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London Study Tour
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Chelsea McGhee

Major: Psychology; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Minor: Theatre
Hometown: Bellefonte, PA
Paterno Fellow

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I originally heard about the London Study Tour from the Assistant Dean of the Schreyer Honors College, Dr. Nichola Gutgold. After she alerted me to its existence, I began reading about the program on the Honors College website. To determine the financial details of the trip I spoke extensively with Dr. Richard Stoller, Schreyer's Coordinator of Academic Advising and International Programs.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The London Study Tour is an eleven-day excursion to the UK over winter break. The trip has a heavy theatre emphasis, so I saw a different production almost every day. When not in the theatre, I had the opportunity to explore the capital, visiting historical sites such as Westminster Abbey, Parliament, The Tour of London, The New Globe Theatre, several museums, and much more. Near the end of the trip, we traveled to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see Shakespeare's birthplace and watch several productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The very last day, we traveled to Leavesden to tour the Warner Bros Studio, seeing the real sound stages, costumes, and props used in the filming of the Harry Potter movies.

How did this experience impact you academically?

While the UK is a Western country, my time there certainly reshaped my worldview. When you grow up in the US and study here, as well, you tend to forget you’re only seeing the world from one perspective. Different people and a different culture allowed me to step outside of that. I now find myself gravitating towards non-American news media and seeking out transnational feminist theories and perspectives. One might say that my sojourn in London also rekindled my sense of curiosity. When you’re a tourist in a new land, you naturally adopt an inquisitive mindset: attempting to both understand and adapt to what you’re unaccustomed to. When you don’t get something right the first time, you give yourself the benefit of the doubt. When something doesn’t go quite as smoothly as you would like, you frame it as a challenge, not an obstacle. Since returning to the States, I’ve tried to take this insight with me and apply it to my studies.

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

After Penn State, I hope to attend graduate school and obtain both my Master’s and Ph.D. After that, I see myself as a social psychologist working in the research field evaluating educational interventions that can dispel prejudicial attitudes and investigating the neural impacts of binary thinking. This trip has made me realize that my future does not need to be constrained to the borders of the United States: that I can and could flourish somewhere completely new. Because of this, I’ve begun looking into graduate programs overseas. It has always been my dream to live within the United Kingdom someday and now that I’ve had a taste of it, I know I must return.

This trip has made me realize that my future does not need to be constrained to the borders of the United States: that I can and could flourish somewhere completely new. 

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend the London Study Tour to anyone, frankly. London is such a hub of artistry, history, and diversity. It’s a large city yet it feels quaint and accessible. Their theatres are top-notch and you can have a Broadway experience without going broke.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

Liberal Arts Enrichment Funds and the Paterno Fellows Program made this trip entirely possible. If it hadn’t been for them, I never would have been able to go. And that’s not hyperbole in the least: the financial support I received from the Paterno Fellows Program is what made the difference between me journeying to London and me staying home. I am incredibly grateful that this program exists, for it grants those who potentially don’t possess the financial resources of their peers the opportunity to quite literally expand their horizons.

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