Twenty UO sophomores spent a month in London this summer taking classes, going on adventures, and learning from the exciting experience of visiting another country
When summer school starts with a ride on the London Eye, you know your summer is going to be anything but ordinary. The stunning view of the city skyline from 443 feet wasn’t the only new perspective gained by University of Oregon students who traveled to London in June through the PathwayOregon program.
For all, it was a month of coursework, excursions, and cultural immersion. For many, it was their first time visiting another country.
Through the UO’s London in a Global Context program, they lived and took classes at a Global Education Oregon Center in a townhouse built circa 1720. Home away from home was just ten minutes from the British Museum, with buses and tube stations nearby—as well as some of London’s most famous galleries, museums, and theaters.
The World is Your Classroom
London is a tapestry of complex, overlapping histories that extend more than 2,000 years into the past. During their four weeks abroad, PathwayOregon students earned nine credits learning about London in a global context and exploring contemporary British politics and society. They investigated migration issues, how London is changing, politics, race and diversity, popular culture, and more.
Class spilled out of the classroom—and into the streets, museums, and historical sites. Organized excursions dovetailed with lessons about history and current issues. For example, they visited the Palace of Westminster while studying British politics. Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned during the program, making the lessons even more relevant and timely.
Other excursions included the Museum of London, a boat trip to Greenwich, and a Great Fire of London walking tour. The group took a day trip to Brighton (including fish and chips on the beach) and enjoyed tea at the Wallace Collection Restaurant. And they visited the Churchill War Rooms, Soho, and Camden.
But some of the most transformative moments didn’t come from planned outings.
Throughout the program, students met people from diverse cultures, experienced profound personal growth, and discovered a newfound independence. You can't plan for those opportunities. You just have to be there. You also have to go beyond your comfort zone and try something new (like navigating the London tube by yourself or striking up a conversation with a local).
For trip leader Celena Simpson, an associate director for PathwayOregon and degree progression, the best part of visiting London was watching students come together as a group—and grow as individuals.
“By the end of the month, the shared experiences brought the group together and strengthened their sense of community," she says. I also observed tremendous growth in each student, which was an intentional part of the program.
“When you’re in another country trying to overcome obstacles, you don’t always have the right answers at your fingertips. That could mean a problem with your passport, a lost phone, or catching up with the group. It’s okay to embrace the uncertainty and give yourself a chance to figure it out.”
The students benefitted from learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom.
“They valued being in the place they were learning about and talking to people about current issues," Simpson says. “It gave them opportunities to think critically about their own identities and explore general issues around identity, politics, and culture from a new perspective.”
“In London, everything is historic. You can walk anywhere, and every step you take is another story to be told.”
—Danaya Lowe, journalism major from Portland, OR
Fun memory: Standing on the Greenwich Meridian with one foot in each time zone.
Favorite excursion: Electric Avenue in Brixton—diverse cultures, shops, historic monuments, and community.
Biggest challenge: Staying focused on rigorous coursework when there are so many fun things to do.
Photo (left): Danaya Lowe (bottom right) with other PathwayOregon scholars in London
“It was a life-changing experience. Study abroad is essential.”
—Josh Celio Espinoza, business and journalism major from Scotts Mills, OR
Greatest challenge: “It’s such a huge city. You really have to plan out where you want and need to be.”
Personal Growth: “I feel much more capable than I ever have before. I’ve become more self-reliant and self-assured.”
Biggest surprise: Learning about British history before the 1700s and its connections to the Roman Empire.
English food: “Is it my favorite? No. But there’s something to be said about British cuisine. It was a different and enjoyable experience.”
A generous gift from a UO donor made it possible for PathwayOregon scholars to travel to London this summer for the immersive learning experience of a lifetime. PathwayOregon is a scholarship and student support program for Oregonians.
—Aria Riley, Spanish and planning, public policy and management major from Beaverton, OR
Favorite excursion: Oxford University—“The library was very expansive.”
Biggest challenge: Lugging her luggage up and down stairs in the London Underground station.
Surprising moment: Learning that “Keep Calm and Carry On” is a British slogan from 1939.
Experiencing new cultures: “People are more open about politics in London, and they’re willing to discuss topics that are taboo in the US. It was interesting to hear their thoughts about my country.”
“I liked being able to learn history, talk about it in class, then go see these places.”
—Julian Yue, business major from Parkdale, OR
Goals for the trip: Meet new people, get immersed in the culture, and make a new friend. “I achieved all of those. I was proud that I was able to put myself out there.”
Best food: Jerk chicken in Brixton
Ice breaker: Yue brought his skateboard, which turned out to be a great way to meet new people. He participated in a London skate board competition.
Class act: “Our classes were amazing, and the teachers made it all so engaging.”
For more information about the PathwayOregon scholarship program, please contact Jen Parker: firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-346-8018