A year and a half into college, Abigail “Abby” Fawcett wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career. She had tried two majors and was switching to a third one. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to stay at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
She was searching. Then, one day, one of her mom’s college friends mentioned enjoying something called the Wisconsin in Scotland program. “Was it still around?” Fawcett wondered?
It was. After learning more through UW-Stout’s Office of International Education and deciding it might be right for her, Fawcett left for Scotland for the spring of 2017. Turns out, something 3,700 miles away was exactly what she needed.
“I needed to take a step back and figure out who I was. The Scotland experience really changed me as an individual,” said Fawcett, of Eau Claire.
Fast forward two years, and Fawcett continues to reap dividends from her decision to study abroad. In May, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in digital marketing technology — the third major she had switched to in the middle of her sophomore year. This summer she is interning in Eagan, Minn., at the international mass media firm Thomson Reuters.
“In the digital marketing technology field things are constantly changing. Every day I am learning something new, and I like that it keeps me on my toes. I am able to drive decisions based upon the data that I get,” she said.
How did studying in Scotland change Fawcett? She took classes with other students from the UW System and around the country taught by professors from the UW System and the United Kingdom. The program is hosted at Dalkeith House, an 18th century castle in Dalkeith, six miles from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
Between a host mom at Dalkeith who mentored Fawcett on the culture, taking intercultural courses and taking advantage of opportunities to travel in Scotland and other countries, Fawcett returned home a changed person.
“I was able to see things from different perspectives. I had the confidence, and my communication skills had been enriched. I wanted to be more involved. That’s when I fell in love with UW-Stout,” Fawcett said.
Fawcett said that meeting a new friend, Molly Deering of UW-River Falls, helped her make the most of the Scotland program. “Molly helped push me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take advantage of the program, get out of the palace and go on an adventure,” Fawcett said, noting that classes weren’t held on Fridays, leaving open the opportunity to travel to nearby countries, such as England and France.
She also soon fell in love with her new digital marketing technology major and, with her new-found confidence, became more involved on campus. “I had a breath of fresh air,” she said.
Andria Morse, interim assistant director of study abroad at UW-Stout, said Fawcett “used her study abroad experience to gain another perspective of the world and to take the time to think about and focus on what she wanted to do for her future.”
On campus, she took a part-time job in the Office of International Education after an adviser in Scotland, seeing Fawcett’s growth, recommended her for the position. She also worked part time in the office for her program.
In 2018, she landed a university coordinated co-op position at Great River Energy in Maple Grove, Minn. She excelled there too — one of 18 students in May at UW-Stout to receive an Outstanding Co-op Student of the Year Award.
She studied abroad again, with short-term experiences in Belize and Germany in her junior and senior years.
Wisconsin in Scotland
UW-Stout students and faculty and others from around the UW System have taken and taught courses at Dalkeith House since the program began in 1986.
This summer, eight students are there and in the fall another seven will go. Professor Cynthia Bland is teaching two courses there this summer, and instructor Emily Beck will teach there in the fall.
“The Wisconsin in Scotland program has a strong living-learning community developed by Patty Watters, residence director, that focuses on confidence, competence and independence,” Morse said.
The program is scheduled to expand in 2020 with a precollege experience, allowing first-year students to take classes there the summer before beginning their university careers.
Overall, close to 300 UW-Stout students study abroad each year, benefiting in many ways from their experiences, Morse said.
“Research by the Institute of International Education shows that studying abroad has long-term impacts on students’ career progression, promotion and job offers,” she said, including soft skills such as intercultural communications, adaptability, problem-solving, confidence and team-building.
Abby Fawcett said studying at Scotland’s Dalkeith House, background, and studying abroad “changed me as an individual.”
Abby Fawcett, left, and friend Molly Deering of UW-River Falls enjoy an outing together during the Wisconsin in Scotland program.
Dalkeith House in Dalkeith, Scotland, hosts the Wisconsin in Scotland program.