After being surrounded by hundreds of other dancers as they performed during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics last summer, Mary-Elizabeth Carter White ’90 found herself considering the path that brought her to that international stage.
“It’s just little ol’ me from Roanoke, Virginia,” she kept telling herself.
The once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Olympics would never have happened if she had not taken advantage of the College’s World in Britain program at the University of Reading. While studying in England, White met the man who would become her husband, putting her on course to move to England after graduation.
“The Reading program is what I hold most dear and life changing,” said White, who majored in economics and studied dance.
The kinds of experiences White and so many other alumnae and alumni have garnered from the study abroad opportunity in Reading, England, during its 45-year history have prompted one alumna, Rebecca Jarvis ’65, to make a planned gift that will provide funding for the program.
Jarvis, who has never even been to the Reading site, made the commitment because she wanted Randolph students to be able to have valuable study abroad experiences. Her own life was enriched by world travel to China, Europe, Africa, and South America. The gift allows her to support a program she believes makes a real difference in students’ lives.
“This kind of education supports a more wide-ranging thought process that makes people more curious about the world,” she said. “So many people think there is only one way to think. You need to look at different viewpoints and evaluate where other people are coming from.”
The World in Britain program allows students to study at the University of Reading for either one semester or a full academic year. Randolph students live together in college-owned houses not far from the university. When not in class, they travel throughout Great Britain to learn about the culture and history of the British Isles. Many students also incorporate travel to other parts of Europe.
White, who also has included the World in Britain in her own estate plans, was thrilled to hear of Jarvis’ plan to endow the program. So was Kelley Swain ’07, another alumna whose life was immeasurably changed by studying in England.
Inspired by a “Darwin in Poetry” class at Reading, Swain wrote a book of poetry titled Darwin’s Microscope, which was published in 2009. She now lives in England, writing and teaching about the history of science.
“To know that future generations of students can count on traveling from the beautiful, close-knit environment within the Red Brick Wall to the historic wealth of London and Oxford is a heartening reassurance,” Swain said. “I hope many more students take advantage of the outstanding opportunity offered by the Reading program.”