A Broad World Experience
June 20, 2019
When Lizzie Barry ’21 arrived at Southwestern, she already had at least one major goal on her agenda: to study abroad. “I nearly went to college at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, but I ultimately decided on Southwestern for a multitude of reasons,” she recalls. The higher price tag of the Scottish university was one deterrent; others included being 5,000 miles away from her family for at least four years as well as not knowing a single Scottish soul. Her desire to study in the U.K., however, never wavered. “So I walked into SU knowing that I wanted a study-abroad experience. I wanted a broad world experience.”
An English major who is minoring in history and considering a second minor in business, Barry chose Southwestern’s London program because she was excited by the courses that were on offer, including International Business, European Cinema, and British Life and Culture. Furthermore, with its population of more than 8.7 million, London’s size promised “all the different experiences at once,” she says.
Barry also admits that the English capital appealed to her because it gave her convenient access to her beloved Scotland. And spending her fall semester in London did, indeed, enable her to visit the bonny Scottish capital with her classmates. “I love Edinburgh. If I had to choose any city to live in, it would be Edinburgh. It’s beautiful, with all its architecture and all the buildings stacked on top of each other. There is so much history there,” she rhapsodizes.
Her passion for Edinburgh would not keep her from traveling to other cities in Europe, however. For fall break, she and her friends made a nine-day “whirlwind tour” of Paris and four different iconic cities in Italy: Venice, Rome, Florence, and Ancona. She appreciates that traveling throughout the continent was relatively inexpensive, but she also had to learn that navigating regional trains—and learning how to kill time after missing one train and having to wait for another—required quite a lot of patience. Barry nevertheless relishes her memories of traversing the Tuscan countryside and building friendships through the inevitable frustrations and funny moments that accompany group travel. “It was an adventure for sure, but we made it out alive, and it was great fun!” she declares.
But don’t let Barry’s tales of her modern-day Grand Tour make you think that her home base of London was somehow underwhelming: she speaks appreciatively of the range of experiences the Big Smoke afforded her. Having grown up in the car-centric city of San Antonio, for example, she loved how easy it was to get around the capital, and she was grateful for how she could navigate such a large metropolis on foot and by subway. In addition, Barry was particularly fond of her British Life and Culture course because her instructors would take the class on walking tours through the city, with destinations including local castles, mosques, and other landmarks. “The professors are just so knowledgeable about everything that’s happened in London,” she relates. “It was so interesting because you’re not in the classroom; you’re out experiencing London.”
To complement her coursework, Barry also interned with Bow Arts, a charity and contemporary art gallery that supports arts education in schools as well as working-class artists who might not otherwise enjoy the opportunity to practice their art. Given that Barry was originally attracted to majoring in English because of her love of all things creative, the experience was a terrific fit. “It was such a fun environment to work in. Everybody there is very enthusiastic and creative-minded, and they all work really well together,” she recalls. The Southwestern undergraduate worked primarily with the nonprofit’s marketing department, organizing their database to find photographs from past activities that would help inform potential partnering schools of the services Bow Arts could provide. She says the actual work could sometimes be tedious, but she found it “interesting to see what students are capable of if given the chance” to explore the creative arts.
Although adding stamps to her passport and having the opportunity to develop intellectually and professionally were the highlights of her time abroad, Barry believes that personal growth was also a significant outcome of her voyage to London, and she may even be looking to augment that experience with another semester abroad, perhaps next time to Spain. But wherever you choose to study, Barry opines, “You really have to have maturity, and as you’re going through it, you have to mature even more to survive,” she maintains. “You need to take care of yourself and be aware of your needs so that it ends up being a good experience.”
Barry acknowledges that before traveling to the U.K., she was nervous because she realized that her parents, family, and friends would be so very far away, which meant that she suddenly had only herself to rely on for even her most basic needs, such as buying and making meals and finding her way around. “But don’t worry about it because everything sorts itself out,” she says to those contemplating their own studies abroad. “Talk to people; work through it. There’s not been any real issue that I haven’t been able to find a solution to,” she says.
She adds that studying abroad with her fellow Southwestern students made that problem-solving process much easier. “Everyone gets along so well, and we’re surprisingly really close,” Barry comments. “We formed this community: we were Southwestern but abroad. That connection makes it a lot easier.”
Read about Mike Barry’s perspective on his daughter’s experiences abroad in “Discovering Lizzie in London” in the spring 2019 issue of Southwestern.