December 16, 2017

Harry Potter influences student’s decision to study abroad

Webster University alumna and Admissions Representative Emily Griffin’s decision to study abroad in London was influenced by not only the lifestyle similarities, but also by Harry Potter.  Harry Potter became a crucial piece of Griffin’s childhood, and studying abroad gave her the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream – meet an actor from her all-time favorite film.

A wizarding world

An avid Harry Potter fan, Griffin, 24, chose London at Regent’s University as her home campus. Griffin believed London was the best place for her to begin, since it was an English speaking country with a similar lifestyle to the United States.

Not to mention, London is the home of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.

Griffin said one of her best, most “magical” memories from the trip was the tour of the Harry Potter Studio.  Before she left, Griffin told her mom no matter what, she was going to get a picture with an actor from the Harry Potter films.

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Alumna Emily Griffin (left) takes a photo with Rupert Grint (right), who played Ron in the Harry Potter films. EMILY GRIFFIN / Contributed Photo

“If you know Emily, Harry Potter is a major component in her life,” Griffin’s mother, Barb Griffin, said. “When she told me she was going to find him, I laughed. But, the joke was on me.”

Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the films, was performing in a production of Mojo in London’s theater district, The West End, during Griffin’s trip.  She decided to buy tickets to the show, but after, officials said the stars would not be coming out for pictures. Grifin remembered her goal to meet Grint and came back the next night.

After standing in the rain outside the stage door for three hours, her dream finally came true.

“I basically stalked him until I could get a picture with him,” Griffin said. “It’s one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken.”

An experience abroad 

Griffin graduated from Webster University in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations.

As part of her job in the Admissions Department, Griffin has the opportunity to travel and speak to students all about Webster University, but the one thing she praises the most – the study abroad program.

According to the Webster Study Abroad Office, 20 percent of undergraduate students (around 600 students) study abroad by the time they graduate. Griffin was part of that group.

“It was half of the reason I chose Webster,” Griffin said. “My main goal was to study abroad no matter what school I went to, but Webster had a fabulous, fabulous study abroad program.”

Studying abroad gave Griffin the ability to see sites she never imagined like Ancient Greece, Rome and Paris.

“Going to Athens and seeing what is left of Ancient Greece was one of those things I never thought I’d be able to see,” Griffin said. “Even talking about it, I’m getting the feeling in my eyes like I’m going to cry. It was truly incredible.”

For Griffin, however, it was not all fun and games. She said if she could go back and do one thing over, it would be to budget more appropriately. This is also the tip she would give to prospective study abroad students.

“I came back to the United States with no money,” Griffin said. “I think that if I would have paid a little more attention to conversion rates and charging my credit card, I think it would have helped me come back and know I’m stable.

After Griffin’s trip, her mother noticed a major change in Griffin – she gained independence.

“She became much more independent and looked at the world from a broader perspective,” Barb said. “She saw places and things most people will never get the opportunity to see.”

Griffin also reflected about how studying abroad aided her search for jobs.  Griffin explained while her job does not involve studying abroad, interviewers saw her trip on her resume and always brought it up in conversation.

“It [studying abroad] was something, in my opinion, that set me apart from everyone else when I was applying for jobs,” Griffin said. “Studying abroad was something I needed to grow.”

Looking back on her trip, Griffin remembered all the incredible places and the amazing people she met, but even with all the memories, Griffin often finds herself unable to find words to express her experience.

“It truly leaves me speechless because there are so many different words and emotions to describe it,” Griffin said. “It’s the best thing you can do.”

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