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Experiencing Europe with Kathe

Posted by Bartnik, Lee J - December 15, 2013 - Featured, Lee B., Students, Study Abroad

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My first experience in this whole London ordeal was missing my flight from Central Wisconsin Airport to Chicago, catching a later flight and having to go into extreme hustle mode to catch up with my other Stevens Point compadres (who I didn’t even know were my compadres at the time). When I finally caught up with said compadres in the loading terminal at the airport, here was Professor Kathe Julin from the Division of Interior Architecture who wasted no time in giving me a diary to journal in and loads of other literature. At the time, I remember thinking, “This lady is going to be spending the whole four months in London with us?” Don’t get me wrong, I liked her enough and all, it just seemed unnecessary to have UW-Stevens Point staff accompaniment for the whole trip. However, looking back on this experience, I honestly couldn’t imagine it without Kathe, and I’m sure any of the other UWSP students would say the same thing.

Our UK experience started off with a week-long tour visiting cities such as Bath, Brighton, Winchester and others. In this time we all became very well-acquainted, through many of the interesting tours and trips that were organized for us. Kathe’s undying enthusiasm was amusing and refreshing to us; if a lady who’s been around and traveled as much as she had was SO excited to be taking these tours, surely we could muster up a little zeal, couldn’t we? In those early days we really gelled as a group, and that is in part due to Kathe’s leadership and facilitation ability. She really made an effort to ease us into some of the cultural and social situations that otherwise may have been challenging. When we finally settled into our London arrangements, I couldn’t help but wonder what our relationship with Kathe would be, as she lived in a flat that was a bit separated from the rest of us. As I would come to find, her presence would be enjoyable and inspiring.

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All throughout this trip, Kathe has been a valuable source of support and information when we had issues. When our Experiential Learning class was an absolute disaster, she got everyone together and spoke to us about trying to put our concerns aside and making our efforts worthwhile for us, regardless of how we felt about the teacher. When it was difficult for the whole group to get together and hang out, she organized Sunday night dinners for everyone to come lounge, eat delicious food and just catch up. When there was something monumental happening (or not so monumental) she would always be documenting and taking pictures every step of the way–for our benefit and that of International Programs and UWSP as a whole. Though we acted annoyed at times, we all really appreciated the pictures of all the fun things we were doing. However, more so than any of this, Kathe provided us all with opportunity and inspiration to make the most of our London experience.

lee201312kathe2I think the interactions I’ll always remember were at breakfast; often I would run into Kathe doing work down in the bistro. This would be a good opportunity just to tell her all about the things I was doing and hear what she’d been up to. She was always incredibly interested in my experience, whether it be internship, school or just general recreation. I appreciate how she made the effort to really engage and get to know each of us as individuals. However, I was always much more interested in what she was doing. No matter what, Kathe would always have a story of an interesting museum or site she’d visited or tour she’d taken. Often she would collect literature for me just in case I was interested in the opportunity. Some of the most memorable things I did in London were a direct result of Kathe’s suggestions, and I’m very appreciative of that. Thursday, she arranged for a number of us to accompany her on a tour to Foster and Partners, a cutting edge design firm, and on Sunday we toured the BBC as a group, which was wonderful. None of this would have happened if she hadn’t been here with us in London.

It’s funny, I remember how genuinely stoked everyone was a few weeks ago when we found out that Kathe and her husband Chuck (he’s awesome, too) would be traveling with us to Paris. No doubt, she’s become an integral part of this group. I will say, and I’m sure you can tell, though I was initially a bit skeptical about the necessity of a staff member on the London trip, the experience has turned my perspective totally around. Kathe was perfect for the role, and honestly I couldn’t imagine having made the excursion with anybody else.

-Lee

Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in London.

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