The perfect graduate school program can be just down the road, or, in Sarajane Armstrong’s case, just across the ocean.
After graduating from Lyon College with a degree in elementary education in 2018, Armstrong completed her first year of teaching and started to look into master’s programs. She was not sure what she wanted to study.
“When I couldn’t find a major I liked in the states, I decided to search abroad,” she said.
Armstrong finally found the M.Ed. in children’s literature and literacies at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The program appealed to her because her favorite course at Lyon had been children’s literature, and she had developed a love of traveling on her Nichols Trip to London and Oxford.
“I got my first taste of life abroad, and I was hooked,” she said, laughing. “It was just a plus that I would end up in the United Kingdom again.”
Living abroad for graduate school was a stressful decision.
“I am very close with my family and didn’t want to leave them,” Armstrong said, “but I knew that if I didn’t come here I would regret it.”
The process required a lot of research and planning to get everything in order, such as her travel visa and international health insurance. She received support from her friend Laura Spell, ’17, who studied abroad at Durham University in England, and Assistant Professor of Elementary Education Karin Brown.
“They both gave me great advice and encouragement through my application process. [Brown] always told me I can do anything I set my mind to.”
The stress was all worth it once she arrived in Glasgow.
“The atmosphere is similar to Lyon,” Armstrong said. “My professors are really nice and always there to answer questions.”
The children’s literature program allows her to set her own study schedule. There are tasks to complete, but none of the work is graded.
“It gives me a lot of room to focus on learning rather than worrying about finishing a bunch of graded assignments throughout the term.”
One of her favorite spots on campus is the library of children’s books in the St. Andrew’s Building.
“It’s very hidden away and cozy. There is a wall of windows where you can look out as you read. It’s a pretty magical place!”
Living in a new country has also been exciting for Armstrong. Going from small towns to the big city of Glasgow was an adjustment, but the community has been very welcoming.
“The saying here is ‘People make Glasgow.’ It reminds me a lot of Arkansas in that regard. I haven’t really felt the culture shock that people talk about.”
She has enjoyed exploring her new home and making friends from all over the world. The city center has shops with kilts and bagpipers on the street that remind her of Lyon, and she gets to walk through the beautiful Kelvingrove Park on her way to class each morning.
“I still haven’t gotten used to it. I hope it never gets old,” she said.
Though she hasn’t decided on a career yet, Armstrong’s major will allow her to pursue work in education, publishing, or library services.
She is paying her experience forward by being an e-mentor for her master’s program.
“It’s a platform for students to showcase their lives at university for people who may be interested in the programs we study. I’ve created a public Instagram and Twitter, and I post about the books I’m reading for my course as well as pictures from my travels.”
She advises other students thinking about studying abroad to research programs thoroughly and apply early.
“Don’t wait until you decide that you definitely want to go,” Armstrong said. “And always reach out to someone who has gone through the process if you’re unsure of something.”