As she contemplated her senior year at Southwestern University, psychology major Henna Karedia ’19 was looking to shake things up. “To be honest, I needed a break from the same scene. I needed some change,” she admits.

So she decided to apply to study abroad for the first time during the fall semester of her senior year. She chose London as the site because her favorite SU professor, Assistant Professor of Business Andy Ross, was one of the faculty who would be teaching, and as a business minor, she thought it would be a great opportunity to take International Business, a class that is only offered abroad. “It was also a great opportunity to do an internship abroad,” she adds. “I wanted to get hands-on experience in another country and learn about the people who were working around me.”

Henna Karedia ’19An education in and out of the classroom

In London, Karedia enrolled in four courses. The first, taught by SU Professor of Spanish Katy Ross, was on European film, “a great class,” Karedia recalls, in which the students learned how and why gender, race, and nation are represented in European cinema. She also took British Life and Culture, a required course examining the traditions and institutions that have shaped British life in the 21st century. She appreciated that the class included excursions around London, during which the professor would offer insights into the history and purpose of particular landmarks. She would then revisit those sites during her downtime so that she could have additional time to explore and learn more on her own.

In International Business, Karedia was able to study timely, relevant topics such as how Brexit was affecting businesses, including whether the referendum would influence international businesses’ decisions to set up shops in the U.K. It was a unique opportunity given that she was on site in the heat of the Brexit controversy. But Karedia also appreciated the hands-on learning and comparative perspective in the course. “We analyzed a lot of case studies of British retailers and supermarkets like Waitrose, ASDA, Marks and Spencer, and Tesco and how they were different from H-E-B and Whole Foods,” she recounts. “We even took a field trip down to the supermarket to see how our products are different.”

The fourth course was her internship, for which she earned academic credit. Karedia served as a marketing intern for ArtFinder, a company that matches independent artists and galleries selling original, limited-edition artworks with buyers in an online marketplace. Karedia specialized in social media, advertising artwork and learning about SEO and how to use Photoshop. “I love where I interned,” she says. “They’re so organized, and I didn’t feel like I was bothering anyone when asking questions because they were so patient.” She also feels that the relationships she could build in her internship in London were different from those in previous work experiences she’s had in the U.S. because her U.K. coworkers would not only offer support at work, but they would also invite her to social outings. “I loved that about them,” Karedia says. “I feel like I got lucky with that experience.”

Henna captures this beautiful photo of Buckingham Palace.Henna captures this beautiful photo of Buckingham Palace.

Beyond London

Especially toward the end of the semester, Karedia made it a point to visit many of the tourist destinations in London that she had not visited earlier: the London Eye, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. The SU program also provided the opportunity for her and her classmates to visit a number of cities in the U.K., including Brighton, Cambridge, Bath, and Wiltshire (the site of Stonehenge). But one of the greatest advantages of studying abroad, Karedia says, was being able to travel throughout the rest of Europe during weekends and holidays—all without hauling around a ton of luggage. “It’s so much cheaper to travel in Europe. I’ve probably traveled more here than I have within the States!” she comments.

For example, she took advantage of the colloquially named Chunnel to make a quick sojourn trip to Paris, where she arrived just days after pandemonium had swept through the French capital during the yellow-vest riots. She ventured out of the city to see Versailles, where she visited the opulent gardens and palace that she had first learned about in a world history course in high school. She traveled to Dublin one weekend, and during fall break, she traveled to Spain and then to Italy, where an overnight stay in a hostel in Rome left much to be desired. She even made a last-minute day trip to Germany with a friend, flying out at 6 a.m. and returning a mere 18 hours later; she can proudly proclaim that despite the whirlwind trip, she was able to successfully complete the final draft of an essay that was due the very next afternoon.

Henna at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.Henna at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.One of Karedia’s most memorable destinations was Edinburgh, where she explored the vast National Museum of Scotland; went to the Conan Doyle, a pub near the Sherlock Holmes creator’s birthplace; visited the iconic Scott Monument, the 200-foot Victorian Gothic spire commemorating historical-romance author Sir Walter Scott; and climbed Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that forms the highest peak in Holyrood Park and offers panoramic views of the city. An encounter at that last site remains a highlight of her semester abroad. “While climbing, I met this super-kind Turkish woman, who was helping me get through the rocky parts,” she remembers. Karedia was not wearing the appropriate shoes for the hike, and with a long stretch still separating her from the mountain’s peak, her energy was flagging. “We made it to this flat area on Arthur’s Seat, and I said, ‘I’m done! I’m going back down,’” she recalls. But Karedia’s companion would not hear of her not finishing the journey to the summit. “She said, ‘No! We’re going to make it to the top, and we’re going to take a picture,’” Karedia says. In the end, the pair succeeded. “I made a friend that day. And coming down was much easier,” Karedia laughs.

Karedia developed a firmer sense of independence during her many excursions from London. When a coworker was unable to join her for a planned two-day trip to Amsterdam, Karedia decided to go alone—her first trip by herself. Before flying to the Netherlands, she assiduously researched routes and ground transport using Google Maps and YouTube videos. She was rewarded by getting to see a number of famous Dutch sights the first day and then perusing the city’s numerous museums the following day. She remembers resting at the Hard Rock Café, taking in views of the city’s distinctive canals. “It went really well because I planned it out, and surprisingly, everything went according to the plan,” she says.

Stay calm, and power through

Karedia says that, looking back, her semester in London was not so much an academic trip but rather an occasion to learn and explore beyond the traditional classroom setting. “I took the trip more as an opportunity to travel to other countries and experience different cultures,” she says.

After enjoying that rich experience, Karedia admits that she cried when she left London. Back on U.S. soil during her last semester at Southwestern, she waxed nostalgic for London’s public transportation system, its pedestrian-friendly culture, and the friendliness of those she had met at work or during her excursions. She says that meeting new people was one of the most beneficial outcomes of her time in in the U.K., and she recommends that SU students should consider working while studying abroad. “If I didn’t do an internship, I would have just hung out with the people in my program,” she says. “I wouldn’t have built those relationships with my supervisor and the people I worked with.”

For Karedia, the greatest challenge of studying abroad was learning how to survive the inevitable panic that can engulf you when you’re in an unfamiliar place, such as touching down in a new country or having to negotiate the peak hours on the Tube on your first day of work. “When you arrive for the first time, you’re freaking out, and you’re thinking, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m all by myself,” she comments. But she credits the SU London program’s student orientation for helping her to settle in and feel more at ease. “Now I think, I don’t need people to walk with; I can go by myself. No matter how much time you have, no matter how much advice you get, no matter how many plans you make, you’re going to come across something new,” she advises. “So just go with your gut, power through, and you’ll be fine.”