Student Profile - Hannah Carlson

Year in Wales enriches college experience

Hannah Carlson

Hannah Carlson, a senior Lamar University corporate communication major from Houston, spent one year of her undergraduate career as a student at Swansea University, a public research university in Swansea, Wales, thanks to support from LU’s study abroad program.

Her early interest in making study abroad a part of her time in college was born of family experience. As a very young child, she lived in Kampala, Uganda, where her parents, career missionaries, served from 2000 to 2002. The experience of living abroad had become a part of the family’s worldview, particularly for her three older siblings, so the idea of including an overseas experience during her time at LU came readily.

Desiring a very immersive experience, she sought semester-long options rather than shorter trips. Carlson ultimately chose to study in the United Kingdom, in part because at Swansea University although some classes are offered in Welsh, the majority of courses are provided in English.

Hannah Carlson“I specifically chose to do a longer than normal study abroad, because I really wanted to immerse myself into the culture of where I was staying,” Carlson said.

After receiving the recommendation of LU’s then study abroad director Jeff Palis, Carlson enrolled directly at Swansea University, in Swansea, Wales, a port city similar in size to Beaumont.

The study abroad office provided the kind of support that took a lot of the stress out of going abroad, Carlson said, from handy checklists to Visa requirements and international hotlines in case of emergency.

“Lamar University and the Study Abroad office were an incredible help,” Carlson said. She received financial support for her studies through the Office of Study Abroad, a McMaster Honors Scholarship through the Reaud Honors College, and was able to continue her Smith-Hutson Scholarship as a fulltime student who would be returning to Lamar University. 

After taking the course British Politics and Culture since 1945, she completed a number of courses that would directly transfer to LU including: Public Relations: Strategic Communications; Digital Public Relations Practice; Public Relations Theory; Media Law; Media, Gender and Sexuality.

“It was in media law that I saw a lot of differences,” Carlson said.

Hannah CarlsonWhile not surprised to find many U.S. case studies in her PR courses, Carlson was pleased to hear a reference to research by Natalie Tindall, department chair and associate professor of communication at LU, during one of her lectures. 

In addition to her academic pursuits, Carlson was active in the Swansea University Christian Union. That was “a huge part of how I got to meet people and be immersed in the culture,” she said. The union was “an amalgamation of denominations coming together for weekly gospel sharing and outreach every week on campus.” She also attended conferences through the union and was hosted by families for holidays in their homes.

More unique was the classroom experience, Carlson said, where few assignments accounted for the majority of a course grade, and a degree is typically was earned in three years because no liberal arts core courses are required. Many programs, however, do require a year of experience in the industry or in a career field. 

“Going abroad by myself opened my eyes to how different the world can be,” she said. While the United States and Wales are very similar, there are still significant differences, she said. In particular, she noted the challenges of housing and its costs.

“Living in terraced housing was a new experience for me,” she said of her accommodations she shared with “four housemates, all from different countries: Wales, England, India, France, and, of course, the U.S.” a 10-minute walk from campus. The single-family detached homes so many enjoy in Texas are out-of-reach for most families in Wales, Carlson said.

“The people I met while in Wales changed my life 100 percent,” she said. “I had so many different, wonderful experiences with the people there. I learned how to drive manual with a friend in a Tesco parking lot, and two girls gifted me with a Texas-shaped Welsh cake.

“I was blessed to spend the holidays with some unbelievable families,” she said. “I attempted surfing with a group of friends. I helped organize a Thanksgiving for 110 people. I hiked a mountain with two friends and had tea with my elderly Welsh neighbor. I made so many memories with the Christian Union on campus there, and spent every Friday playing football (soccer) with fellow students in the Christian Union.”

“All of these people are my family now,” she said.