The University of Iowa

Shakespeare’s England from Starkville, Mississippi

August 16th, 2021
student at computer giving thumbs up

I was lucky enough to be a part of the remote-abroad hybrid class during 2021’s summer program here at the University of Iowa, and here are just a few experiences that I believe highlight what was an incredible experience for someone like myself.

Firstly, I must note that I am a first-generation and out-of-state student who, during the pandemic, was learning to take classes from my home state of Mississippi. It was a challenge to manage the new world of academics from my one-bedroom apartment but finding resources to help with the stressful parts of classes, such as finances, made it all the easier for me to actually enjoy and develop my own goals and talents within the courses I was taking.

“Shakespeare’s England” was a summer course taught by a renowned professor on campus, Blaine Greteman, and featured information surrounding Shakespeare’s famous literary works that were written in London, England, during the 17th century.

The class from the description looked enticing and daunting simultaneously, but I jumped right in. I was expecting your run-of-the-mill online class with cameras off, bored faces, and a tired teacher, but this class was different right from the start. I, with the help of my professor and other English majors invested in the course, was able to take old English and translate it into something that I could comprehend and enjoy more than your classical literature. The class became something to look forward to rather than a tedious, assignment-filled nuisance. We even were able to connect the modern-day parallels of the pandemic to the time of the plague in multiple plays we read, and from there found arguments of how literature is heavily shaped by the outer world and things such as our modern-day quarantine encompassed lives.

"I didn’t feel like an out-of-state, confused first-gen; instead, I felt like one of many in my own corner of the world, connecting with students and faculty with the same genuine reality as I would on-campus."


Overall, I was greatly appreciative of the work and effort my professor and peers made to create a safe and exciting learning environment, one that allowed exploration and creativity. I didn’t feel like an out-of-state, confused first-gen; instead, I felt like one of many in my own corner of the world, connecting with students and faculty with the same genuine reality as I would on-campus. It made me feel at home and gave comfort in ways I did not even imagine were going to happen, and it speaks volumes upon the great staffing of the University of Iowa and reliability and comradery of students when met with challenges, however hard to work around.

I am forever grateful to be a Diversity Ambassador and share my experiences with others on campus who are considering a summer abroad class but either cannot fund that class alone or are worried they will not fit in with the crowd joining such a class. I highly endorse taking an abroad class—even online! It changed the way I see our university and how I see personal abilities, in relation to both academia and community.

 

Katherine Westbrook, a University of Iowa speech and hearing science major and a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient, participated in Shakespeare's England during the summer of 2021.

Learn how you can apply for a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship

The Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a semester or academic year program. The scholarships are intended to support the diversification of students who study abroad. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students for use on our diversity web pages or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students. Open letters are especially helpful as they reach the broadest audience. All Diversity Ambassadors will be invited to share their experiences abroad with prospective students from underrepresented groups on campus through outreach events.

Up to ten (10), $1,000 Diversity Ambassador Scholarships will be awarded for the Spring and Fall semesters/Academic Year; up to ten (10), $1,000 Diversity Ambassador Scholarships will be awarded for Summer and Winter sessions.