KU journalism students spend a summer in studying Scotland

The University of Kansas to the University of Stirling: distance 4,088 miles.

The distance from University of Kansas to the University of Stirling is 4,088 miles.

STIRLING, Scotland– The distance between the University of Kansas and the University of Stirling spans 4,088 miles. Traveling from Potter Lake to the Loch Airthrey takes nearly an entire day, depending on flight connections.

For four weeks, eight Jayhawk Journalists turned in their shorts and swim suits for jeans and rain jackets and spent roughly half of their summer studying in Central Scotland.

“I studied abroad for a couple reasons,” Ryan Levine, a senior from Oak Park, Calif., said. “A lot of my friends have been going abroad. I saw the experience that they had and I knew that it was something I want to have for myself also.”

Levine found out about the Scotland study abroad program when Professor Mike Williams was a guest lecturer in his Journalism 415 class in the spring semester.

The study abroad poster that hung around the J-School and was the screensaver on the computers.

The study abroad poster that hung around the J-School and was the screensaver on the computers.

“Ever since then, I was sold,” Levine said. “I think the program that KU offered me was right on par with what I wanted to do with international journalism.”

Haley Fletcher, a senior from Lenexa, applied for the program on a whim. She said she saw the program being advertised on the computers in the J-School. She filled out her application the day before applications closed.

“I was walking by Lippincott and decided to sign up last minute,” Fletcher said.

William Englander, a junior from Lenexa, said he wanted to study abroad because he knew who has studied abroad has had nothing but good things to say about the experience.

“Every testimony I heard about it was amazing,” Englander said.

Approximately 10 weeks after the students received their acceptance letters, they were en route to Scotland. Both Levine and Fletcher had been to Europe before, so their culture shock was minimal. Despite having been to the continent before, there were still some differences for them to get used to.

Englander, on the other hand, had never been out of the United States before, but said it was easy for him to adjust.

“We are on a university campus,” Englander said. “School here feels like school in America. It’s obviously a little different because it’s in the summer and the campus is foreign to us.”

For their KU class, their professor had them blog once a week. Most often, the students blogged about how life in the UK slightly differs from life in the United States.

Fletcher posted a blog entitled “WHY ISN’T THIS UNIVERSAL?” and posed an argument that faucets, tipping and outlets need to be universal. Fletcher described how she’s missed excursions and dinner and broke several appliances because of the different outlets.

“…As you might imagine, I don’t remember to do all these things, so I usually have to pay the price?

What is the price you ask?

  • Missing an excursion (No morning alarm, phone died)
  • Hiking Mount Dumyat and not being able to take photos (phone died)
  • Missing dinner with friends (Forgot switch, phone didn’t charge.)
  • Blowdryer broken (Wrong adaptor)
  • Straightener broken (Voltage too high for adaptor)
  • Curling iron broken (Voltage too high for adaptor)…”

“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” Levine said. “Now I’m going to go back home and think that people at home drive on the wrong side of the road, because it’s something I’m so used to seeing now.”

Levine wrote a blog post entitled “Surviving the Unknown” about how when things go off of the pre-planned itinerary that can make for better experiences.

Englander dedicated a blog post to Haggis, a Scottish delicacy composed of sheep’s pluck, and reviewed his first time eating the dish.

Levine, Fletcher and Englander were three of the over 100 students from all over the United States were enrolled in Block 1 of the International Summer School program at the University of Stirling. Due to data protection policies, the University of Stirling was not able to disclose the demographics of the students enrolled in the ISS program.

An infographic displaying the basic academic information at the University of Stirling

An infographic displaying the basic academic information at the University of Stirling.

The structure of the ISS program resembles a less-intense version of summer classes back in the United States, however, less-intense doesn’t mean less work, it means less days in class.

The KU instructor led class met three times a week, from 3 to 4 p.m., Monday through Wednesday.

Aside from their KU class, Levine and Fletcher enrolled in Royals and Rascals: A Contemporary Studies in British Journalism. That class met from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 2 to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and discussed the British press, and especially the coverage of the Royal family. Englander enrolled in Psychology of Evil.

“It’s basically exploring the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, Police Battalion 101,” Englander said. “We look at all those examples and we look at how normal people aren’t predisposed to do evil things like that, how they were led to do those things and what circumstances and situations led them to do that.”

An infographic describing all the classes offered during Block 1.

An infographic describing all the classes offered during Block 1.

There were 11 different classes offered during Block 1 to cater to the academic interests of the students enrolled.

Levine thoroughly enjoyed learning about the types of journalism that are common throughout the UK.

“I’ve learned that journalism here has a little bit of a higher standard, which is one of the reasons why you see a lot more print publications, a lot more tabloids and newspapers printed on a daily basis here than you do in the States,” Levine said. “Whatever that standard is, I think that’s something that can be learned and also can be applied back over to the States, so we can keep up and be able to compete with the UK.”

Fletcher appreciated the non-traditional classroom structure.

“I definitely have taken something from each of my classes, but it’s not the typical learning environment that it is back home,” Fletcher said. “It’s skewed for the program. I think in that sense, I’ve learned more because it’s much more hands on and interactive.”

Englander enjoyed the conversations facilitated in the KU class.

“Every class period we’ve had really interesting discussion about some aspect of the journalism,” he said.

Levine jumping off a cliff while canyoning. [Photo courtesy: Ryan Levine]

Levine jumping off a cliff while canyoning. [Photo courtesy: Ryan Levine]

The shortened week of classes encouraged students to travel and experience the culture. Levine stayed in Scotland, traveling to Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Glasgow and the Highlands. His first weekend excursion was with two friends he met at the program. The three of them took up the relatively new adventure sport of canyoning, and it was Levine’s favorite part of his time abroad. According to Wikipedia, canyoning is “traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, rappelling and swimming.”

“As soon as I heard about [canyoning], I knew that I wanted to do it,” Levine said. “Since that canyoning trip, I learned that I have a little bit of an adventurous side in me that I never really knew about.”

Fletcher traveled around Scotland, and also planned a trip with two friends she met in the ISS program to Copenhagen. But for Fletcher, it wasn’t where she was that was important, it was that she was engaging with people.

“I love meeting new people and that’s a huge part of why I love it [here],” Fletcher said.

“It’s less about the culture. It’s more about learning how to branch out from who you are. It makes everything back home seem so small. I feel like I’m able to meet people easier and ask a random person a question with no hesitation.”

Englander took advantage of his situation and traveled to London and Dublin for two of the three weekends, saying he was captivated by the amazing scenery that he would never see in America.

This infographic shows the various activities that ISS students could do.

This infographic shows the various activities that ISS students could do.

Aside from students traveling on their own around Scotland and other various places around Europe, ISS provided day trips to Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Glasgow, along with a multitude of activities during the week. [You can find a photo gallery of those day trips and activities here.]

Some of the blog posts, aside from discussing the differences about life in the UK, also talked about the students’ travels.

Levine blogged about visiting St. Andrews, thanking his mom for encouraging him to read up on Scotland before he came. He tells about how when he was admiring St. Andrews Links and a woman who didn’t know much about golf approached him about the seats being built for the Open.

Another one of the eight KU students, Johanna Hecht, wrote about her time in Amsterdam and how she visited the Van Gogh museum.

Wherever the eight took their journeys, whether it be to London, Dublin, Copenhagen, the Highlands or Amsterdam, the students made the most of their four weeks.

Studying abroad, for Levine, was the right choice.

“I think it’s a good way to learn how different cultures and different countries do journalism, so that we can take something back to the United States and maybe apply that to what we do.”


Ryan Levine Interview:

Haley Fletcher Interview:

William Englander Interview:

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