Study Abroad Students Reflect on a Semester in England


Left to right: junior Jesse Schultz, junior Mariah Mielke, junior Melody Lipke, sophomore Anna Benter and sophomore Faith Muehler at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday.

Natalie Jensen

Five CUC students spent the spring semester immersed in culture, museums, and evensongs while studying abroad in Cambridge, England. Their bonds with one another grew stronger while they traveled to over ten different countries and spent weekend trips together. 

Mariah Mielke, Jesse Schultz, Anna Benter, Faith Muehler and Melody Lipke studied at the Westfield House, a Lutheran theological college located near the highly regarded Cambridge University. They live together in Luther Hall, across the street from the Westfield House building, with other Cambridge students from the United States, Russia, Poland and France. 

Junior Jesse Schultz took the opportunity abroad to study British Science Fiction, Christianity and the Arts, Philosophy of Religion, and British Life and Culture. “My academic experience in England has positively impacted my pursuit of knowledge and personal growth,” said Jesse Schultz.

His academic work includes a list of ongoing reading materials and discussion points to prepare for final papers and exams. “I have already seen the significant benefits in stepping outside of my comfort zone academically,” said Schultz. 

These students are met with a very different education system than the one in the United States. Their grades are discussion based with a lot of reading, papers, and presentations rather than busy work. Rather than professors, the CUC students have tutors with whom they spend a lot of one-on-one time. “Our classes are also much smaller due to the small number of students attending Westfield, so the discussions are all more intimate and you are forced to be more engaged,” said sophomore Faith Muehler.

Muehler is a theology major and one of her classes, Christianity in the Arts, has included several field trips to different cathedrals and museums. “Life here includes exploring Cambridge, having afternoon tea and chapel every Tuesday, making trips to see more of England and Europe, making and eating meals together, going to church across the street at Resurrection Lutheran every Sunday, and sometimes having downtime in our common room to watch “The Crown” on Netflix while eating Dominoes cookies,” said Muehler.

Aside from studying, these students have experienced a completely new culture, engaging in activities like punting off the River Cam and attending choral evensong arrangements at local colleges. “There is something so beautiful about living in a city with over 800 years of history,” said Schultz. 

There are a lot of things to do within walking distance in Cambridge, and London is 90 minutes away by train. “I have met so many people, from so many places, and get to learn more about the world that God has created,” said junior Mariah Mielke. 

Their term at Westfield House ends on May 7, but the students plan on staying longer to extend their travels and enjoy more time abroad before heading home. “There are not many opportunities in one’s life to be able to live in another country for five months just for the joy of it,” said Mielke. 

The students emphasize that studying abroad is an opportunity that should be taken. They suggested that CUC students who follow their footsteps shouldn’t stress over spending too much money, to go out and try new things, keep a journal to keep track of your experiences, go in with an open mind, take a lot of pictures, and step out of your comfort zone. 

“Basically, we want to be able to send anyone who wants to go, and we try hard to make sure that can happen,” said university deaconess Betsy Dodgers, CUC ’08, who herself studied abroad at the Westfield House. “That experience exposed me to a completely different academic environment which was incredibly enriching.”

CUC students interested in studying abroad must have a good academic standing, a student conduct standing, and meet a minimum GPA, which depends on the college they wish to attend. They should speak with their advisors, and they can also reach out to Dodgers and university pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Leininger, Ph.D. (another alumni of Westfield House). Both Dodgers and Leininger coordinate the program and help construct a tentative plan for the five students who are selected.