Andrew Michael Jones (Class of 2012) studied at the University of St. Andrews during the spring 2012 semester. His study abroad program was not through Wheaton, but through the International Study Abroad Butler program which allows American students to go all over the world for a study abroad experience. Andrew knew he wanted to go to St. Andrews, and after researching the options to get there he chose ISAB because few organizations could go to Sterling, Edinburgh, or Glasgow and Wheaton students in the past had gone.
Joining him in his program were 28 other students from colleges all over the US—like Vanderbilt, Williams, Hamilton, Wheaton (MA), Vassar, Columbia, George Washington, etc. The program involved a lot of emersion experience; it was less of a study abroad program more of an organization that facilitated an abroad experience. Andrew’s classes were with Scottish professors with Scottish students and he lived in a Scottish dorm. His interaction with the other students in his program was a two day orientation in Edinburgh and a couple group activities including a trip to the west of Scotland, Argyll, and to the Isle of Skye as well as a dinner midway through the trip and at the end organized by the Scottish study abroad coordinators. The majority of Andrew’s interactions were with people he found when looking for a Christian community. His fellow Americans were from secular universities and for the most part didn’t have the same world views, so Andrew had to branch out into new areas. He found what he was looking for at Christian Union—a branch of UCF (a British organization that provides college ministries).
Much of Andrew’s time in Scotland was marked more by relationships, personal growth and experiencing Christianity outside of Wheaton, than the academics. Andrew got involved in a small group on his hall and attended a Church of Scotland church. Many of his friends stemmed from his search to find a Christian community outside of his American peers. For example, two of the most solidly Christian guys he met from his bible study lived in his hall. They would hang out and do stuff like the typical dinner (In the UK you eat dinner in the dining facilities in your dorm, which is called a hall), or junk food, movie time. Other times they might go down town, pop into a pub or go to a club. One of the ways Andrew benefitted from this Christian community came in the form of Mark Sterling, who was a pastor and in training to get his PhD in New Testament Studies. Mark offered a lot of theological and pastoral insights to their small group. Andrew said “St. Andrews is a really cool town and it has an amazing body of Christians in the town—a lot of the Ph.D. students in the divinity school are actually Christians as opposed to liberal theology people. The churches around St. Andrews are solid; there’s a contemporary charismatic church, there’s one with a more college church feel. So I can, with a good conscious, advise anybody that if they want to go to St. Andrews they could have a good time and experience Christian community in a good way. For me I was never outside of a Christian bubble before I went to a secular St. Andrews and had to engage with my faith from the perspective it’s under my control; it was up to me to plug in or check out. Having the experience of the church of the body of Christ away from America and Wheaton is one of the biggest things I took away from my study abroad experience.”
In terms of academic benefits, Andrew's time at St. Andrews contributed to his experiences as a history major by helping him learn in new ways. He said, “St. Andrews is pretty prestigious; it was ranked in the spring [while he was there] as the third best university in the UK behind Oxford and Cambridge. Expectations were high, so compared to the Wheaton History Department it was a lot more high pressure, rigorous and a lot less involved because of the lack of continued assessment. What I learned in Scotland was to do research better by myself without the aid of professors or deadlines. I just knew this is due this day; it’s up to you to do the research, writing, revisions and be ready.” He says that was the juxtaposition he saw of Europe and the US. Most Europeans do life at a much slower place—not disregarding things required of them, but having a holistic view, “It’s structured in a way that allows more time for personal time and studying.” Andrew was, in essence, allowed to create his own schedule. In a typical week he would have two or three lectures—large group lectures—and one tutorial—an hour of seminar discussion where one develops and discusses what you learned in lecture. The rest of his time was him doing research for his essays and revising (studying) for exams. His time at St. Andrews helped him connect a lot of things to Wheaton, but he noted in the novelty of a study abroad experience it’s hard to disassociate the classes—all about Scotland—with the experience themselves.
Andrew would advise any student who has the opportunity to study abroad to not think twice and take it. He said, “If its financial issues are the main thing keeping people from studying abroad, then talk to Annie [Nichols] in the study abroad office—because there are ways to study abroad with a tighter budget. You may think you’ll miss out on a semester at Wheaton and that’s true to a certain extent, but studying abroad enriches the Wheaton experience. It adds things—kind of an absence makes heart grows fonder idea. It allows you to see from another perspective Wheaton and allows you to say I like this, I don’t like this, I agree with this, I don’t agree with this, and coming back from an experience allows you to engage those issues and act on them. You can talk to people, talk to administration, peers, and tell them of your experience abroad.” He said that through processing and engaging with your experience you grapple with how you relate and reconcile your different educational experiences. It can change how you live life and how you appreciate your Wheaton experience.
Written by Hannah Dayton, February 2012