Student view:

Allie Pail: Our surroundings are our classroom

March 27, 2018

Allie Pail is a junior Social Science Scholar majoring in comparative cultures and politics in the College of Social Science.

Studying abroad with Michigan State University has been the best learning experience of my college career so far. Last summer, I traveled with the Social Science Scholars Program to various parts of England, beginning in London’s busy streets and ending in the serene Lake District. One of my best memories from the trip is in the Lake District; instead of having a typical class day, a group of students and our two professors hiked to the top of Harrison Stickle, the large mountain behind our hotel.

We began early in the morning with steep rock steps that led us to a refreshingly chilly tarn where we stopped to eat lunch and swim. 

The next terrain we tackled contained stretches of mud and large rocky passes that led us farther up the mountain. 

After several stops along the way to catch our breath and regroup, we all successfully made it to the top of Harrison Stickle three hours after we began. The group rested for a few minutes, and I was soaking in the feeling of accomplishing something I never thought I would be capable of.

We then proceeded to take a seat around our professors and have class, in the presence of an amazing view. Dr. Alan Arbogast spoke about the geography of England and how mountains like Harrison Stickle were formed; this lecture was unlike anything I experienced at Michigan State because we were sitting in the middle of the very landforms Dr. Arbogast was talking about. 

We did not have to examine pictures on a slideshow or in a textbook to understand what Dr. Arbogast was discussing – instead, we could glance up and look at the landscape around us. Elsewhere in the U.K. we had the same opportunity to see what we were learning about: the remains of Roman Britain, the place where the then-king was obliged to sign the Magna Carta and the ruined cotton mills which mark the beginning of industrialization.

As a history major I enjoy learning about events from the past and how they influence the present and future, but nothing will ever compete with learning about history in the very place it occurred. I am so thankful to the Social Science Scholars Program, Michigan State University and the Office of Study Abroad for sponsoring trips around the world, and for giving me the opportunity to enrich my education through immersion in another country, its rich history and its beautiful landscape.