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Meet Ragen Willaford (she/her)

Program and Location:

Summer, UK STEM and Liberal Studies; London, England


Electrical Engineering & Meteorology / History

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad, specifically in London, because it was my number one place to visit on my bucket list. Being able to visit London, while furthering my education seemed like the perfect opportunity and perfect choice for myself.

What did you learn about yourself?

I learned more about my independence while studying abroad, and how I am capable of handling more things than I thought I would be. As cheesy as it is, one of the biggest things I learned about myself while studying abroad is that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything, and that I have adaptability skills.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

One of my favorites parts of my program is that I took a class that was specific to England, and since I was studying abroad in London, I was able to fully immerse myself in this class, because there were so many historic monuments and places that were essential to this class. Being able to see and learn about them in person was one of my favorite parts of the program.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Advice I would give future study abroad students would be don’t be scared and take any and every opportunity you’re able to while you’re there. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime chance, and you will never be able to experience this for the first time ever again. Studying abroad came seem quite intimidating when you first get there, but once you get into the rhythm of a routine, you’ll have an amazing experience.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

My classes abroad were majorly different than those that I have taken at NC State. Since I took a summer study abroad, my program was only 5 weeks long, meaning my classes were condensed and the pace of the classes were very fast, and they were longer than a normal class would be. But despite the pace and length, I really enjoyed these classes because we took lots of field trips to help supplement our learning while abroad. This helped combine learning something new, with traveling, and having fun, which is something I really enjoyed and liked better about the classes abroad. Another thing that was different about my classes abroad would be their location. At NC State my classes are quite close, and even if they were on a different campus, it’s just one bus ride away. With my abroad classes, they were thirty minutes away, and you had to take multiple Tube lines and walk to our class building in the middle of London. This was something I really enjoyed because I was able to immerse myself in the culture of London and learn how to maneuver the Tube like a local.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

The advice I would give other student who share my identity would be to not psych yourself out of an opportunity, especially when it comes to studying abroad. I am a First-Generation College Student, so I didn’t personally have anyone to ask questions about studying abroad, or college in general. It’s easy to psych yourself out when it comes to not having guidance or not being able to ask questions to someone you personally know because no one else has experienced this. But you just need to remember that you will be able to seize the opportunity, and hopefully you’ll be able to help someone like yourself in the future.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

I found support in my mom to help navigate any challenges I faced abroad, even if she was a continent away. She was a listening ear that gave me advice on situations, and she helped research places I wanted to go to when I didn’t have time to. Another place I found support would be my program director Aurian. She was always open to answering my questions, especially before we left for studying abroad because I had never flown internationally, and I had many questions. She was also very helpful while studying abroad by sending reminders and instructions on how to get places.

Would you do it again?

I would 1000% study abroad again! It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I still miss studying abroad to this day!