In this week’s post, we are proud to introduce ACCENT’s new Director of Strategic Academic Development and London Center Director, Matthew Erskine. Matthew is no stranger to ACCENT programs, having collaborated with us on several of our London programs during his tenure with USC. Matthew recently sat down with London Programs Coordinator Steph Bell to discuss his professional background, his long connection with ACCENT, and his love of London and the study abroad experience.
Where are you from?
I was born in Orkney, an archipelago off the northern coast of Scotland, as my Dad was teaching Latin in Kirkwall at the time. We moved down to Bristol, which is in the west of England, when I was 6, and I lived there until I was 18.
Did you have a Scottish accent?
Unfortunately, no, and I never had a Bristolian accent either.
What is your personal study abroad experience?
For my undergraduate degree, I went to the University of Birmingham. I did American and Canadian Studies. I actually picked Birmingham because I knew that I could study at one of the University of California campuses during my third year, as a part of the degree program. I studied at UC Berkeley as a UCEAP reciprocity student, and then after graduating won a direct graduate exchange scholarship for postgraduate study at the University of Kansas. So, there is my first and second ACCENT connection, before I was 25!
So you’re a KU grad?
Yes, I did a master’s degree in American history. I lived in Lawrence for a couple of years and then applied to the University of Southern California for a doctorate as I wanted to return to California. After a couple of years of studies and being a graduate teaching assistant, I was offered a job in student academic advising at USC. Through this role I then became involved with running the USC – Cambridge International Summer School, accompanying the SC students to the UK, then moved to International Programs at the USC Annenberg school where I ran the various ACCENT London programs for USC Annenberg (Communication, Journalism, Public Relations and the summer International Communication Studies program). I became Associate Vice Provost for Global Engagement at USC from 2012 until this summer. I missed working directly with undergrad and graduate students, and that’s what I wanted to get back to with this new role at ACCENT.
What’s your favorite thing about working in study abroad?
Well it’s just that, the students, I know that must sound corny… (we both laugh) I think because I went through it myself, I was telling the Berkeley students that I wouldn’t have had a long international university career in the US had I not studied abroad myself. There are so many things I wouldn’t have had the ability to do; well, I firstly wouldn’t have been at USC to start with, beginning my career in student services and study abroad, and perhaps wouldn’t be here in front of you now. It’s amazing being on the sending side of things, to see how much students grow during that semester or summer overseas, and now, I guess, I get to be part of that change! I’m looking forward to being on the other side of things, as in my role at USC it was so important to me to have strong relationships with our providers, so I’m now going to be able to cultivate those relationships from the other side.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a student studying abroad?
Oh gosh, there is cliché after cliché…I guess remember that your time abroad is finite: it’s so easy to sit on the internet, to Facetime, to be on social media but I doubt that is what any of our students intended for their time abroad! There’s so many things to get involved with: so many free museums, so many interesting areas, street art and parks. Also remember that ACCENT puts on so many activities: trips to museums, and art galleries, we are also running a trip to Kew Gardens this semester so just take advantage of it all!
I think the one thing I would add to that is to look up! That’s something you see lots of, people looking at their devices when there are so many interesting things around them!
Absolutely. And one other thing, Europe is great, but London has so much to offer, make sure you spend time in London and the rest of the UK. Ask for advice and recommendations often!
So, to that end, what is your favorite way to spend a day in London?
Well I am new to London too, so am by no means an expert in the way that the Program Coordinators are, but my family and I went to the Olympic Park and walked and ran around. I think it’s the best way to explore a new area, just pick somewhere and walk around. Whether that be Primrose Hill, the Southbank, Notting Hill, Richmond Park, or just in Central London around Piccadilly Circus and Soho, they are all unique; see what you think about the different areas! Plus, it’s free to walk around.
What’s your favorite secret spot in London?
Well, that would be telling! I’ve found some great little parks and squares around Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia. They are usually bustling with people on their lunch breaks or students reading but it’s great for feeling immersed in the local society and culture.
If you could go back in time and study abroad again, where would you go and what would you study?
Could I just do it all again?! You know what, I have no regrets, I would probably just do it all again, exactly the same.
~Matthew Erskine, ACCENT London