Missouri State-West Plains Student Success Story
New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities
Rebekah McLean is no stranger to travel. The child of a Navy recruiter, Rebekah has moved around the United States and lived in numerous locations during her lifetime, experiencing the vast array of cultures that make up the American experience.
But thanks to the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program, the sophomore general studies major recently did something she has never done before – she took her first trip overseas as part of the Honors Abroad short-term study program.
Rebekah was one of six students who in late May joined Darr Honors Program Director Dennis Lancaster and his wife, Rita, on an eight-day tour of the Republic of Ireland, Wales and England. Despite the long, "close relationship" between the United States and United Kingdom, Rebekah said the differences she experienced between the cultures gave her a greater awareness of the world, as well as a renewed appreciation of her own country.
"Before I went on this trip, I had taken John Fohn's geography class, and he would often tell us not to have an ethnocentric viewpoint. But until I experienced another culture for myself, I wasn't able to do that. This trip definitely opened my eyes," she said.
Coordinated through Education First Educational Tours in Cambridge, Mass. the trip included visits to Shannon, Killarney and Dublin in Ireland and Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and London in England. The group also enjoyed tours of St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity College in Dublin, a ferry trip across the Irish Sea to Holyhead, Wales, a drive through Snowdonia National Park in North Wales and a bus tour of London's sights.
"The culture is so different. The people seemed friendlier there, which is surprising to say, and the country is so much smaller. You could be in a different part of the country in just a few hours instead of several days," she said.
The age of the "Old World" also stood out to Rebekah. "Everything seems so new here. There, you see old castles just out in the fields, like barns or something. If we had those types of things here, we would treasure them. There, they were so commonplace," she explained.
But it was the little differences that captured her attention the most, she said. "They didn't seem to have as many bathrooms as we do, and there were no fast food restaurants, except in the cities, so a lot of the food we ate was made from scratch. I also don't remember seeing any large trucks on the roads, just busses. And, the people, they always wanted to help you," she said.
There also was a greater eco-consciousness in Ireland, Wales and England that isn't yet found in America, Rebekah said. "They seem to have a greater connection with the land. It means more to them because they've had it for so long, especially in Ireland, where so little of it was developed. Instead of trying to change the land, make it suit their needs, they work around the land or take it into account in their development," she explained.
Although she loved the experience, Rebekah said the trip made her realize there's no place like home. "It's made me more grateful to live in America. When you see how others view Americans, it gives you an added awareness about your own culture," she said.
She's also grateful the Darr Honors Program gave her the opportunity for this learning experience. "I would not have had the opportunity to go on such a trip without the Honors Program, nor would I have felt as comfortable going on my own. Having programs like this at Missouri State-West Plains is a great opportunity.
"I think everyone should travel once outside the U.S., or at least to another part of the country they haven't seen. It's the type of experience that sticks with you for the rest of your life."