As a native Kentuckian, one of my biggest fears about studying abroad was missing out on all the great things that happen in this state during the school year. We Kentuckians are proud of our culture. Basketball, Keeneland, tailgating, fall festivals and more were a large part of my life growing up. There was no way I’d miss out on these things to go abroad! But when I heard about summer programs, my mindset changed, because I found a way to experience another culture without missing out on my own.
Specifically, it was my sorority and the mock trial team, both school-year-length commitments in my life that would be hard to sacrifice, that made it hard for me to commit to a term or year abroad. My fellow Education Abroad Peer Ambassador Katie Price felt the same way because of her commitment to UK’s Dance Team. She told me, “Had I missed a semester at UK, I wouldn’t have been able to dance at football or basketball games this year.” If students involved in sports teams and other organizations realized the variety of summer programs that exist, I’d bet they would give Education Abroad a second look.
Another concern of mine was my homebody personality, in that I don’t like to be away from Kentucky for longer than I have to. Fortunately for students like me who are a little nervous about spending time abroad, UK’s summer program options last anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks. Some programs are even UK-exclusive; we call them “UK Sponsored.” These are highly structured programs led by UK faculty and attended by UK students. This gives you a cultural experience with some of the comforts of home. Being with people from my school all week long really helped with my homesickness, because they totally understood all the problems I was going through.
After coming back to the US, I was happy with my program. I still get to rush State Street when the Cats win (no doubt) the National Championship this year. I still get to go to Keeneland and go out with my friends. I still get to go home for dinner at Mamaw’s whenever I want. But nevertheless, it was a short program that felt almost too short, because it turned out to be amazing. I’d probably even feel comfortable going again for a longer term some day. So if these concerns I’ve expressed resonate with you, I would encourage you to search for a summer program. After all, Kentucky was still there when I got back.
Laura Jane Phelps is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky studying German.