BYU students share transformative tales from across the pond.
When he signed up for study abroad at the London Centre last fall, BYU senior Henry Hilton didn’t expect he’d be using the Spanish-speaking skills he’d gained on his Las Vegas mission. But at the London-area ward he was assigned to attend each Sunday, most of the youth were originally from South American countries and spoke little English. Hilton ended up translating for the youth Sunday School class.
Hilton and his fellow London study abroad students, who were divided into small groups to attend different wards in the Hyde Park Stake throughout the semester, not only contributed to the local congregations on study abroad, they were served and taught in turn. Hilton said the Christlike examples of the people in England inspired him to be more compassionate, understanding and welcoming to new people he meets in Provo.
“This study abroad has helped strengthen my testimony by showing me that loving God means loving our neighbors,” said senior and first-generation student Addi Schenk. “I love this quote from Elder Alan Phillips: 'Religion is not only about our relationship with God; it is also about our relationship with each other.’”
“Going to church in London opened my eyes as to how Saints can worship Jesus Christ and how expansive that worship can be,” added Maggie McBeth, an English major. “It has helped me understand how intimately Heavenly Father loves because I know no one else could have known what I’ve needed here, not even myself.”
While most universities offer study abroad support, BYU students receive unique opportunities for service and spiritual growth in study abroad programs. For example, at the London Centre, students pray before class starts and participate in devotionals every Sunday night.
“I remember that when someone lost a family member, some of our classmates were able to give her a priesthood blessing right after she found out,” Schenk said. “I don’t think that would have happened if I went to another school.”
And of course, for the nearly 4,000 BYU students who have studied at the BYU London Centre since the 1970s, study abroad has offered unparalleled academic experiences. Made up of two red-brick townhomes near historic Hyde Park in one of the most historic cities in the world, the Centre provides an incredible opportunity for students to not just read about London and its wealth of history and culture, but to go out and see it for themselves.
“We talked about World War I and World War II in class. And then we went to Bletchley Park where they decoded the Enigma cipher,” Schenk said. “How crazy is that?”
“We’ve had the chance to see so many amazing artifacts, paintings and historical sites that have followed our studies,” added Lily Brower, a junior majoring in public relations. “I could spend hours exploring all the museums that we’ve visited in the UK.”
Students who have had these amazing experiences often say they wish more BYU students realize how accessible study abroad can be. In 2023, Brigham Young University sponsored more students on a study abroad program than any other university in the United States. Yet even with that designation, participating in a study abroad program can seem like an impossibility for many BYU students.
Some may be concerned about challenges like living in another country with people they don’t know. Financial concerns are also very common.
Students who have studied abroad can offer useful perspectives to address these concerns. For example, many of the 41 students in London during fall 2023 were able to find and receive monetary help from various scholarships and grants through their majors or minors.
Last semester’s London Centre students also offered the following advice for others who are considering a study abroad:
- Go into it open-minded to try new things and meet new people.
- You get out of it what you put into it.
- It’s OK to go alone and make new friends.
- Go to the Kennedy Center and look at the wall in the Herald R. Clark Building to see what programs are available.
- Take the prep class the term before you go. You’ll hear from former students who give you advice.
- Get close to your professors. Use them as a resource before you go.
- Apply for scholarships.
- Every department wants to help — consider a minor to apply for funding through another school.
- You don’t have to be rich to go here.
- Pack light. Don’t overpack.
- If you have a hard time making friends in Provo, coming on a study abroad might help you find a community.
- If you already have a scholarship, the money transfers to study abroad.
- Expect to be busy all the time.
- Be willing to try new food.
As McBeth concluded, “I don't think I would know about the broadness of the opportunities available to me without this experience. Deciding to go to London, moving across the ocean and spending a whole semester in another country really helped me realize I am stronger than I realize. I can do hard things.”