FARMINGTON — For University of Maine at Farmington senior Brittney Norton, the experience of studying abroad provided learning and exposure to a diverse culture not found in textbooks and classrooms.

UMF junior Innes Herdan’s experience at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom gave her a chance to make friends and meet family members.

Several students were ready to share their stories and experiences Wednesday during a Study Abroad Fair held at UMF.

Herdan became interested in spending a semester abroad last spring after she visited a previous fair at UMF. It was filled with students involved in UMF’s international programs and companies such as Ciee of Portland, which offers 178 programs for college students to study abroad.

While continuing her studies in sociology at the University of Hull, Herdan, of Sanford, created lasting friendships and met several members of her father’s family.

“I went for the experience,” she said.

Marrissa Hirsch of Livermore Falls extended her time at UMF to also spend this past fall semester at the University of Hull. The community health major studied business and spent time traveling around the United Kingdom and visited France and Belgium.

Both agreed the approach to education at Hull and UMF are different. 

“They want you to become independent,” Hirsch said. 

They also want a student to treat school as their job and to get the most that they can from their study. The school encourages study and research from 9 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, just like a job, she said.

Grading and ranks were also different.

They lived in houses with five other students from all over the world, their roommates becoming like family. Herdan continues to stay in touch with friends she made.

“It took effort to get out and try new things and be open to meeting new people,” Herdan said.

Each student raises their own funding. Tuition paid to UMF is transferred to the school abroad, but Hirsch said she raised about $5,000 or 3,800 pounds. Two thousand went for her room and the rest she had to live on over the semester.

The experience gave her insight into her own ability and desire to teach English as a second language, something she plans to pursue.

UMF’s International Program in the United Kingdom was started by Thomas Kane, a 1990 UMF graduate who is a faculty member at the University of Hull.

Norton, a senior from Gray, said she always wanted to travel and experience the diversity of another culture for herself.

In Rwanda last semester, she studied post-genocide and peace building. Living with a family, she was exposed to the cultural diversity, something that’s not really found here, she said.

She said she loves UMF and the opportunities the school provides, but studying abroad provided an opportunity for her travel and learn in a more economical way, she added.

The time senior Aimee St. Germain of Gorham spent in Ecuador also has her thinking about going back to teach English.

The culture and people of the country were awesome, said the International and Global Studies major.

Visiting students from UMF programs in France, China, Argentina, Rwanda and Ireland attended the fair to share their experiences.

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