Q and A with Deidre Sheridan, Kenyon College
Describe your typical day at Exeter (specific work tasks, modules, your timetable etc).
On a typical day at Exeter, I would attend one or two one-hour lectures, and then a smaller workshop/tutorial group class to discuss that week's readings. A majority of my modules taken at Exeter were in English, though I was also able to take two Art History and Visual Culture modules in Term 2, allowing me to explore interests outside of my degree. After lectures and workshops were complete, I would do some work for essays in the Old Library or Queen's Building, or head to the Forum Library to complete research for projects and papers. In the afternoon, I would return to my flat in Birks Grange Village to make dinner and decompress with my flatmates. Two times a week I met in a workshop with students on the Kenyon-Exeter program with me, allowing me to bond with my fellow American students and discuss our experiences in the UK in-depth.
What are the best aspects of studying within your department? (E.g., the lecturers, field trips, support staff, resources or equipment)
The English department at Exeter was simply fantastic—the modules were engaging and explored topics I would not have been able to study at my home uni, the professors were accessible during office hours and gave excellent advice, and the support and assistance I received from the Royal Literary Fund Fellows was unparalleled. For any student of English, Exeter offers a large diversity of subjects and topics to explore, allowing a broadening of one's English education.
How would you describe the vibe on campus?
Exeter's campus is large and diverse enough that anyone can easily find their 'circle' and find something to do that they enjoy. I found students to be friendly and welcoming to international students of all backgrounds, and the campus has many spaces that are conducive to socializing, from DH1 to the Forum Pret a Manger. Additionally, the living arrangements in a first-year flat in Birks Grange allowed me to meet students from all over UK and Europe, helping me to feel fully immersed in British culture rather than just an observer.
What activities (social or otherwise) are you taking part in? Which facilities/activities do you enjoy the most?
As I was traveling often with the Kenyon-Exeter program, I did not get to be as active in clubs as I would have liked, but I enjoyed getting to know my flatmates and supporting them in their endeavours, from hockey matches to theatre showcases. I enjoyed exploring the city of Exeter with old and new friends, and experiencing everything UK culture had to offer, from afternoon tea to country walks to Christmas markets!
What particular skills are you gaining from this experience (personal and professional), will this help you in your choice if career?
I learned to be more independent in my academic work, as the UK educational system allows more freedom and independence for students than the US system can. At Exeter, I was encouraged to develop my own paper topics and craft my own arguments—skills that will greatly assist me in my final year of university in the US, especially as I write my senior thesis/dissertation. Socially, I learned to be more outgoing and step outside my comfort zone. I'm so glad I did, as I was able to meet new people and make friendships that I certainly hope will be lifelong. I look forward to the day when I can return to the UK, either for a visit or perhaps a more permanent stay in a graduate school program.
How have you dealt with any difficulties during your time at the University of Exeter (cultural differences, linguistic challenges etc)?
Many would expect the US and the UK to be identical in terms of culture, but I found many differences—many of which were positive. I found British students to be a bit more laid-back than American ones, and less competitive with each other—instead, students were focused on doing the best they could do, rather than trying to "beat" their classmates. This allowed me to focus on my work and think about success differently than I have in the US. While the British sense of humor took some getting used to, my British friends were always kind to me!
Have you got any advice you’d like to give people thinking about ‘Studying Abroad’ at Exeter? Would you recommend it?
I would absolutely recommend it—Exeter is a fascinating city, full of history and culture, and the University offers an education of excellent quality. I would advise students to keep an open mind as they enter their study abroad experience, and try to say "yes" to as much as possible. My year in Exeter had its highs and lows, but without it, my undergraduate education would have felt incomplete.
Was there anything about your experiences at Exeter that surprised you? This could be something about the university, the city or the UK.
I was surprised at how comfortable young British students were with handling "adult" responsibilities like managing finances and cooking for themselves. American students can often balk at added responsibilities, and even I was nervous about preparing my own meals and cleaning my own space after I had become used to eating at a canteen and having janitors at my home uni. However, it was refreshing to be at a university where the students truly were treated like adults - I felt that, because of this, British students felt more prepared for life after their degree than American students can.