Patrick Penfield Jr. ’21, finance major, didn’t have the most typical study abroad experience, but he was still able to make the most of his time in Europe and make memories that will stay with him for a lifetime.
Penfield studied abroad in London, England during the Spring 2020 semester. Or, more accurately, for about two months before the COVID-19 pandemic cut his trip short and he returned to the United States.
In London, Penfield lived in an apartment with 10 other Syracuse University students and took four classes. A typical day for him included taking the tube into the heart of London’s academic district, where Syracuse’s academic building is located. He would then have a class or two, each of which could be as long as three hours, and then spend the rest of the day around London. After class activities on a typical day could include going to a local pub with friends or even professors, walking around the city or going to a museum.
“Every day was a lot of walking, and a lot of just experiencing the city,” Penfield says. “A lot of classes actually got out of the classroom, so we would do tours and go to museums. It didn’t really matter what the class actually was, they would find a way to get out of the classroom and experience the city.”
Penfield also took time to travel outside of the United Kingdom during his time abroad. He and other Syracuse University students took several trips, visiting countries like the Netherlands, France and Spain. He and some friends were actually traveling in the Canary Islands, a group of islands off the coast of Morocco, when they learned they would have to return home sooner than expected.
“It was about one in the morning when President Trump made the announcement that there was no more travel from Europe,” he explains. “We were all freaking out. We had plans to go to Dublin after, so we were really not sure what to do. We ended up just booking the next flight home.”
After a quick trip back to London to collect his belongings, Penfield flew home to Syracuse, New York, where he is from.
When considering what his favorite part of abroad was, Penfield shares that going outside of his comfort zone sometimes made the experience that much better. He says, “I think that one of my favorite overall experiences was going to countries where I didn’t speak the language at all. Being there and being immersed in the actual culture of a country is a really different experience.”
Penfield explains that from experiences like attempting to order at restaurants to just exploring and doing everyday activities, trying to communicate in a foreign country was truly interesting and enriching.
Something that made the difference, however, was the people in these countries. “Generally speaking, I think people in the world are good people and want to help,” he explains.
That being said, a trip back to London may be in order when recreational travel overseas is possible again.
“London is definitely my favorite city in the world now,” Penfield says. “It was the best two months of my life, going abroad.”
His father, Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain practice at Whitman, says that every student should study abroad if they can. “I think Patrick did come back with a different perspective of the countries and cultures he visited,” he shares. “When he told us stories of his experiences in Europe you could see his whole demeanor light up and he was so excited to tell us what he learned and experienced.”
While having his semester abroad cut short wasn’t ideal, Penfield is making the most of being home and looks forward to his current and upcoming opportunities, one of which being elected the student body representative to the Board of Trustees at Syracuse University. As for his responsibilities as representative, he says, “I’ll be going to Board of Trustees meetings and writing reports about what’s going on on-campus, what’s going on with campus climate, activities like that.”
Learn more about other Whitman student’s study abroad experiences.