, Lampeter, in the fall and winter of 1997.
Because the exchange was set up through my home college, admission, housing and transfer of credits were all part of the program; I didn’t have to negotiate any of that on my own. What I did have to adjust to were differences in academic structure, housing and social activities.
At ONU, I was in class for 16 to 18 hours per week. I took required classes in math and science as well as English classes, which was my major. At Lampeter, I was in class for 5 to 7 hours per week, and I only took English classes. My free time was supposed to be spent reading beyond the course syllabus. My grades were based on four 2,000 word essays, and I was expected to have read several texts before classes started to discuss on the first day.
While I lived on campus at both schools, the dorm at Lampeter was different. In the British system, there are no roommates, so I had my own room. At this school, there was a sink in each bedroom, and then one toilet and one shower unit per 8 rooms. The toilet and shower were each in a small stall that opened right out into the main corridor, and each one had a strong lock. Linens were provided, so each week, a staff member delivered clean sheets and towels to our rooms. The rest of my laundry I did in the laundromat in the village.
While the campus of both ONU and Lampter were basically the same, Lampeter had two things that ONU didn’t — a day care and a bar. The legal drinking age in Great Britain is 18. The campus student union building had a bar that featured live bands, karaoke and theme parties for holidays. Most university functions served alcohol. The student association also held semi-formal dances, movies (there was no theatre in town) and lecture series. The village had several pubs and one dance club, so we did spend time off-campus.
My study abroad experience was great. The differences in academics, housing and social activities contributed to the experience because I wasn’t just learning in the classroom; I was learning about Wales and Great Britain just by living there.