IES: University College London
Up one level
Rachel Olszewski

Major: Labor and Employment Relations
Minor: Women's Studies
Hometown: Dallas, Pennsylvania

How did you learn about this opportunity?

Since I have been in high school I have been hearing people talk about their study abroad experiences in college. A majority of those individuals would say that it is such an experience and probably the best few months of their lives. When I became a college student studying abroad was on the top of my bucket list, so I immediately started doing research on it as a freshmen. Penn State University has great resources if one is interested or pursuing a study abroad experience such as Penn State Education Abroad that houses advisers, information sessions throughout the semesters, education abroad fairs, and many more beneficial resources. While I was a freshmen I decided that I wanted to study in London, United Kingdom in the spring semester, simply because it would fit the most during that period. When I definitely came to the conclusion of studying abroad in London it was then time to decide which program(s) I would apply to. The global studies office at Penn State offers an immense number of programs; it is a challenge to decide which one is the best fit for yourself. This process took some time because I had to research programs that I thought would be beneficial towards my studies. When I came across the IES program at University College London I thought it was exactly what I was looking for: located in center-city London, direct enrollment into the University, high educational standards globally, and it offered classes that would meet general education requirements I was hoping to pursue.

The opportunities that this study abroad experience has offered me is unlimited; I do not think I would have even been able to dream of having a better experience prior to arriving in London. 

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I currently have less than one and a half months left in London. I arrived in London early January and will be departing home for the States in the middle of May. These past three months have been some of the best months of my life! The opportunities that this study abroad experience has offered me are unlimited; I do not think I would have even been able to dream of having a better experience prior to arriving in London. I do not think I could have picked a better educational program to be apart of (IES: UCL) - this college has met all my expectations and beyond. Aside from the educational experience in city of London, I have really enjoyed being able to travel all over Europe. I have been to some places that I could not have imagined visiting like Paris, France, Amsterdam, and Netherlands - this list is much longer! These opportunities to travel abroad while living in the United Kingdom have also helped me grow as an individual. Seeing countries and cities all around Europe has really opened my eyes to how thankful I am for not only having this experience, but for my life in general - I could not be more thankful to be where I am. These past three months have also helped guide me through where I can picture my life going after I graduate from Penn State.

How did this experience impact you academically?

My study abroad experience in London has had a great impact on me academically. Being enrolled in University College London has demonstrated that I can achieve and be successful in anything I want if I put my mind to it - I just need to stay determined. At the beginning of the term at University College London I was quite nervous about adapting to the new academic standards; everything from class structure to class work and class examinations was different from what I am use to! I oftentimes thought, how am I going to adjust to such a system in such a short span of time? It took me two years to adjust to college-life in America! During the first month of the term I made sure that I remained positive and determined to succeed at this European university. Yes, that took a lot of time and work, but by the second month of the term I felt that I was pretty well adjusted. It really helped becoming friendly with students from the university - they were very advantageous when it came to learning what is expected from the students at UCL during class and through one's class work. I currently only have three more assignments to complete at UCL, which are all research papers that must be 2,500 words at length. Since I have completed five essays already this term I feel that I can be quite successful with these final assignments because I have learned how I can improve through my work and areas where I met the expectations. The overall lesson I take from my academic experience at UCL is that I can accomplish anything academically if I want to, which really helps me as I soon enter my senior year at Penn State with hopes of attending law school after graduation. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am currently a junior at Penn State University and will be a senior in the fall of 2016. I have plans to graduate in the spring of 2017 with a major in Labor and Employment Relations and minors in Women's Studies and International Studies. This summer, I plan on dedicating much of my time towards studying for the LSAT, which I will take in the fall. During the upcoming summer months I will also begin the application process for attending law school in fall 2017. Law school has been a dream of mine since I was a freshmen in high school and it has been quickly approaching. My study abroad experience this past semester in London has helped me greatly with pursuing my dreams of becoming a lawyer one day. By being accepted to one of the top universities in the world, University College London, it has showed me that all my hard work in my undergraduate studies at Penn State is paying off. I am now hoping that law schools in America will admire my academic career as much as UCL had during the application process, and hopefully this abroad experience can demonstrate also to law schools how successful I can be in rigorous programs.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Prior to having my personal experience of studying abroad, I have heard numerous people talk about how great their abroad experiences were and that everyone should have the opportunity to study abroad. Now that I have almost completed my own study abroad stay I have come to the same conclusion. A student not only develops a stronger academic background, but also is able to experience their lives outside of familiar boundaries. I do believe that study abroad should be a strong component of a Liberal Arts student's undergraduate experience. Study abroad may be more beneficial to a Liberal Arts student when compared to a math or science student because Liberal Arts is portrayed differently around the world (social science) and such diverse viewpoints can add more of a well-rounded experience to their degrees.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.


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