by Andrea Lee / Staff Reporter
International students are no strangers to the Roosevelt University community. They are strongly embedded in our school and help to enrich our community. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with American Studies major Matthew Webbon, who decided to study abroad at RU for the entirety of the 2019-2020 school year. He is originally from the East Sussex region of England and attends university near the coastal city of Brighton. I was able to have a great conversation about why he chose his major, why he chose to attend RU and how he is adjusting to life in the United States.
Lee: What made you decide to major in American studies?
Webbon: My favorite subject in A levels (ages 16-18) was history and when I first learned about the American Civil War I was fascinated. So when I started looking at courses for university, I first looked at history until I found out about the American Studies degree programs offered at certain universities. I looked at what this major involved and it just sounded much more interesting to me because it is an interdisciplinary topic. It is not just about history, as you can take film or even sociology classes. I even took a music history course.
Lee: Can you tell me more about your program?
Webbon: The way it works in most of the universities throughout the UK is that American studies students take a three-year course with the option of participating in an exchange year in the United States to make it a four-year course. At the university where I go, there is a mandatory year abroad so everyone who does my course travels to America for their fourth year.
Lee: Why did you pick Chicago? Did you want to go to a big city?
Webbon: Students were given a list of roughly 30 American universities that we could attend, and this list included the name of the school and something called a financial guarantee. The financial guarantee is the estimated cost of attendance for an exchange year, which includes rent, health insurance and things like that. This ruled out a lot of universities since most of them were stupidly expensive. Out of the schools that were inside of my price range, there were a lot of big public universities that were quite far away from the city. I thought to myself, if I am only here for one year I do not want to be almost three hours away from the nearest city—I want to be in the middle of one. Within my price range, Roosevelt was really the only university which offered that urban experience. I had never previously heard of Roosevelt before, and thought going here would be a really great opportunity.
Lee: As we are almost a month into the school year, how has your experience at RU been so far?
Webbon: It has been mostly good so far. The first weeks were a bit weird being that it takes some time to adjust to living in a new place. I was not sure if I would like it at first because it was such a big culture shock. There are certain things that American universities do quite differently than English universities and that took some time to get used to. To me, American students appear to care more about their degrees because they pay so much more money to attend university than we do in England.
Lee: To me, Americans have always seemed to have somewhat of an obsession with British culture. Have you experienced that at RU?
Webbon: I have noticed that a lot of people like my accent, which is really funny to me because everyone I know has this accent back at home. It has been quite useful to me so far because it has made meeting people a lot easier. If I meet one person, they’ll invite me to meet their other friends who say “oh he’s English!” and will happily talk to me about where I’m from. I haven’t had to try too hard to meet new people, which I like.