Student Spotlight: Office of Global Education Peer Advisor Nell DiPasquantonio (COL’23)
The Office of Global Education is pleased to feature OGE Peer Advisor Nell DiPasquantonio (COL ‘23) to discuss her experience studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh during the Fall 2021 term.
Applying to study abroad can be daunting to students, and the OGE Peer Advisors – who are well acquainted with the application process and in many cases have studied abroad themselves – are an invaluable resource who can help students throughout the process, from helping students narrow down their search to offering feedback on applications.
Read below for Nell’s interview about her experiences studying abroad.
What led you to choose to study abroad at the University of Edinburgh?
I knew I wanted to do a direct matriculation program – one in which I would be enrolled at a host university – with English as the language of instruction, which led me to consider OGE’s UK programs. Looking more closely at those available, I really settled on Edinburgh because of the beauty of the city and the many resources the university had in both my degrees and my extracurricular interests. I knew about Edinburgh as being the location of the famous fringe theater festival, which piqued my interest as someone who has been involved in theater at Georgetown and looking around the city on Google Earth made me completely fall in love with it.
What courses did you enroll in while studying abroad?
I took three courses at the university; two of them were in their Classical Art and Archaeology department and one was through their Art History program, which are actually in separate schools within the university. Luckily visiting students don’t have to commit to a school, so I was able to do both. My classics courses were Roman Architecture and The City in the Late Mediterranean World, which explored architecture, technology, and infrastructure within Classics. My art history was a great class about Dadaism and Surrealism that I really enjoyed; it exposed me to a lot of historical writing and manifestos from the artists we studied. In all of my courses I was able to create original research works, including a full site survey of a temple ruin in Turkey.
Can you describe any quarantining process you underwent in order to attend the study abroad program?
The policy when I first traveled to the UK was that I needed to book an arrival test before traveling and do a passenger locator form; luckily being fully vaccinated and coming from the United States I just needed to stay in my accommodation for two days and take an at-home test which I then sent by mail. I also had to take a test before leaving the US which I presented at various points throughout the customs process along with my vaccine card.
The OGE describes engagement opportunities at the University of Edinburgh on the official website as “student organizations.” Can you describe any of these, or any additional program engagement opportunities that you partook in?
I was really excited to explore all of the opportunities through student groups, and doing Fresher’s Week at the beginning of the semester allowed me to attend so many events put on by different clubs and societies. I ended up getting really involved in the art society, through which I attended lots of events and took an extracurricular painting class every week, as well as a couple of different theater groups. Theater is a big part of my social experience at Georgetown, so I am so lucky I was able to replicate that in Edinburgh by joining Bedlam and Paradok, two of their groups. I got put into a “family” with other students, participated in an insane scavenger hunt initiation, got to attend ceilidhs (which are very fun dances and the best thing about studying in Scotland), and I worked on a bunch of different shows. I even was afforded the opportunity to do a mural in the Bedlam Theater, which was such an honor to now be a part of the lasting legacy of that building. The students I met through my family are now many of my closest friends, so I may need to revise my earlier statement and say they, and not the ceilidhs, were the best part of studying abroad. I still speak to them nearly constantly – I’ve even continued to help out with some of the shows this semester by doing publicity from across the ocean.
Can you describe how these opportunities – as well as your courses and personal experiences exploring Edinburgh – were impacted by the pandemic?
The circumstances last semester regarding the pandemic were constantly changing, and at times the experience felt totally normal. I was fortunate enough that my courses were smaller and thus the policy of the university was that they be held fully in person, with all students masked. Getting tested was easy through the university, and take-home tests were really easy to get for free at any pharmacy, so for certain society events, we would be asked to test the day-of. Towards the end of the term, there was more concern about the new variant, which hit the UK in early December, and the government policy changed such that being exposed to someone who tested positive meant you had to quarantine ten days. Because of this, I limited my exposure to only a small group of close friends, and we tested at home every day until we all left for winter break.
What was your favorite thing about Edinburgh? Was there anything you felt that you might have missed out on due to the nature of your program taking place during the pandemic?
The city itself was just so gorgeous; my flat was so centrally located that I could be at the National Museum, the castle, the main campus, or really any of the main monuments in just a quick walk. The city was always so full of people walking about, tourists, locals, and students alike, with bagpipes often playing on the Royal Mile, which was just otherworldly. There was a massive theater next door to me that did student tickets for only 10 pounds, and I got to see so many touring productions. I also discovered the cafe on the balcony of the national museum and spent a lot of my study hours there, as well as the beautiful Teviot Row house that’s owned by the university and contains lots of bars and study spaces. I could go on and on about all of these amazing places; it really didn’t feel like the pandemic made any of them inaccessible to me. I will say that without the circumstances of the pandemic, I probably would have done more traveling outside of the UK, but I decided to limit that because of the stress of figuring out conflicting and constantly evolving travel requirements and OGE’s advice.
Were there any specific lessons or takeaways that you feel you learned due to the nature of your program taking place during the pandemic?
It was definitely a learning experience to figure out all of the logistical elements of traveling during the pandemic. In addition to doing research to prepare for things like banking and course offerings and that sort of thing, I also did a lot to understand what I needed to be able to travel easily in terms of locator forms and types of covid tests that came up. Staying abreast of guidelines in the places I visited was also important; I often erred on the side of caution by always wearing my mask indoors when I wasn’t eating no matter what the mandate was at the time. Overall the experience seemed totally normal and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world; I’m so happy I was able to go abroad despite the difficulties of travel in the past couple of years.
To read more about the University of Edinburgh program, students can view the program site on MyGUAbroad. To get in touch with a Peer Advisor, students can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up to attend a Study Abroad 101 event.