IES: Oxford, St. Catherine's College
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Nick Labecki

Major: History, Political Science
Minor: Business and Liberal Arts
Hometown: New Cumberland, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about the opportunity to study at Oxford through IES via the Penn State study abroad website. I was initially interested in studying in either Germany or the UK, but I eventually settled on the UK. Oxford seemed like the best fit academically while also providing a great experience living abroad.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience thus far has been unbelievable. The academic rigor of Oxford has challenged me and made me a much better researcher and writer. As for Oxford itself, the town is beautiful and a pleasant place to live. Additionally, it is only about an hour outside of London by train and a similar distance to all the major airports, providing easy, cheap access to the rest of Europe. The Easter break, which lasts about 5-6 weeks, provides a wonderful opportunity to either travel and see the rest of Europe or to take a break from your coursework and return to the US for a few weeks. Personally, I traveled the whole break and had an incredible time.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience has helped to further enhance my skills as a researcher and writer. The tutorial system of teaching allows you to craft better essays by getting individual feedback from your tutors in one-on-one meetings. Additionally, tutorials allow you to get better at defending what you have written and showing what you have learned from the readings. In addition to general coursework at Oxford, I have also had time to conduct research at the National Archives in London and various holdings at other Oxford colleges. The documents I found will form an important part of my honors thesis at Penn State next year.

I have had so many amazing experiences, both academically and culturally, in both the UK and continental Europe that have made me a better, more well-rounded person.

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

This experience has helped me to further solidify my career plans. Before coming to Oxford, I was vacillating between pursuing a career in politics or continuing on to graduate school. While I would still consider other opportunities should they arise, my experience at Oxford has convinced me that I should begin applying to graduate programs. Additionally, I now hope to apply to a few programs in the UK, as well as a few fellowships, in addition to the US programs I have already been reviewing.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this experience. This is Oxford. There's nothing else like it. You will be challenged every day and will improve exponentially as a student. Any study abroad experience promises to be rewarding, but Oxford provides a unique opportunity to study at the best university in the world while also still having the opportunity to spend time in nearby London and travel during the extended Easter break.

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

The Paterno Fellows Program really encourages students to go abroad during their time at Penn State. While an internship or a short summer term study abroad experience would have met the requirement, I am so glad I decided to do a full semester abroad. I have had so many amazing experiences, both academically and culturally, in both the UK and continental Europe that have made me a better, more well-rounded person. Studying abroad is a vital learning and growing experience and helps students to better reflect the values of the Paterno Fellows Program.

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