Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Study Abroad Update: Connections to the World in the Heart of London

Posted on April 23, 2013

This past fall semester, junior Anthropology major Emily Dewet studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), a school in the University of London. SOAS specializes in the study of Africa and the Near and Middle East, with undergraduate and graduate students studying everything from social sciences to the arts. Located in historic and international London, SOAS is home to a multicultural group of professors and students with diverse research interests and connections to the world. Dewet found herself in the midst of a highly proactive and involved group of students and thrived in the challenges she faced.

An International and Politically Active Campus: Emily reflects on studying at SOAS

Following my time spent in Tanzania with Professor Kerner the summer before my sophomore year at Wheaton, I wanted to pursue my interest in African cultures further during my time abroad. Having already decided to spend my second semester doing the SIT program in South Africa, which is more based on experiential learning, I thought studying at a distinguished school of humanities and social science would be a good complement. I chose to spend a semester at SOAS because of the Anthropology department’s high reputation. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to study…right in the heart of such a historic and international city, surrounded by other students and professors with the same discipline and regional interests!

My experience at SOAS was full of ups and downs, searches through the academic libraries of London, excitement when saying something profound in a room full of unknown classmates, and awe at the involvement of the student body in movements such as rights for cleaners, occupy SOAS in solidarity with Gaza, and rallies against war criminals. Such examples help to encapsulate what I gained from a term at SOAS, a campus full of international and politically active students. I was exposed to a variety of people and ideas, and as much learning about Islamic practices and Middle East politics occurred outside the classroom as in it. This demonstrates that, although the majority of my classes focused exclusively on Africa, I could not help but learn about all kinds of topics outside of my region of interest at SOAS.

I also gained so much through the challenge of my courses. I suppose this is the nature of studying abroad…being pushed not only to live but also study in a new environment. My experience in classes at SOAS, having to navigate the ins and outs of a new system, was very rewarding. I went to SOAS thinking that I might be interested in going back for graduate school, but even if I don’t end up back in London, the experience of taking new and challenging classes, in a new system, with other students following similar paths, I feel quite prepared for the challenges of a new environment wherever my studies after Wheaton take me.

A semester at SOAS would be an excellent fit for students who study the humanities, social sciences, language, or arts and are passionate about regions that are the forefront of the changing world but are not always the focus of traditional collegiate courses. It also is great for students who want to be on a socially active and international campus.  Not to mention the fact that, despite rainy weather, London is an incredible city to live in for a few months!

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