Returning to Roots – The Soton Exchange Program

By Sean Murphy, '13

The 2010 fall semester brought three sophomore students to Southampton, United Kingdom, to participate in the Webb Institute-Southampton University (Soton) exchange program. Doug Zangre, Justin Van Emmerik, and  I were the participants for the third year of the program. The goal of the program is to present students with the opportunity to experience a new academic and social life while being immersed in a setting that encourages individual transformation and growth.  The exchange was invaluable in introducing us to new cultures throughout Europe and teaching us the value of travel.

Our semester began in late September, quite contrary to Webb’s mid-August fall semester kickoff.  We arrived in Southampton and were relieved to find that we were expected at our halls.  An orientation week acclimated us to the setting and the academics, while allowing us to meet first-year students who were also beginning a new experience. The Soton “Ship Science” program, as naval architecture is known in the Old World’s academic program, is led by a great faculty who were supportive in helping us to organize our class schedule and to learn course material.  Dr. D. A. Hudson, who is the coordinator on the Soton side of the exchange, was particularly helpful during our time in Southampton.

Our schedule was comparable to Webb’s, with a mixture of second and first-year courses that satisfied Webb’s fall semester requirements.  The academic organization in England is different from that here, with major emphasis on the final exam as opposed to coursework and tests.  The grading system was a bit of a shock as well, as a 70% receives about the same merit as a 90% here.

Aside from academics, we found ample opportunity for travel around England and Europe.  The long winter break allowed Doug and me to travel around Spain, France, and Italy; Justin met us in France, then parted ways to stay with his family in Munich, Germany, for New Years.  All of our travels have left us with reverence and affection for the amazing architecture and people we met along the way.

Overall, it was an honor to take part in the experience, and we all hope that the program continues to be offered for future Webb students.  We are also happy to note that three students from Southampton are currently at Webb, officially making this an exchange program.  Marion James from France, Ruth Taylor from the U.K., and Elie Amar from New Caledonia are taking courses with the Webb seniors and juniors and are looking forward to an excellent semester.