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Study Abroad: Literary London
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Elizabeth Catchmark

Paterno Fellow
Major: English
Hometown: Bellefonte, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I knew I was interested in a summer abroad program, so I utilized the online database that lists all available abroad programs for Penn State students. I weighted different factors when exploring options, including length of time abroad, distance from home, cost, and potential language barriers before deciding on the faculty-led, four-week London experience.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience was a faculty-led, four-week study abroad program in London. Faculty led programs have a pre-selected schedule of courses, which included Insanity and Imagination, a study of the links between mental illness and literature, and Avant Garde London, an examination of several modernist movements. Our course work was supplemented with trips to several sites intimately related to our studies. One such site was Monk’s House, the country home of renowned writer Virginia Woolf and her husband. Another excursion took us to two famous Neolithic stone monuments, Stonehenge and Avebury. Our visit also involved experiences with many other historically and culturally significant locations, including Oxford University and the White Cliffs of Dover, and several museums, including the Freud Museum, the Bedlam Museum of the Mind, and the British Museum.

This experience was helpful in achieving both my long term and short-term goals, as international experience is vital for any aspiring professor.

How did this experience impact you academically?

The courses taken on this trip have been very valuable for me academically. As an English major who intends to pursue a doctorate after graduation, the first course, Avant Garde London, was particularly helpful. Though the movements studied were often small and short-lived, the concepts and general principles emphasized are vital for any student of English literature. The course provided an overview of modernist principles, enhancing my vocabulary for speaking about literature along with my understanding of different literary periods and how those periods are in conversation with one another. The second course, Insanity and Imagination, was similarly helpful. The class built a working vocabulary of different, but equally vital to literary studies, terms and concepts, including ideas central to psychoanalytic literary criticism.

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

My immediate goal is to pursue my doctorate in English Literature after graduation, while my long-term career goal is to seek a faculty position in my field. This experience was helpful in achieving both my long term and short-term goals, as international experience is vital for any aspiring professor. The specific courses taken provided me with valuable knowledge of different periods in English literature and different types of literary criticism, both of which will aid me in my graduate studies. Additionally, our guided tour of Oxford exposed me to a potential graduate program I could apply to in the coming year.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. The faculty led programs provide the benefits of study abroad, including learning about other cultures in an intimate way, with the added security of faculty members known to the students accompanying them on the trip. It provided me with occasions to experience sites related to my field that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to see.

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