In the fall of 2002, two students formed a friendship at the University of Maine that would last a lifetime. Lauren Mallon, an undergraduate student at Lancaster University in England, came to Maine for a year to study abroad as part of her American studies degree. Sarah Tadman, an environmental sciences student at University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, also chose to study abroad at UMaine for a year. Last week, Mallon and Tadman reunited in Orono with each other and some of the American friends they made during their time here.
“We didn’t know each other until the second day of the orientation” Tadman shared. According to Tadman and Mallon, exchange students from the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as some of the local American students formed a very tight-knit group of friends.
“I can understand first-hand how natural it is, to be drawn to people who share something in common,” Mallon said.
“I told myself to be brave and embrace American friends, but it didn’t happen instantly so I stuck with my group,” Tadman added.
“Us having each other was kind of like replacing the family,” Mallon said.
Tadman and Mallon shared that, unlike today, there was no Skype, FaceTime or even cell phones they could use to communicate with their families.
When asked about their fondest memories of their time at UMaine, Tadman remembered Coffee Hours and Oronoka dance parties hosted by International Student Association.
“I liked the opportunity to meet other international students, because it made me feel accepted as an international student myself,” Tadman said.
Mallon’s fondest memories were of the UMaine hockey games. “It was the best sporting atmosphere I have ever experienced,” Mallon said.
In 2010, Mallon took her husband to see the Washington Capitals ice hockey game in Washington, D.C. “I kept saying that he’d love it, but it wasn’t the same as it was at UMaine.”
Both Tadman and Mallon chose UMaine for the community living experience, rather than a big city experience. When they were walking around the Orono neighborhood last Saturday, they noticed that some people did not take down the Christmas decorations. “I love how relaxed it is here, no pretense,” Mallon said.
“Studying here was an opportunity to have a more relaxed time,” Mallon said. “I have a postcard that says “trapped in Maine” and I think it’s quite good to get trapped here. UMaine is something big inside something small,” Mallon added.
The friends shared that if they had a chance, they would repeat their study abroad experience at UMaine all over again. “I would stay for longer, I was devastated when I was leaving, even cried on the airplane, because I knew it was an end of the era. We knew we weren’t going to meet the same people again,” Tadman said.
Despite that, the friends managed to keep in touch. Both of them regularly plan to meet in London.
“A study abroad experience opens your mind, and you can learn a lot from different people, it’s worth taking a risk,” Mallon said. “The world is becoming a lot more global, and if you want a good job you are expected to have a global experience. A degree with a study abroad experience is what can set you apart.”