With similarities in namesake, mission and academic rigor, Newman University in Wichita works closely with Newman University in Birmingham, England, to create and maintain study abroad opportunities for students between both institutions.
Senior Linnea Ristow studied at Newman University Birmingham during the 2018 spring semester and highly recommends the experience to others.
Ristow originally considered studying for a semester in Italy, but after speaking with the directors of international studies at both Newman University institutions, she decided Birmingham was her best option.
“The program is well-designed and the partnership between the two schools makes it relatively easy to plan out your experience,” said Ristow.
The partnership between the two schools allows for an easy transition and students can carry over all current scholarships so, as a Cardinal Newman Scholar, Ristow’s tuition continued to be paid for as it was in Wichita.
Campus housing is one of the larger expenses, but students can opt to participate in a payment plan. Ristow stayed in new, discounted housing on campus.
She said, “In the new halls, I shared a kitchen and living area with five other international students. Because we were experiencing new things and all adjusting together, we quickly became good friends. I also made friends through my classes and through campus clubs, volunteering and church. There is a bar on campus that puts on pub quizzes, parties and karaoke nights, which were great times to meet other students.”
While she found the Birmingham campus life less vibrant than Wichita’s, she found plenty of things to do. Birmingham is England’s second-largest city and is an industrial and commercial hub.
The city center of Birmingham is only a short bus ride from campus and is full of restaurants, bars and clubs, shopping and more.
Ristow added, “The Birmingham library is large and wonderful, and there are some interesting museums and attractions to visit. Birmingham has a large network of canals and a lot of beautiful parks and gardens.”
Ristow found studying in an English-speaking country helped her to more easily interact with people and navigate the city.
“There are a lot of young people in the city, and it is also a more diverse city than Wichita,” said Ristow. “People are usually friendly and polite, and the stereotype that British people talk about the weather a lot is absolutely true.”
Ristow took advantage of the centrally located city and ventured to other areas of England during her stay. She visited London, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester, Worcester and many more. London was her favorite as the city has a great deal of history and activities. A spring break trip to Ireland and Scotland with her flatmates was a major highlight, especially the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
Her favorite part of her experience abroad, however, was volunteering at the university soup kitchen each week, serving others and meeting new people.
“The appeal of this study abroad program, in particular, was that it allowed me to spend a long enough time in another country to immerse myself in a different culture and form deeper relationships with the people there,” said Ristow.
While making friends and enjoying the culture took no time for Ristow, the grading scale and course structure took some getting used to.
Education in other countries can vary greatly from education in the United States, and England is no exception. For example, Ristow’s grade for each of her courses relied on only two assignments throughout the entire semester.
Ristow explained, “I had one presentation and one paper for each of my courses. Because each assignment is worth 50 percent of the grade, students have to be more disciplined in taking enough time to do a good job. Procrastination can be detrimental to a student’s grade, so it takes more self-discipline to succeed.”
Another adjustment for Ristow was that classes were not held multiple times throughout the week but only once per week and for a longer period of time.
The grading scale is different as well. Sixty percent is considered a fine passing grade and getting higher percentages provesmore difficult. Ristow had teachers tell her they had never given a grade higher than 85 percent. However, when grades are transferred back to Newman in Wichita, they are translated into the Newman Wichita grading scale.
When studying abroad, Ristow said, “I would say that perhaps the most important thing students can bring with them is a flexible and positive attitude. Learning to adapt to changes in plans and to differences in customs and culture is a key part of a study abroad experience.” She added that having the study abroad experience helps when trying to market yourself for a job.