Many students make the decision to study abroad during their undergraduate years in college. Unlike her peers traveling to different countries, Breanna Steggell, junior international relations major, moved back to her hometown in Utah to study abroad at Westminster College.
Steggell is a Salt Lake City native and attends Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Steggell said many students attending Sarah Lawrence chose to study abroad their junior year. Since her mother Annalisa Holcombe is the chief advancement officer at Westminster, Steggell decided to study abroad at the very campus she grew up at visiting.
Holcombe said she was a single mom when Steggell was young and would often bring her daughter to work with her. She said she’s grateful her daughter could be exposed to the community of Westminster and the idea of preparing for college at an early age.
“I would joke, but I mean it sincerely, that I had the privilege of raising my daughter in the Westminster neighborhood,” Holcombe said. “Not only could she see herself in college, but she literally saw herself in college.”
Steggell said she’s grateful for the opportunities available for her at Westminster and sat down with The Forum to talk about her time on campus. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: Can you elaborate on your time on Westminster’s campus as a child?
A: [My mom] would have to bring me to work. I would sit in a different room while she was [in meetings]. There’s the conference room in the library, it has a little kitchenette off the side of it, I would spend hours in there pretending to be a cook. A lot of times she would spend late nights at the office and she would bring me too and I’d be doing cartwheels in the middle of the night in Bamberger [Hall].
Q: Did being on Westminster’s campus at a young age change your view of college?
A: It was probably hard for my mom but it was really fun for me. I got to know a lot of people that work on the campus and a bunch of the administration and professors. I was able to have kind of an idea of what college life [is] like in some sense. I wasn’t a college student, but I saw college students around me all of the time. I saw what it’s like to be on a campus and it got me from a really young age, like 6 or 7 years old, really excited to go to college.
Q: You’re only at Westminster for your junior year, where did you begin your undergraduate education?
A: Sarah Lawrence College is where I go. It’s in Bronxville, New York, right outside of New York City. I started there my freshman year, went there sophomore year, this year I’m here [at Westminster] and then I go back for my senior year.
Q: Why did you choose to study abroad at Westminster?
A: [At] Sarah Lawrence, it’s kind of part of the campus culture, not required but it’s almost expected that [students] go abroad for their junior year. So, I have been thinking about what I wanted to do for my junior year for a while now and I thought it would just be nice to experience a different college campus and one that I’m really familiar with cause I grew up here.
So, I’ve decided to come back and it’s been really nice, I’ve been able to readjust to Utah life cause New York life is very different. I’m able to have a car here and spend more time with my family. I kind of viewed this, not as my last opportunity, but one of the last for […] the next few years, [that] I’ll be able to be in Salt Lake City for an extended period of time; not just a week at Christmas or something.
A lot of factors went into my decision but I’m really glad I’m here for the year. It’s like the perfect amount of time and I’ve been able to make a lot of connections. I don’t just have my Sarah Lawrence friends, now I have Westminster friends too.
Q: What is different about being on Westminster’s campus as an actual student?
A: Coming back to the campus as a student has been really fun and interesting. It’s sort of made me appreciate the campus even more because I have a formal role here, so I’m more integrated into the campus than when I was a kid.
It’s nice to just be able to come back onto campus and kind of know my way around because I’ve been here [before] and have these sort of anecdotal stories about campus. That makes me feel connected to where I am; being able to see so many people I had met as a kid and see them on a regular basis. It’s nice and kind of funny.
Q: Do you have any involvements or experiences at Westminster that have affected your time here?
A: Something that stands out to me as an experience at Westminster that I don’t think I’d be able to have at Sarah Lawrence or any other college is [the Alumni Mentoring Program (AMP)]; which I had seen my mom develop over the years. It’s a year-long program where you get paired with a mentor who is an alum in your career field. I’ve been able to connect with a Westminster alum who works with refugees in Salt Lake City and she’s given me so much advice about how to start [my] career and the nuances of working in that type of field which is [what] want to go into eventually. It’s given me networking experiences and also just a friend. I mean you’re a whole person and they’re a whole person too, not just their career and I think that’s really reflective of Westminster.
Q: As you’re nearing the end of your study abroad, what has been most valuable about your experience?
A: It’s been really nice to have that sense of community because sometimes it’s really hard to make new friends [as a transfer upperclassman], a lot of people already have their group of friends. But I’ve found that at Westminster everyone’s really open and ready to get to know you and I think that my alumni mentoring group is a really good example of that. We’ve created really good relationships and I hope that in the future we’ll be able to keep them up and I think we will.