Vail Daily column: An education abroad
Ryan Summerlin January 31, 2013
As I sat twiddling my thumbs one fine Walla Walla afternoon, I decided that I would try graduate school to work towards an advanced degree in the field of politics. My decision to pursue a master’s was three fold: First, to continue my education, second, to begin to build a career in international relations and third, to get a degree faster than it took my brother to receive one at age 27.
After many conversations, applications and deliberations, I decided to attend the University of York in the north (Yorkshire) of England. This university offered me small class sizes, a beautiful rural setting, and an intra-disciplinary and theoretical approach to my studies. Specifically, I chose to study international development (“Conflict, Governance and Development”), a very convoluted major that would require far too much space to explain.
I was certainly apprehensive about living abroad for a year, but I knew that I wanted to return to the United Kingdom. And despite the many bureaucratic and financial obstacles – such as never-ending application forms and a criminally expensive student visa – my heart was set on returning to the grayest, coldest and wettest island in existence.
While studying abroad in England, I faced a few obstacles. School was difficult and unlike undergraduate studies, I had very few students and staff members to turn to. I couldn’t, for example, expect to find consolation from a Mr. Tim Caudill or a Mrs. Nancy Lindbloom. Things in England were also prohibitively expensive – even the Harry Potter bunker into which the university tried to stuff me and my luggage. The bus system was also really bad (still better though, than the Vail Valley transit system, ha!).
Yet despite these few obstacles, I had an incredible time and wouldn’t trade it for the world. York (and Britain generally) is packed with history and culture. There is an 800-year-old towering cathedral in the center of town that most people indifferently walk past with an expression of, “Oh, that ol’ thing?” Even the rough accent of the Yorkshire folk, a highly peculiar bunch, became ultimately endearing. People-watching from an ancient British pub is also an unbeatable activity. All in all, it was a fantastic setting to receive an education.
Time in the classroom was great, but I much preferred the opportunity to travel, to go out and meet people, to kick a football with some uni blokes and to explore the beauty and character of Yorkshire. I even had the chance to hop over to Europe to do a little backpacking. Most importantly, I made some strong friendships with people from all over the world – friendships that will hopefully continue into the future.
Beyond a doubt, graduate school is not for everybody. It is essentially a way less fun, more demanding college experience. But the opportunity to get out and travel, get a little lost, and change your perspective(s) is something that any youth in the Vail Valley should try and make happen. And for me, reading boring politics books all day was something I wanted to do. I am grateful to my parents, to the community of Eagle-Vail, and to the teachers of Battle Mountain.