Mandy Reinig - 2000 Program Participant
During a weekend trip to Dublin, Mandy and her dorm mates stopped into one of the many Carrolls' souvenir stores and tried on the hats; the store is still there today.
You were an athletic training major at Saginaw Valley State University when you went abroad, why did you decide to apply for an international program in England specifically?
I thought England wouldn’t be quite as much of a shock to me when studying abroad (wrong on that count) and I had always been intrigued by the greater world outside of the U.S. I became even more willing to look into it when I found out my scholarship would work on one of Saginaw Valley’s partner programs just as if I was sitting in Saginaw.
I also liked that I could take general education classes, as well as classes related to athletic training, and I thought it would be cool to find out how they viewed athletic training in another country. In the end, everything basically lined up for me to be able to go, even though I was scared out of my mind.
Mandy was able to play basketball for Edge Hill University for the entire semester since basketball is not a huge sport in England. She received a lot of playing time and made quite a few friends.
What set Edge Hill’s program apart from others when comparing programs overseas?
I did look at quite a few programs since I am one of those people that likes to research her options before spending my money. I talked to returned students and to Jane Clarke, the Edge Hill U.S. representative, extensively. In the end, what sold me on this program was that is was at a university where I would be taking classes like any other student, and with other British students. Also, the fact that Edge Hill was located outside of a major city, like London, was a selling point, since I felt going abroad would be shock enough to my system and I didn’t need to add getting lost on the tube every day to that list.
I also liked the support I was getting from Edge Hill even before going with course selection, discussions on housing, and just being available to answer all the questions I had, which I am sure were numerous. They treated me as one of their own immediately and have really never stopped.
You studied abroad during the fall of your sophomore year in college, why would you encourage students to study abroad earlier in their collegiate career?
It does make things easier in terms of choosing courses. I was able to take more of my general education courses and not have to worry about finding specific courses to match with my major requirements.
What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?
I enjoyed hanging out in the common room watching TV with my other dorm mates, sharing food, planning trips, learning British slang, and simply having fun.
What was the most memorable part of your study abroad experience at Edge Hill?
The most memorable aspect was the lifelong friends I was able to make as part of my experience. I am still in contact with most of my dorm mates, and even my Edge Hill advisor to this day. I have a closer connection to many of these people than I do to people I went to high school with. I also was able to see things I only had ever seen in books or movies before, and I can’t even describe the feeling that gave me. I still get that feeling every time I see something from my bucket list.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a study abroad student?
My biggest initial challenge was homesickness. Going abroad was my first time away from home for an extended period of time ever. I was living at home for college, since I had received a substantial scholarship to attend the university near my home. I was also a first generation college student whose family had no experience with traveling abroad, outside of wartime experiences. Moving to a completely new environment and living without my support system within a driveable distance was extremely hard for me for the first few weeks, especially for an introvert like me.
Mandy standing on top of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland during one of the many weekend trips she took with her dorm mates
How did the Edge Hill staff support and guide you throughout your program to help you achieve success?
As I mentioned, at the beginning of the program I had a severe bout of homesickness and the staff in the office at Edge Hill were amazing. They always had tea and cookies waiting in their office and a willing ear. They really helped me adjust by just knowing I had someone I could go to. They also were great for helping with logistics for travel. It was great to be greeted at the airport by Jane Clarke and to see a familiar face after a long journey.
The other aspect that I really liked is that Jane was in touch with me the entire time, even when I was in England, to make sure that everything was working and to ensure any bumps were smoothed out. The on-site staff were great in helping make sure myself and the other American students understood the British style of teaching. The staff always made us feel welcome and would do activities like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner where we could invite our new friends to experience this feast.
What advice would you give to others interested in studying abroad at Edge Hill?
It is a great place to be able to truly become involved in British culture and society, as well as make progress towards your degree requirements. They really allow you to take part in as little or as much as you want. You can participate in a sport, like I did, and make friends from around the world, all while studying at one of the top European universities in a quaint British town with easy access to the rest of the U.K. and beyond.
Take advantage of every opportunity presented and never let the small things get in the way of having an awesome experience.
Mandy and friends during a long weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland - this was on their way up to Edinburgh Castle
Why is Ormskirk such a great location to study abroad?
I loved Ormskirk. It is such a great town to study in. It is a perfect mix of college life and small town British life. The university is situated about a 10-minute walk from town. The town offers quite a few shops, pubs, stores, and markets. It also has a train station that can easily get you to Liverpool, which can take you anywhere else you need to go in the U.K. In Ormskirk, people will actually say hello to you and it is easy to navigate compared to a larger city like London.
You now work in education abroad, serving as the Director of International Education at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. How did your experience studying abroad impact your career choice? What impact has it had on your life?
After my time abroad, I came back to Saginaw Valley and changed my major from athletic training to international studies (at the beginning of my junior year) and changed my career path to dedicate it to working in the international education field. I felt that if I could study abroad and have an amazing experience, than anyone could, and I wanted to help make that happen for others, especially others like myself.
Everyone took time out to celebrate Halloween in England. Mandy and other Americans from her dorm gathered in their common room to get ready to go out in home made costumes.
What skills from your experience at Edge Hill do you use in your current role?
My time at Edge Hill taught me more about being flexible, adaptable, and patient. When you are traveling abroad, in general, things tend not to go according to plan and there is not much you can do about that. The same is true when dealing with the day-to-day interactions within the field of international education. No day is the same, nor is every student that I work with the same. So the skills I developed in learning to adapt to each situation have come in handy.
The other skill that I have made extreme use of is that of independence. Being by myself without immediate access to my support network caused me to grow immensely in my level of independence. While I was super homesick at first, by the end I was traveling to Spain and Wales with a group of friends that I still keep track of. This new level of independence has led me to travel to over 25 countries, and not be afraid of having new adventures or encouraging students to do the same. Sometimes taking that first flight is the hardest part, but can lead to the greatest and most rewarding lifelong experience of all. The world awaits!