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Cara Waddell

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Political Science and Peace War and Defense
Program: Kings College London Exchange
Location: London, UK
Term: Spring 2020


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I decided to study abroad because I had always wanted to travel internationally and otherwise would not have had the means to do so. I selected my program through my department website, Peace War and Defense, and it described the War Studies program at Kings College London being equivalent to the PWAD program at UNC.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned a lot about myself, but mostly my strength. My study abroad experience was extremely challenging - I had never ridden on a plane by myself before much less been to another country. I was very afraid of all the unknowns of traveling to a foreign country and not knowing anyone. I experienced a lot of bumps in the road, but learned that I can handle anything that life may throw at me because I did this by myself. It was the most empowering experience of my life.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories from my program was one of the last days I was in London, which I did not know at the time due to COVID-19. I had made plans with one of my friends I met through other study abroad students and her British friend. We were able to get free lunch at a new restaurant and the sun was finally shining after many weeks of rain. I walked there by myself in the warmest weather we had yet and was so happy and thankful I was there at that moment. I knew I had made the right decision to study abroad because of how independent the experience made me.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
As my study abroad experience was during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a lot of experience with uncertainties while abroad. It was probably one of the most frightening experiences of my life in trying to urgently get back to the United States before the border was closed. My advice to future students would be that you genuinely have to breathe and take a moment to tell yourself that you will get through it. You can only get through it one step at a time, so if it makes you feel better to make a step by step plan, do so.


How do you identify?
Scholarship Recipient, Rural County Resident


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
It was a very difficult transition to studying abroad in a large city in a different country. As a rural resident, the largest city I had ever resided in was Chapel Hill. It was a challenge to acclimate to the public transit and general safety of a large city. As a scholarship recipient it was extremely difficult to keep up with my peers who seemed to have endless resources to travel and dine out. It felt isolating at first to have to stick to a budget, but it taught me crucial life skills in budgeting that I'll use for the rest of my life.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
I would tell rural students and scholarship recipients that these differences in your experience only strengthen your adaptability in the real world once you leave Carolina. Even though your peers or even loved ones at home may not explicitly understand your exact situation, they are still important people to turn to when you find yourself frustrated with your adjustment abroad.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
When I faced challenges, I turned to my friends and family at home who were just a phone call away. In scenarios where they could not be of assistance I reached out to my study abroad advisor, Ben Briggs.


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