If you’re looking for the perfect location to study STEM abroad, then check out the USAC Reading program. To learn more about the opportunities available for STEM students in England, we spoke with Samantha Webb, a Biology major from Portland State University about her time in Reading.
Why did you choose to study in Reading?
There were several reasons that I chose to study at University of Reading. I was extremely interested to see what a different country’s perspective on conservation biology was and what they were doing to mitigate changes in the environment and climate. University of Reading is one of England’s top green universities so I felt that it would be a great fit for me. I was also extremely interested in several of the courses that they offered in my program.
I also liked the location of Reading in general. I really wanted a location that would give me a feel of what it meant to live in England. Reading is a quieter city that still offered great pubs and places to hang out. The fact that London was a quick train ride away was also a plus.
What courses are you taking that relate to your STEM major?
I am taking Wildlife Diseases, Urban Ecology, Forestry and Woodland Management, Economics of Climate Change, and Introduction to Quaternary Science. Out of all of them, I find Forestry and Woodland Management the most interesting and unique courses that I have taken, including at my home university. I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn more about how a different country is managing their forests in a sustainable way.
Did you have any hurdles/difficulties making study abroad work for you as a STEM major? If yes, what were they and how did you overcome them?
I was really worried about how the credits would transfer towards my degree and if I would be on track to graduate after studying abroad. However, the counsellors at University of Reading were extremely helpful in answering all of my questions and there were many courses offered that applied to my degree.
How do you think your experience in Reading will affect your future academic and career goals?
I loved how this program opened up doors and helped me make connections with people in another country as well as exposed me to different perspectives and techniques in my field.
Being able to study at Reading also helped me gain a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to succeed in a completely different environment. I realized how important it is to me to travel and hope to apply both of these findings to my future career by doing research around the world. I am also now considering completing my master’s degree abroad as well.
What advice do you have for other STEM majors who might think study abroad isn’t for them?
I think that studying abroad is so important. There’s something to be said about choosing to live in and get a true experience of what it is like day to day in another country. I loved the chance to learn about different views and experiences from fellow students and professors in the STEM field and think that it is something that everyone should experience if given the chance.
You got involved in the bird-watching club during your time abroad. What was that experience like?
The bird-watching club was extremely fun and a great way to connect with some of the other students at University of Reading. We walked around the lake at campus and bird watched. I loved learning about the different species of birds that they had and making connections with students from the university.
How do you plan on taking what you learned abroad and applying it to your future academics/career/life in general?
While studying abroad I got the opportunity to hear different views and management strategies in regards to conservation biology, especially in urban wildlife management and forestry management. This experience will certainly help me in my future career as I can now bring a variety of ideas to the table. In general, this experience really opened up the world to me, as it was my first trip out of my country, and I now hope to continue to travel and life in different places around the world.
Why would you recommend USAC and the Reading program to students?
I would recommend USAC and the Reading program to students for several reasons. USAC provided me with tremendous support throughout the entire trip and I loved the trips that they planned for us. I really felt that the Reading program through USAC did a wonderful job of exposing us to a variety of experiences in England, some of my favorites being the Seaford to Eastbourne Hike and seeing a performance at the Globe Theatre. I also loved living in Reading because the campus was gorgeous and I liked the quieter town feel.