Wheaton students discuss semesters abroad

Although going to school in small-town Norton, MA has its benefits, many students take the opportunity to leave the Wheaton bubble and study abroad for a semester or two.

Ryan Barrette ’15, Caitlin Claflin ’15 and Schuyler Evans ’15 all took different advantages of Wheaton’s study abroad program.

Barrette’s first experience was a shorter one, but still life-changing. In the summer of 2013, the chemistry major traveled to China. Taught by professor Tong, Barrette took a course through the Biology Department on traditional Chinese medicine. Being a pre-med student, he was unsure if studying abroad for a semester would fit in his busy schedule. “Going abroad for a January or summer program is perfect because it still pushes you out of your comfort zone,” said Barrette of the program. He explained that the first two weeks were spent in a classroom setting located in a hospital, learning about traditional medicine. In their final week, they traveled, “seeing different minorities and how their approaches to medicine are different from western and traditional medicine.”

After discovering that he did have room in his schedule, Barrette decided to study in Edinburgh, Scotland for the spring 2014 semester. In Scotland, he took Advanced Chemistry, English Literature, and Celtic Civilization. He found Edinburgh to be a, “fantastic city to live in as a college student; it’s cool to have so much history around you.” By living in an apartment with no meal plan, he became very independent. Barrette explained that the experience living on his own and traveling taught him to be happy alone.

While Barrette was in Scotland, Caitlin Claflin’15 was studying in a different part of the UK: Oxford University. An English major, Claflin explained that going to England made the most sense. “I’ve always liked European history, and Oxford seemed like a really cool place to study.” Her instincts about Oxford proved to be correct, and she referred to it as one of the best experiences of her life.

Oxford uses a trimester system, so Claflin was there for two terms, with six weeks off between each. During that break, she traveled to France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Although traveling was one of the highlights of her trip, so was being on the Quidditch team and making close friends (who she is visiting in England after graduation). She spoke of being on the team, “It’s like rugby mixed with handball and dodgeball…eventually you forget how crazy you look.”

A major influence on her decision to study abroad was her parents, whose stories from their experience studying abroad were very enticing. While she was abroad, Claflin got to stay with her parents’ friends from when they studied abroad. She got to see where they used to hang out, and see the places that they’ve always talked about. Claflin explained, “I learned to really put myself out there.”

An option that some students choose is to study abroad for an entire year. Schuyler Evans ’15 chose this option, studying in Moscow, Russia (fall 2013) and London, England (spring 2014). Evans is a Theatre & Dance Studies (Acting/Directing) major, and she went to the Moscow Art Theatre Semester (MATS) through the National Theatre Institute and the London Dramatic Academy (LDA).

In Moscow, Evans took classes six days a week from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., with rehearsal both before and after class. Although she was there for acting, she took many different classes. She took Movement, Acting, Russian Language, History of Russian Theatre, History of Russian Cinema, Design, Stage Combat, Ballet and Singing. “It felt like being trained in creativity…we got really comfortable with failing and learning to try new things.”

Although she had more free time in London to explore and see many plays, it was still difficult. Evans described LDA as a “very intensive experience.” There, she received incredible acting coaching. “Being around people who inspire you all the time is life changing.” Evan said that she is now more independent and driven. “I feel much more capable of going out on my own and I have a stronger desire to fight for what I want.”

These three students returned to Wheaton not only ready for their senior year, but more prepared for the outside world as well.