Six Years Later – Reflecting on Semester at Northumbria University

I studied abroad during the spring of my sophomore year and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I studied at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, a city in northern England about an hour south of Edinburgh, Scotland. Newcastle is an amazing mix of British countryside, a bustling metropolis, and a dash of the sea. Surrounding Newcastle is a vast, rolling landscape enveloped with the history of ancient wars, a Roman occupation, and a wall that divided countries. Within the city, there’s an abundance of culture and life, showcasing theatre, the arts, fantastic food, and the best nightlife you can imagine.

I was born outside of Miami, Florida, and before I started 1st grade, my family moved to a small town in southern New Jersey. When it was time for college, I chose to study at Elizabethtown College for a couple of reasons: it was far enough away from home to be “away,” and it had a close-knit community while not feeling too small. I had a blast my freshman year and slowly started to come out of my shell, finding my confidence as an individual and young adult. Yet, I realized that my college experience so far wasn’t enough. I wanted more.

During one of the first few weeks into sophomore year, I noticed tables in the BSC Concourse with brochures about studying abroad. Traveling wasn’t new to me; I had the privilege of having parents that traveled when young and who wanted their kids to experience the world beyond their own backyard. I love learning about new cultures, history, and exploring new places. As much as I had seen the majority of my own country, I had yet to travel abroad.

After looking at various countries and programs, I narrowed it down to England. I think the comfort of studying for five months in an English-speaking country helped me push myself in other areas. At the time, there were three programs in England. One was in a castle-like campus in the countryside (what felt like the middle of nowhere, but had a very Harry-Potter-like atmosphere), a modern college in a small town a couple hours from London, and Northumbria, settled in the middle of a city. If I was going to go through the effort of studying abroad, I didn’t want to do the same thing I was already doing by studying in another small town, just in a different country. I chose the city. I chose Northumbria University.

To this day, more than six years later, I still believe it was one of the best decisions of my life. Studying abroad, and studying in a place that continuously gave me opportunities to push myself past my comfort zone shaped me into the person I am today. I met some of my best friends while studying at Northumbria, created some of my fondest memories, and gained an insatiable love for traveling. If there is any advice I can give, it’s to travel while you can still have it covered by your tuition. Time and money are precious commodities once you leave the security of college life.

One of the great things about Northumbria is they have a Welcome Night for all their international students before the semester begins. It allows you to find other students that can share in your experience. They also have various social events for their international students throughout the semester and year. Another great feature is the required Colloquial class. I didn’t realize how much I missed going on field trips until I had this class and could explore the area around Newcastle (really the North of England), learn about the fascinating history of the region, do it all with my friends, and have it counted for college credits.

While studying abroad at Northumbria, we traveled to South Shields, the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, a lead mine, all over Newcastle, and so many more great places. It was also nice being so close to the rest of Europe. Because I was there in the spring, I spent St. Patrick’s day in Dublin, Ireland; visited Harry Potter Studios in London (among the rest of London); and split my Easter/Spring break between exploring the UK and spending a week in Marrakech, Morocco (with a pit-stop in Barcelona, Spain).

My time at Northumbria wasn’t only traveling, though. I actually did go to classes, studied late into the night, wrote papers, and took exams. England’s grading system was a little disorienting at first (a 50 for them is a high grade, while for us it is failing), but I adapted. I graduated Elizabethtown with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. But while studying abroad, I chose to take a lot of my liberal arts and elective classes. I loved my sociology class, and found that my English literature class taught me more about history and culture than any other English class I had previously taken. I did have a few friends that were in Northumbria’s business program and would highly recommend it.

The amenities on campus are extensive, too. Northumbria has a wonderful student library, with ten floors of books, study rooms, computers, and even a snack lounge. They have a pub, stages for events, an expansive lounge, and even a bar and dance floor in their student union building. And the fitness/sport facility building was something you’d find on a campus like Penn State. All of this, and there was still the whole city of Newcastle just a block away.

I traveled. I learned. I grew and gained confidence. The best thing about studying abroad, though, were the friendships I made while at Northumbria.

About the Author – Tayler Petrowski ’15, Spring 2013 Newcastle upon Tyne, England alumna

Tayler graduated from Elizabethtown College with a degree in Business Administration in 2015. Since then, she’s worked in New Mexico and New York City, New York! As as sophomore in College, she studied abroad at Northumbria University. She returned to her host city, Newcastle upon Tyne in 2017 to visit some friends and then sightsee throughout Europe.

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