Whitney Gries - 2009 Program Participant

Street in London, England

Whitney and Olivia exploring London

You were a theater and mass communications major at Morningside College when you decided to study abroad, why did you decide to apply for an international program in England?

My sophomore year of college I worked in our college’s admissions office. I remember a student came to work there after just getting back from studying abroad at Edge Hill University. She had so many amazing and vibrant stories, so I had to learn more. After researching the different options available to me for study abroad, I decided Edge Hill was where I wanted to be. They had classes that suited my major, and of course England is absolutely rich in theatre. What better place for a theatre gal?

What set Edge Hill’s program apart from others when comparing programs overseas?

Having come from a small town, I really liked the fact that Edge Hill University was located in a small town. I was nervous to go to a new country, and knowing I would be in a smaller community provided a sense of comfort. Additionally, the class options they had for theatre people are great. I also really enjoyed the fact that there was on-campus housing. That way, I knew I’d feel immersed in campus and available to meet new people all the time!

Why would you encourage students to study abroad in college?

Studying abroad is still the best thing I’ve ever done. Not only did it open me up to the world, it allowed me to make the most amazing friends. I had never been outside of the United States prior to my study abroad experience at Edge Hill, and after completing my semester there I wanted to travel all the time! Of course, that’s not always possible, but the urge to do so was ignited and I still love traveling to this day, all because I took a chance and got out of my comfort zone. There is so much out there to see and experience, I had no idea!

Studying abroad also teaches students to be independent. I didn’t have my parents right there with me and I didn’t know anyone else when I first arrived. I had to learn to take control of my life and study abroad experience to make sure I was getting everything out of it I wanted.

Tourists in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Some Americans in Rome for spring break

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

Traveling! Like I said, I had never been out of the United States prior to my study abroad experience. While at Edge Hill, I was able to travel over spring break and visited several other countries! How cool is that? I got to experience different cultures, people, food, transportation, you name it! It was amazing.

What was the most memorable part of your study abroad experience at Edge Hill?

The friends I made. I know that may sound cheesy, but it’s true. I met some truly amazing local students and some wonderful American students. In fact, those friendships are still going strong! You go through this amazing, life-changing experience together, and it makes you so close. I’m in my best friend Olivia’s wedding this year, and we met at Edge Hill. I also recently met up with my lovely friend Vanessa while in London. Those friendships are friendships I cherish so much, it’s hard to put into words. There are more friends I’ve met up with since my time at Edge Hill (Michael, YoYo, Nsenga), and I can’t express what they mean to me.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a study abroad student?

Learning that I was capable of being independent. We all had to learn how to navigate this new town, campus, and country. But once you allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, you feel free to explore this amazing place.

How did the Edge Hill staff support and guide you throughout your program to help you achieve success?

They were (and continue to be) so wonderful. They were there when we first arrived and always made themselves available if we had questions or concerns. So sweet! We knew we had a place to go if we really needed help.

View of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Paris over Valentine's Day

What advice would you give to others interested in studying abroad at Edge Hill?

Make the the most of your short time there, it flies by! Do things! Attend performances, get togethers, parties, class gatherings, TRAVEL, etc.

Why is Ormskirk a great place to study abroad?

I loved that Ormskirk was a smaller town. I felt tucked away and very safe. It was also great because it’s very easy to get to other places, thanks to the train; Liverpool was a swift ride. I also loved how cute and historic the town was. The town has such cute shops and pubs, and it’s a fun way to spend a Sunday.

How has studying abroad in England impacted your career choice?

Thanks to my study abroad theatre classes, I saw a whole new approach to acting. It made me excited to go back home and continue learning. Also, it made me excited to travel to a new city and see what I could do. If I hadn’t attended Edge Hill, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to move to Los Angeles for a career in entertainment.

What impact has studying abroad had on your life?  

I seriously can’t adequately put it into words. It chokes me up to think of how wonderful my experience at Edge Hill University was.

I was immersed in an amazing and supportive place, made the best friends I could ask for, saw so many new things, and learned so much about myself. Studying abroad changed me and I am forever grateful I had that opportunity.

You now work as an executive assistant currently, what skills from your experience at Edge Hill do you use in your current role? 

When first arrived at Edge Hill, I had know idea what to expect. We had to always be flexible, willing to learn, and adapt. These skills suit me well in my current career. Things are ever-changing in a production office and each day is different. Being able to go with the daily rhythm is important, and my Edge Hill experience instilled that skill within me.