Erin Doyle ’17 left for her London study abroad trip in 2015 as a quiet introvert.

“I didn’t think I could ever travel by myself,” she said. “I’d never been on a plane, never left the country other than Canada, and hadn’t even seen the sea. But I did so successfully, happily, and safely. And I can’t wait to do it again.”

Yisset Gonzalez at Scotland Isle of Skye

That fall, Doyle visited Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, England, Ireland, and Scotland while abroad; she’s got a computer full of pictures to prove it. As she excitedly speaks about her trip, the shyness seems to have disappeared.

Yisset “Gigi” Gonzalez said her study abroad trip in 2016 made her more independent as well. In fact, one of her favorite things to do during free time was to “get lost” in the city of London. “I’d get on and off the bus at random stops and just explore a completely different culture and then find my way back,” she said.

Gonzalez also visited Italy, Spain, and Scotland, and photos from her unforgettable trip fill her phone.

The two say that a lot of traveling abroad involves learning as you go.

Within a couple of weeks, they say students learn how to navigate, how to start up conversations and network, and how to budget (cooking yourself is a plus; alcohol is really expensive; and prioritizing is a must, as is a comfortable backpack).

Both said the opportunity to study abroad in London while taking general education requirements was one they couldn’t pass up. And both students started out as theatre majors, but ended up switching majors to psychology before their trip.

This 12-week fall semester program is open to all majors. Classes are a combination of lectures and guided field trips. Students explore first-hand the historical sites and rich resources of this renowned city.

Doyle said she is interested in art therapy and, as an art minor, the ability to study art and theatre in the artistic hub of London “sounded pretty awesome.” The experience, she said, was even more than she’d hoped.

“I learned so much that semester, both exploring on my own and also with the field trips for class,” she said, listing off opportunities for a street art tour, to study British politics, and to examine the fascinating and ever-changing immigrant culture.

“I wasn’t expecting it to help my art, but it exposed me to so much: going to the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Modern—as well as the street art—and seeing the work of important artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Banksy, and Ai Wiewie. It inspired me,” Doyle added.

An art class in London

As a psychology major, Gonzalez said she found it fascinating to learn about the prevalent role psychotherapy plays in mental health care in London. The classes, she said, were fascinating and very hands on, but she learned so much outside of class as well.

“Being over there made me realize how small I am and how many things in the world I should be paying attention to,” she said. “Now things that seemed like a big deal before seem irrelevant. You get a completely different worldview. I used to think that living in Winona, we were in a bubble, but America is its own bubble. Studying abroad changes your view in an essential way.”

Doyle added that the trip has also sparked an interest to study cultural psychology. “I also learned more about geography and became more globally aware,” she said.

Would they recommend the trip to other students?

“100 percent,” Doyle said.

“Definitely,” Gonzalez said. “Every student could benefit, no matter what their major is.”

The tentative fall semester 2017 London program dates are Aug. 28 through Nov. 17. The application deadline is Feb. 15, 2017. For more information, contact the Study Abroad Office at 457-1447 or go to http://studyabroad.saintmarys.community/saint-marys-programs/london-program to learn more.

Photo caption: Erin Doyle in Florence, Italy

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