Sophie Tumber interviews Crystal Wohead on behalf of Her Campus CCCU. Crystal is a final year accounting student originally from Illinois, USA.
Name: Crystal Wohead
Hometown: Lemont, Illinois
Year: Senior (Final year of 4 year undergraduate degree)
So, Crystal. Why are you in England this term?
I’m studying in England this term as part of a study abroad program. I wanted to study in another country to put myself outside of my comfort zone and become more adaptable. Amongst other things I also wanted to develop a more worldly perspective and experience a lifestyle different than what I’ve always known, and I’ve come away with so much more!
What made you choose England as a place of study?
I think studying here appealed to me because of the rich history and the close ties between the US and UK. England offered me a unique cultural experience without the added complication of overcoming language barriers. The program offered by Christ Church really suited my academic needs and provided weekly trips for us to explore sites throughout England. I also came here on a group trip so there was the added comfort of having a sort of built in home away from home.
I know you’ve done a lot of sightseeing whilst you have been here – what are your favourite places you’ve visited and why?
My absolute favorite trip was Rome. I’ve always had an interest in Roman history, so getting to see sites like the Coliseum and the Forums was almost a dream come true for me. It was a humbling experience to be standing where the empire was centered centuries before. I also really enjoyed Stonehenge. The mystery of it is interesting to me, and I think it speaks a lot for how much we’ve progressed as well as our urge to try and understand the world.
How does England differ to America?
That’s kind of a loaded question! Even though we’re both English-speaking, democratic countries you’d be surprised by all the subtle cultural differences. I think one of the biggest differences has been the life pace. The US is very task oriented and there’s a constant pressure to get things done, but it’s not so much that way in the UK. I’ve definitely enjoyed a more laid back routine since I’ve been here. Kind of along that line, Americans are very direct when they ask questions and have conversations. I’ve found that tension seems to be avoided in England, but at the same time it’s hard to have a casual conversation with a stranger. And the food – that’s a whole different discussion.
You’ve been training with the Canterbury Christ Church cheerleading squad, the Jets, whilst you’ve been here – how have you found that?
I’ve loved my time training with the Jets! I’ve been cheering since I was 6 years old, so cheering in England has been a source of comfort for me, something I’m familiar with. The girls were very welcoming of me and were a large part of my experience in England. When I think back to my time in England, it’ll be one of the things I miss most – I love my Jets!
Cheerleading is huge in America, how does it differ here than it does back home?
I think because cheerleading has been established in the U.S. so much longer, it’s had the opportunity to evolve more and become more competitive. Sport in America in general is a large part of our culture and athletes usually start training pretty young. By the time they get to university they’re pretty well-rounded in their sport and thrive off competition; cheerleading is no different. If I could identify one major difference it’s probably that cheerleading is more readily accepted as a sport in America whereas cheerleading in England is still working to receive that same respect. I have faith that it will though, cheerleaders all over the world are a unique kind of athlete that push themselves in ways that demand recognition.
What three tips would you give to someone who wanted to study abroad?
1) Never say no to trying something new. You chose to study abroad for a reason, and that’s to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone and have unique experiences. Even if it’s a bad one, I bet you’ll never forget it.
2) Don’t limit yourself because of the cost. I think as students we’re sort of driven by our bank accounts, understandably. There were many instances where I almost didn’t go into a historical site, or have a traditional meal, or take a train to another city, because I’d have to pay for it. Get the most out of your time abroad because let’s be honest, what would you be spending your money on otherwise?
3) Take a genuine interest in the people you meet and really try and submerge yourself into the new culture. It’s so easy just to carry on doing things you would do in your own country or hangout with people you know from home (if they happen to be traveling with you), but you deprive yourself of really learning about the culture you’re in and having that unique experience. Build friendships, get out of your room, and take full advantage of what your temporary home has to offer!
What are you most looking forward to about returning to America?
Well, first of all I can’t wait to see my family, friends, and teammates! I’m really close with my family and I’ve never been away for this long before (I only live 20 minutes away from my university so I see them all the time). I miss driving as silly as that sounds, it was a regular part of my day where I could kind of unwind and listen to music. I think I’m having country music withdrawals. I can’t wait to put creamer in my coffee (if you’re not sure what it is, I recommend trying it!), and ohhhh that greasy food! So bad for you, but oh so good!