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Born to fly

Rachel Williams travels across seas for a completely unique college experience.

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Senior Rachel Williams takes a bit of southern California "cool" wherever she goes.

Adam Campbell
Senior Rachel Williams takes a bit of southern California “cool” wherever she goes.

The question seniors are constantly plagued with is “Where are you going to college?” Some respond with a California university; the more adventurous go onward to the other 49 states. Even still a few brave souls dare to cross the Atlantic. Last year, about three percent of SMCHS students were accepted into international institutions and less than one percent went on to attend. So far, this year, one senior has proudly announced her strong interest to study abroad.

Rachel Williams, an international connoisseur, is used to having a global perspective. She was born in Maryland and was raised in England until the age of 5.

“I’m very accustom to traveling,” she said. “My first plane ride was when I was a month old.”

Williams is not looking for the traditional American college experience.

“I’m not a fan of American Football games,” she said.  “I’m just really not looking for an American college experience with Greek life or anything like that.”

Instead, Williams wants to branch her horizons, and traveling half way across the world will grant her this aspiration.

“I’m just really looking for something very different than what I’ve experienced so far and an international school can give me that opportunity,” she said.

In early November, Williams received the first inkling of her possible future: an envelope holding her acceptance to the University of St. Andrews, located in Scotland, United Kingdom. St. Andrews is popularly known as the meeting place of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and is a very accredited university academically.

University of St. Andrew's in Scotland, United Kingdom is known for its old and Gothic architecture. Some of the buildings are 600 years old.

Rachel Williams
University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, United Kingdom is known for its old and Gothic architecture. Some of the buildings are 600 years old.

“It’s an internationally based school that is about half students from all over the world, so you’re getting a very culturally diverse community to interact with as well as being in a location that provides the opportunity to travel and experience culture that’s very different from my own,” Williams said. “I think there are a lot of positives to it.”

The University of St. Andrews is 5,145 miles from Orange County. The lack of communication to friends and family frightens William’s the most, because of the huge geographic separation.

“Communication is going to be very difficult with an eight-hour time difference from my friends in California,” she said. “That’ll probably be the biggest struggle — really finding time to keep up with my friendships, but I think it’s worth it.”

Despite the inevitable difficulties which come from studying at such a great distance from home, Williams believes the benefits of St. Andrews outweigh the negativity. Scotland does not require general education requirements, which will allow Williams to focus on her decided major. She already has her ideal freshman year planned out with a class in philosophy, Middle East studies and international relations.

“St. Andrews is really known for their international relations program since it is such an international school,” Williams said. “I think that taking classes like that will really be helpful and a genuinely authentic and unique experience.”

Studying international studies on a global basis will test Williams’s independence. To most, being so far away from the comfort of home might seem frightful, but Williams expresses far more excitement than fear.

“I think overall I’m really just excited to be a part of an institution that stands for diversity,” she said. “It’s all about connecting with people from extremely diverse backgrounds, not just what we understand of diversity in Santa Margarita, but extreme cultural difference.”

Aside from the basic language barrier associated with foreign countries, Williams is excited to explore the simplicities of life in Scotland. She looks forward to striking up conversations on trains and learning another language.

Eighteen is considered the legal age of adulthood in both in the United Kingdom and in the United States, however, it’s taken a bit more literally in the United Kingdom.

“One of the biggest things is that when you go to St. Andrews — or anywhere — you are considered an adult at age 18 so the mindset of the school is so much more independent than American schools,” Williams said. “There are no counseling systems, or people helping you figure out your schedule.”

University of St. Andrew's in Scotland, United Kingdom is known for its old and Gothic architecture. Some of the buildings are 600 years old.

Rachel Williams
University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, United Kingdom is known for its old and Gothic architecture. Some of the buildings are 600 years old.

Williams said that at 18, life in the United Kingdom is very, “you’re an adult, figure it out for yourself.”

Like at most schools, independence comes with both pros and cons. While it’s easily to get lonely sometimes, everyone can have a different experience and meet new people, especially socially. This stands true for Williams at St. Andrews too.

In Europe the legal drinking age is 18, so parties and social outings may be a bit different than what is normal in the United States.

“I’m not going to be going to a fraternity party in a basement,” Williams said. “Student life is very centered around going out and eating dinner. It’s much more simple, in a way.”

Off campus Williams may be attending exquisite dinners and sightseeing, but on campus she hopes to partake in something special as well.

“There are a lot of different clubs on campus and one of them I hope I can get involved in is the mountaineering club,” she said. “It travels all over Scotland, climbing, hiking and walking so that’s definitely something I want to get involved in.”

While university abroad may seem completely foreign and intimidating to most Americans, when it comes down to it, college is college no matter where you go.

“In essence, college is just a place where a bunch of teenagers and early 20 [year olds] go to figure out their lives and kind of all hang out and do it together,” Williams said.

Although she may be taking a risk outside most people’s comfort zone, Williams doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s kind of the same camaraderie [no matter where you go],” she said. “Pretty much any four year university experience is going to give you that experience of a lot of people and just being your age.”

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