At the 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner on 17th October, 2015 we heard from Sophia Crisafulli, a UC Santa Barbara student studying abroad for the year at King’s College London. Below is the transcript and video of her speech.
We’ve heard from several wonderful speakers this evening, who have painted a picture of UCEAP’s many functions, goals, and successes. These people, and many others, have worked hard to set up a framework designed to support students as they enter what may well be a lifealtering year or semester. But what I want to do is show you something more than the framework I want to show you their hard work in action. I am one of the students benefiting from this program, and so it’s my goal this evening to show you the hands on work of UCEAP, as I’m living it every day.
I’m always skeptical about any claim that something is “the best.” If a coffee shop claims to have the “world’s best coffee”, I assume that it would be possible for me to find a better cup somewhere else in the world. In other words, I don’t use the word “best” liberally which is why you should believe me when I say that studying abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself.
Maybe a better way to phrase that is “the best action I’ve ever taken for myself,” because in truth. I don’t remember ever making the conscious decision to study abroad. There was never a day when I sat down and thought about whether or not it was something I wanted to do, weighing the pros and the cons it’s more that since I was old enough to mentally grasp the concept of studying abroad, I knew without a doubt that it was a part of my destiny. My mom spent a year of her college career studying in Paris, and so I grew up surrounded by tales of her time there and what it meant to her. I didn’t want lullabyes, I wanted stories about my Mom exploring the Louvre or eating croissants between classes. The fact that this process existed, that you could pick the place in the world you most wanted to go and have the opportunity to actually go there, to live and study and explore, seemed too good to be true. I was sold.
The place that called to my Mom was Paris. For me, it was and is London. As an English major, I have literally fantasized about walking the same streets as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Virginia Woolf. The idea of studying literature in the very city where it was written, to be surrounded by layers upon layers of literary history, is an English student’s dream come true, and I am soaking up every bit of it. This semester, for instance, I’m taking a class on London Literature from 1380 to 1450, and we began by reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Our very first homework assignments was to visit the British Museum and spend time in the Medieval room. I could not, and still can’t get over the fact that I read the Canterbury Tales General Prologue, then left my flat, walked for 20 minutes, and found myself in a room with the very same armor Chaucer’s Knight would have worn, the same coins he would have used to pay for his drink.
This intertwining of past and present, of cultures and traditions and beliefs, is yet another reason study abroad called to me. In the random game of life, I believe I was dealt a strong hand. I was born into a wonderful, loving family, given constant support, and granted access to education. But even with all of these advantages, there are aspects of life and parts of the world that always seemed to be out of my reach. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel, due to my parents’ both working full time, and the financial burden that travel tends to incur. So for me, studying abroad in London means not just having the opportunity to live in a single city that had always captivated me from afar, but also being able to broaden my entire worldview.The world is a big place, of which I’ve only seen a small slice, and I want to live my life knowing that I’ve taken every opportunity to see more of it. I want to to learn in the classroom, but also from real experience, from seeing and exploring in every way I can.
I’m struggling to put into words just how much this experience has already meant for me, but the entire point of being an English major is to be able to put your thoughts into words, so I will persevere and do my very best. Stepping onto the plane that brought me to London was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I had to overcome a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety. I had to say goodbye to my parents, my hometown, and most painfully, my dog, who I still demand to see every time I skype with my family, despite the fact that she has no idea what a computer is and does not speak English. But I did it I got on the plane, and I made it here, which immediately proved to me that often times the most you stand to gain comes from stepping outside your comfort zone. I know that I’m only here for a year I have a finite number of days to get to know this beautiful city. So, I’ve decided to push my personal boundaries, and make the most of every day I have here. I joined the King’s improv troupe, RunningaMock. I applied for and was accepted to have my own show on the King’s radio station. I traveled to Edinburgh and have many more trips in the works. I agreed to give this speech, which is possibly the scariest thing I’ve done since being in London, but I am so glad that I did. I’ve challenged myself, and each time I’ve come out feeling more confident and more excited about my life. Coming to London has shown me that I am capable of accomplishing what I set my mind to, whether it’s taking a module in an unfamiliar subject, or sampling every candy I can find that we don’t have in America. I am in fact, doing both of those things, and I can conclude that Ethics is a fascinating subject, and Oreo is by far the best flavor of Cadbury chocolate.
I want to end by thanking a few people, which makes it sound like I’m accepting an Academy Award, (another dream of mine) but nevertheless I want to thank the UCEAP program for giving so many students, like myself, the opportunity to see a bit more of this amazing world, and to have a potentially lifechanging experience while doing so. I want to thank King’s College for welcoming me and so many others into its halls. I also want to thank all of the donors who make it possible for some students to go abroad who otherwise might not have been able to do so. I personally am beyond grateful to have received two scholarships this year, the UK EAP fund and the Duttenhaver scholarship. Without this financial support, my dream of coming to London may have stayed just that a dream. I’m slightly devastated that more than a month of my time here has already gone by, but I can’t wait for for all the experiences that the rest of my time here will bring. Now, more than ever before in my life, I feel like exactly where I’m meant to be, and that feeling alone is worth everything it took to get here. In closing, I just want to say once again how very lucky I feel to be here, and to wish UK EAP a very happy 50th anniversary. Thank you.