Study Abroad Feature: Skylar Blackman
Posted on April 11, 2022
I am currently a Junior at UNCG studying abroad for a semester at Keele University in the United Kingdom. I believe I am expected to graduate following the Spring 2023 semester and plan on moving on to the Graduate Program. The courses I’m taking at Keele University include a fiction writing course, courses on postcolonial and postmodern literature, and a course called “Modernist Manifestos and Magazines” where essentially we focus on writers who created short zines and magazines of their writing and that of others whether that be poetry, short excerpts, or even short stories and parts of a larger story and we discuss these works and what the writers and their works were trying to say about and to the world.
At UNCG I am studying English and currently have a Creative Writing minor and just added a Photography minor as well. While abroad, I am focusing on my English program by studying English Literature and I feel that the program here at Keele has been an excellent way for me to improve my skills and get new outlooks on the readings and topics I am discovering as well. The courses here involve a mixture of lecture and seminar formats where there would also be a focus on discussing topics with your peers and collectively as a group as well as working on projects together. I feel as though this has been a great way to learn about others’ backgrounds and viewpoints and to see the texts we approach in different lights which can then be taken into future courses as well as the way I see literature as I continue through my personal and professional life. My study abroad experience has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, although challenging, and has provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn more about new cultures as well as opportunities to grow myself as a person. This has especially come to life through every person I’ve met here so far being incredibly nice and accepting, and each of them has made me feel welcome to be myself and come as I am. With each conversation, they’ve been just as interested in America as I have been about the UK or Finland, Hungary, Japan (I’ve made friends with people from each of these countries since being here), etc and it has been so nice being able to learn about these cultures and how certain things are viewed and handled differently while there still are a few similarities to the US as well. While I am just here for the semester, being able to have these conversations with so many people from all over the world and to make friends with them has helped me feel even more connected to the different people and countries of the world and I am able to take various topics of conversation and education into different lights and perspectives as I discuss them with my peers and conduct research and reports on them. This has perhaps been one of the most valuable aspects I have taken from this whole experience as I feel even more knowledgeable and aware now.
One of the reasons I wanted to study abroad in the UK was the idea that I would be able to experience both the cities and countrysides that well-known writers such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, etc whom I’ve come to love lived in. It’s so lovely being able to actually visit these places and learn what life might have been like for them as they’ve lived there and what might have inspired them or move them to create the pieces that they have. I am able to feel even more immersed in the writing I have studied and loved throughout the years and I now feel like I’ve actually been placed right into their works, which I can now think about upon reading these writings again. Even just walking around these areas can say a lot about what life was like in the past and how parts of the past are still held onto now and shape the modern world we’re able to experience now. While I feel more connected to the writers I have studied through this experience, it has also helped enhance the connection I’ve made with my peers here both from the UK and elsewhere and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I have had. I have grown so much as an individual and a scholar by learning about all aspects of other countries and all that I am truly capable of doing myself as well, and I owe it all to UNCG and the English department for providing me with the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in the UK.