Six Months and 13 Countries Later, Fuston Returns


Photo provided by Chelsea Fuston

Chelsea Fuston and her friends enjoyed Swansea Beach in early May during a going away party and bonfire.

Emily Loughridge, Editor-in-Chief

After applying for the Brad Henry Scholars program and being selected as one of eight students, Chelsea Fuston, a junior Multidisciplinary Studies major, packed her bags and spent almost six months abroad. Her trip to Wales began in late January and wrapped up in mid-June. While abroad, Fuston connected with those around her, traveled to 13 unique countries, and completed a half marathon.

Fuston continued her education through the program at Swansea University in Wales, where she took three classes, including Media Law, American Politics and Society, and Cinema in a World Context.

Fuston’s favorite class – Media Law – focused on UK’s media law and comparing it to the world at large, with topics including censorship, copyright, child pornography, and defamation. She said she enjoyed the class because of the details of how laws are written and applied. Her cinema class looked at the nature of movies away from Western Hollywood. Finally, her American Politics class watched news clips and SNL skits, in which her classmates laughed at equally according to Fuston.

“It was interesting to get an international perspective on things I lived through, but they failed to realize that real people were affected at the things they laughed at in our class,” Fuston said.

Fuston was forced to take a break from working while abroad which she said made her schedule much more relaxed. A daily routine developed for Fuston, who said her mornings began around 8 a.m. with a light breakfast before going on her run by the beach. Before being accepted into the program, Fuston planned to run in the Oklahoma City half marathon, but changed her plans due to conflicting dates. Instead, Fuston trained and ran for a half marathon in Wales. In the afternoon, she attended classes, worked out details for her never-ending travel plans, and then headed back home for the evening.

“At the beginning of the week, I would search for the cheapest plane ticket from nearby airports and book those. I didn’t go to Wales with a prescribed list of things I wanted to see, instead I just went with the flow of things,” Fuston said. “For a couple of trips, my friends were really excited to visit specific countries, so they planned everything, and I just followed along.”

While in the program, Fuston visited 13 unique counties, including Wales, England, Portugal, Poland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Monaco, France, Morocco, Ireland, and Croatia. She explained that her spring break lasted three weeks and in that time she visited five countries.

“I had one backpack with me, and we hit the road,” Fuston said. “We flew to Germany, took a bus to Belgium, plane to France, train to Spain, bus back to France, bus to Monaco, then met up with my mom in Paris at the end of the break.”

In mid-May, Fuston surprised a few of her USAO classmates when she met then in Dublin, Ireland while they were on their study abroad trip, which was led by Dr. Jeannette Loutsch. Another adventure included driving ATVs in the dessert of Morocco.

An adventure closer to home happened when Fuston and her six roommates crammed into their kitchen for “Pancake Day.” Her roommates included two other Oklahomans, a Texan, a Canadian, and two English ladies who lived in university housing called Hendrefoilan Student Village (HSV).

“I distinctly remember all of us cramming into our kitchen for ‘Pancake Day’ and being disappointed in the English’s definition of a pancake,” Fuston said, as she explained their pancakes are similar to crepes. “So, we made them American style pancakes, and I think they ended up liking ours better.”

Fuston and her roommates are the last generation of students to live in the dorms, as they were sold to a nearby housing development. She commented that it was nice to live with several other students from the States because they could share their homesick feelings.

An obvious answer of what Fuston missed most was her family. She said she longed to joke around on the couch with them. Other items that might not readily come to mind were air-conditioning, fast-food breakfast burritos, streaming services, and driving one’s own car.

“The worst part was battling the homesickness. You try to maintain perspective and realize that no one gets opportunities like this, so you don’t waste it by being sad. On the other hand, I missed my family and friends such an incredible amount,” Fuston said.

Technology certainly worked in Fuston’s favor; however, the time change was a major obstacle as Fuston was six hours ahead of her family. A limited window emerged for Fuston to be able to communicate with her family and partner – Fuston’s dinner time and Oklahoma’s lunch time.

Even though the time change was an obstacle, Fuston still tried to keep up with USAO. She said she read her USAO email as frequently as her Swansea one. Even though she was an ocean away, Fuston still voted in the SGA election, hopped on club Zoom calls, and asked questions at the SGA Townhall. She got a chuckle out of replying to GroupMe messages and comment that she sadly could not attend on-campus events.

As Fuston returns to the States and USAO in the fall, she said it is so cliché to be that person who comes back from this style of trip “changed,” but she said she feels like she has grown.

“I think that my problem-solving skills have sharpened. You run into a situation when traveling – especially where you don’t speak the language – and you realize that it’s on you and you alone to get out of it,” Fuston said.

She continued to explain that there was a situation where her friend had to read Google translate off her phone to call a cab to catch their bus from Spain to France. Another situation arose when Fuston missed her train from London to Swansea, due to a delayed flight, and she couldn’t afford another ticket. The entire experience, she said, reminder her that everything is going to work out – even though it feels like it won’t.

A point of accomplishment for Fuston was when she completed her half marathon in Wales on her last day in Wales. She said she did not walk one step of the entire 13.1 miles. As soon as she crossed the finish line, she gathered her things and made her way to the airport to head back home after months of living abroad.


Emily Loughridge is a third-year Communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.