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Returning 2019/20 year abroad student shares her experience

10 June 2020

Louise

The Department of Religion and Theology has at present links with twelve universities around the world (including placements in Montreal, California, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and closer to home Leiden and Copenhagen) and we are still adding new and exciting places to our list. All of our partner universities offer units taught in English and were chosen carefully for their high-quality teaching and research in Religion, Theology and related subject areas.

For a full and up-to-date listing of partner uni­versities see the Global Opportunities website:

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/international-office/go-abroad/study/

Edith Li Ross (Deputy Head of Global Opportunities, University of Bristol) explains:

"The opportunity to study abroad for a year or a semester is often one of the highlights of students’ university career at Bristol.  In addition to the excitement of living and travelling overseas, international experience builds cross-cultural skills and resilience in students as well as offering them a new global perspective.  All of these elements are highly valued by employers and study abroad students at Bristol often comment that their year abroad not only led to personal growth, but also set them apart in a competitive job market.

Internationalisation is imbedded in the heart of the University of Bristol’s strategy.  As such, we are committed to offering students the opportunity to internationalise their degrees through study abroad and other international experiences.  Despite the significant COVID 19 disruption to our study abroad programme in 2020, all of our existing university partnerships remain in place.  Our intention is to continue to operate the study abroad programme to the extent possible, while ensuring both the safety and wellbeing of our students."

If you think this might be for you check out the details here (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/religion/study/undergraduate/

If you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact the departmental Study Abroad Academic Director Dr Rita Langer (Rita.Langer@bristol.ac.uk)

Year three student Louise Pardington (pictured above) has just returned from North Carolina Chapel Hill and relates her experiences during her year abroad.

What programme are you on and why did you choose that programme?

I am on the MArts Religion and Theology with Study Abroad Programme. I first learnt about this programme at my own open day for Bristol University. After learning about the many partner universities where I could study abroad, I left the open day feeling as though I simply had to apply for the MArts programme. I had never imaged that I would have the opportunity to live and study in another country, and therefore, it felt like an opportunity I could not turn down. The MArts programme also offers students the opportunity to attain a masters within the regular four year period it would take to complete a separate BA and MA. I chose the MArts programme because it gave me the life changing opportunity to study abroad and still be able to complete my aspiration of attaining a masters in Religion and Theology.

Where did you spend your year abroad and how was that experience for you?

I spent my year abroad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My year at Chapel Hill was the best experience of my life. During my year at Chapel Hill I enrolled in a wide range of unique and extremely thought-provoking Religious Studies units. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to engage with Religious Studies subjects which would not have been available at any higher education institution in the UK. Studying abroad also allowed me to learn, be taught, and assessed in a variety of ways extremely different to that which is experienced at universities in the UK. I believe that the academic experience of studying abroad will be invaluable for completing my masters next year, and for my future career after university. 

The experience of a year abroad is, however, much greater than the academic experience. I believe that the personal achievements of studying abroad are also invaluable. The confidence and independence that I gained during my year abroad are extremely notable and rewarding. My year abroad also gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who I now consider to be great friends. Sharing the experience of living away from home for a year with someone is extremely special; as is making strong enough friendships with people from the country in which you are studying that they invite you into their homes for the holidays. Finally, studying abroad allowed me to travel and explore parts of the world that I never imagined I would be able to visit. In just under a year in America I was able to tick off some very large bucket list items! 

How were you impacted by Covid 19? 

Covid 19, unfortunately, meant that I had to come home early from North Carolina. The semester was due to end May 5th, and then I had plans to travel with friends before returning home later in the month. However, due to Covid 19, I had to return home on March 18th. When I came home I continued to complete my American courses in an online format. Due to Covid 19 the University of North Carolina moved all of their classes to digital learning; this meant that even though I was thousands of miles away from Chapel Hill, I was able to continue to learn alongside the other students in my classes. The University of North Carolina offers online courses every summer and, therefore, digital learning was natural to most of my professors. All of my professors were also extremely understanding of the fact that I had very suddenly moved back home and was dealing with a time difference; they were all extremely accommodating and willing to help with any queries or concerns that I had. Although I was sad to end my time at Chapel Hill early, I feel extremely lucky to have had the time and experience that I did in the US. I hope that I will be able to return in the future to see my friends and visit some of the places that I had planned for my last few months abroad. 

What are you doing now?

I am now back home in Wales. After being away for almost a year I am taking this unprecedented situation and time to enjoy spending time with my family. I am also looking forward to being able to see other family and friends who I have missed very much. I am also looking forward to returning to Bristol later in the year to begin my fourth year at the university. I am excited to live in the city again, begin my final year of studies, and see friends and lecturers who I haven't seen in over a year.

What would you say to students who are thinking of applying for the MArts? 

I would encourage anyone who is considering applying for the MArts to go for it and apply. The programme offers students the incredible opportunity to study at an institution in Asia, Australia, Canada, the US or continental Europe. On top of the life changing experience of studying abroad for a whole year, the programme also allows you to return home and attain a masters in your final year. Living away from family and friends for a year and studying at a new institution of course has its challenges, but the rewards are so much greater. The academic and personal achievements of studying abroad are invaluable. It really was the best experience of my life.‌

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