For the vast majority of students, the opportunity to study at an enormous, diverse, and prestigious university like The University of Alabama tends to generate feelings of both unparalleled excitement and understandable anxieties. Accordingly, one might imagine that the experience of being over 4,000 miles from home, and at a college almost twice the size of one’s home institution, might heighten these feelings of apprehension. But for Bethany Williams, a confident, diligent, and sociable exchange student from Birmingham, England, her previous anxieties quickly faded from the moment she arrived on campus. Greeted with a warm smile and the blazing hot Southern sun, Beth’s concerns were replaced with an unmistakable sense of excitement that has continued to flourish throughout her time here, and has marked her study abroad experience as one that has fundamentally affected her character, her social skills, and the way she views the world around her.
When Beth speaks about her time at UA, it’s clear to see that she has been drawn in by the charms of the South. Most obviously, the kindness and generosity of her fellow students and faculty members whom she has encountered—particularly within the Department of English—have positively contributed to her experience here, and she asserts that “the people at Alabama—all the different kinds of people I’ve met—they have made my time here better than I ever could have imagined.” The sheer number of people with whom Beth has forged lifelong connections, as well as the diversity, which she has been exposed to, has been beneficial, both from a social and an academic perspective. Beth’s experience has been eye-opening, reflecting the benefits that a University like ours can present for its students, during both their time at UA, and looking forward into the future.
As a passionate English Literature major, Beth has loved the opportunity to choose from a wide range of stimulating courses, yet still hone in on what interests her most. As a result, she has taken classes in unusual subjects like the study of science fiction, as well as develop her knowledge on her favorite topic, the American Civil Rights Movement and African-American literature.
When she returns to the UK for the next school year, Beth will complete her senior year before graduating next May but not before she will be required to write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of her choice. Beth’s decision has been heavily influenced by her work this year at The University of Alabama and inspired by African-American literature and history. Beth states that “some of my classes have addressed present day issues of race in America and the rest of the world. They have definitely raised my awareness of my position of privilege as a white woman, and ways in which I navigate conversations about race.” She goes on to discuss how Alabama has positively impacted her choice of a dissertation topic, which will focus on African American children’s literature from the 1960s to the present. UA’s academic culture has clearly inspired Beth, and her experience emphasizes the positive impact that financial contributions to the department have made in the lives of UA students and the equally positive impact those gifts will continue to make in the future.
Beth Williams has enjoyed so many different aspects of her experience at The University of Alabama. From the people she has met, to the outstanding scholars and students, to the cultural experiences that have extended far beyond the college itself, Beth’s time here has been bursting with exciting opportunities and new connections that have both challenged and thrilled her. Ultimately, what has The University of Alabama done for Beth Williams? As with thousands of UA students, it has provided her with a myriad of unanticipated, wonderful memories that will last for a lifetime.