By Rebecca Fox
I knew that I wanted to study abroad almost as soon as I came to Hope. I even knew exactly where I wanted to study: Wales. Since I love Welsh literature and history, I longed to explore the breathtaking Welsh mountains, to see where my favorite stories took place, and to finally be able to practice my novice Welsh!
There was one hitch in my plan: Hope doesn’t have any study abroad programs in Wales.
Dr. Baer, my advisor for my history major, encouraged me throughout the process of tracking down and applying for a suitable program, and even helped me in my research.
For several months we weighed options together to find the best program for my interests. I was so glad to have a guide, especially since I was nervous about courses that would meet my goals and also transfer well back to Hope.
Finally, we set on a semester-long program in the city of Bangor—a college town on the coast of Northern Wales which was nestled in a valley between the high peaks of Snowdonia and the Isle of Angelsey.
At Prifysgol Bangor (Bangor University), I took courses in Welsh language and history, medieval literature and Celtic and Anglo-Saxon archeology, all of which transferred seamlessly back to Hope.
While most of the classes I took were in familiar fields, I had never taken an archeology course before. Hope doesn’t offer any courses in this area, but Prifysgol Bangor considers archeology to be a sub-field of historical studies.
At first I felt very much out of my depth, but I quickly fell in love with British medieval art. The knowledge of British literature and history that I had acquired at Hope had primed me to deeply appreciate the intricate artistry of the Celts and Saxons. The highlight, though, was certainly traveling to see several 1,000-year-old carved stone crosses in various fields and village squares.
I spent four-and-a-half months studying Anglo-Saxon reliquaries, sculptures and jewelry—at least, when I wasn’t hiking in the mountains, visiting crumbling castles, burying myself in the university’s wood-paneled library, drinking tea in cozy pubs on rainy evenings or hunting down a few of Merlin’s legendary haunts.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. I’m not really the poster child for studying abroad. I don’t have wander lust or anything like that–I’m a home-body who loves to build community. I also had a really great boyfriend, roommate, church, and academic community back at Hope College. Despite the hospitality and kindness of people I met in Bangor, leaving home was really hard for me, and I had lots of tear-filled Skype sessions and times of loneliness and frustration while I was abroad.
However, it was absolutely worth it.
I learned that travel is not just for the “free spirits” among us, but is also for anyone who has a deep longing to learn.
Hope’s History department offers a variety of classes and offers an excellent education, but it can’t cover everything. That is why I’d encourage anyone with a specific academic passion to take advantage of the opportunity that they have here; rarely will you find so much support for whatever you want to achieve. In fact, I’d say that the best thing about Hope’s History department that its faculty go above and beyond in helping students pursue their individual goals—whether on campus or abroad.