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Studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life

1 November 2017

Dan Lucas

Producer
BBC

Studying abroad at the University of Florida, USA, was one of the best experiences of my life.

I was the first person in my family to go to university so I didn’t really know what university life would be like. Or, that I would even be able to spend part of my degree living in a completely new country. I loved all four years I spent studying, but spending my third year in Florida really took my experience to a whole new level.

I lived on the beautiful University of Florida campus. It was very natural with huge low hanging trees, green swamps and clear water lakes sitting in between the classic American red brick buildings. You’d even find the odd alligator sunbathing in the humidity next to the lecture theatres!

I lived in a set of dorm rooms allocated especially for international students, which meant within days I had made friends with people from all over the globe. I was fascinated in their cultures and stories. And, it was nice to have support from people who understood what it felt like when homesickness crept in.

The US course structure was surprisingly flexible, so I could take classes on subjects that were not directly related to my UK degree in Sport and Exercise Science. I studied Spanish, basketball, physical therapy, international politics and even got an official scuba diving qualification!

Taking alternative classes like these for the first time really opened my mind and allowed me to explore new horizons. Taking Spanish, for example, led me to discover South American cinema. I would borrow film after film from the library to help me learn the language. My interest in South America quickly grew, I listened to Spanish music and I began to meet Hispanic students on campus.

I eventually met a group of medical students travelling to Nicaragua for a service trip, and in the summer, I joined them for four weeks distributing medical supplies to communities in need. After this, I continued travelling south, meeting friends in Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile - friends that I would never have met had I not taken those first steps to study Spanish in Florida.

The physical therapy course involved working with an elite wheelchair basketball team and using sport to help aid children with a range of disabilities. Working with kids was both inspiring and rewarding. Using sport as a rehabilitation tool in this way made me think differently about how I’d been studying sport science back home. I enjoyed the course so much I even went on a few weekend volunteer camps around the Southern US states.   

The sports facilities in Florida were world class. As a keen sportsman, I made constant use of the outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, football pitches, free yoga classes, climbing walls and even canoes on the big university owned lake. I joined the football (aka soccer) team which meant travelling around the US playing other university teams and meeting more people.

My experience in Florida gave me confidence and made me think in new ways. I’m sure it helped me get to where I am today, working as a filmmaker at the BBC. I think my unique experience of living and studying in the USA made me stand out when I applied for the production trainee scheme. When I was interviewed for the job I found myself talking about all the rich experiences I’d gained from studying abroad.

I’m still at the BBC and have worked across lots of exciting projects since embarking on the trainee scheme. In a creative organisation, ideas are king, and for me the best way to generate ideas is to travel, meet new people, try new things and break out of my comfort zone. I still love to travel and I try to use my annual leave to explore as much of the world as possible - always taking photos and making short films.

The memories, the experiences, the people I met and the things I learned in Florida will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even now, over 10 years later, I still regularly think back to those days on the campus and can’t help but smile.

Key Contacts

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Media Relations Manager
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

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Key Contacts

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Media Relations Manager
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

Blog

Go International – try more, do more, fear less

1 November 2017
Simmone Mclean, student at the University of Northampton, discusses her life-changing experience of studying abroad as part of her degree.

News