Meet Elizabeth VanDerwerker ’07: Gaining an international perspective

Elizabeth VanDerwerker '07 (center)

Elizabeth VanDerwerker '07 (center)

The moment had arrived yet again. For the third time in two years, I was faced with the daunting task of fitting my entire life into two oversized (and always $50 overweight) duffle bags.

The first time was when I moved to Quito, Ecuador, following graduation to teach English for a year. The second time was when I travelled to the Netherlands for the first semester of my master’s degree program. Recently, I packed for a third time for England, where I will spend the next eight months completing my master’s in international applied communication at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England. Although packing for this journey was no easier than the previous two times, there was something very different about my feelings concerning the move. At first I could not put my finger on it, but when I was on the airplane halfway across the Atlantic, it hit me! I realized I felt more confident because of my classmates.

During my first semester of graduate school in Utrecht, Holland, I had the opportunity to get to know my 21 classmates, who are from around the world. After three months, I realized that I had learned as much from them as I had from the professors teaching the courses. Whether it was how people from India perceived Barack Obama’s presidential acceptance speech, or how those in Ghana practice public relations, I constantly found myself seeing things I thought I understood in a very different light.

As the current semester in England unfolds, I realize that I am not only learning more from these extraordinary people, I’m also changing as a result of being around them. Whether we are discussing Habermas in the classroom, on the train travelling to visit a nearby city or simply eating dinner at the neighbourhood pub, my international classmates have given me an experience like no other.

I feel both anxious and excited when I think about the six months I have remaining with them, but there is one thing I know for certain: when it is time to pull my duffle bags back out from under my bed, the items that fill them may be the same, but I know I will not.

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