Barry McNamara  |  Published February 07, 2022

Senior Profile: Julia Oakson

Goldsborough Scholar grateful that delayed dream of studying abroad was realized in Scotland.

JULIA OAKSON: During her fall semester in Scotland, she traveled to the Isle of Skye, posing by t... JULIA OAKSON: During her fall semester in Scotland, she traveled to the Isle of Skye, posing by the Quiraing landslip.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Senior Julia Oakson has enjoyed and benefited from her time at Monmouth College, but the Goldsborough Scholar has also been keenly aware throughout her time as a student that there’s a big world out there waiting to be explored.

That feeling only deepened during Oakson’s time abroad last fall, when she spent a semester studying at the University of Stirling in Scotland, along with her college roommate, Ady Eastburg of Galesburg, Illinois, and another senior, Taylor Balsitis of Lombard, Illinois.

“I was originally going to go to Europe as part of a short-term course in May of 2020,” said Oakson, who came to Monmouth from St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Illinois.

The early days of the pandemic nixed her plans for Europe, and COVID also ruled out a semester abroad during her junior year, the time that many students select for such an experience. She and her classmates pinned their hopes on the College’s partnership with Stirling, and they spent an anxious few months in the middle of 2021 tracking COVID in the United Kingdom.

“The cases were high while we watched developments over the summer,” said Oakson. “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, are we still going to be able to go?’ But the way it worked out, we were able to go in between the delta and omicron variants.”

LOCH NESS: In the background of this photo of Julia Oakson is one of Scotland's most popular ... LOCH NESS: In the background of this photo of Julia Oakson is one of Scotland's most popular tourist destinations.Loch Ness and Fairy Pools

Finally, the trio received word they’d be able to travel, and they were in Scotland from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15. The pandemic still had an effect on their time abroad, as classes at Stirling were mainly online. The silver lining to that cloud was more unscheduled time.

“The lectures for my classes were recorded,” said Oakson, who took courses in media and marketing and attended seminars that met in person once a week. “It’s not the traditional university experience we would’ve had before the pandemic, but it really allowed us time to travel.”

Among the highlights she saw in Scotland were Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye’s Fairy Pools and Quiraing landslip, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

“Everyone goes there,” she said of the Fairy Pools, which feature multiple blue and green waterfalls with cold, swimmable pools. “It’s one of those places that was on a list of ‘off-the-beaten-path’ type places, and now everyone knows about it.”

Oakson said Stirling’s location is roughly equidistant from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, making it possible for frequent visits to both cities. In November, Glasgow hosted the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference, so Oakson was able to experience part of that, as well, observing some of the related protests. She also left the country to visit London and Dublin.

“I’ve loved my time at Monmouth, but it’s small,” she said. “I know there’s a lot out there, and I want to see it.”

A public relations major, Oakson said being gone for the first half of her senior year has put her behind on her job search.

“It was pretty great. I feel really accomplished now that I’ve been.” Julia Oakson

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Oakson, when asked about her post-college plans. “I’m looking into doing marketing, or copywriting, or digital media – things like that.”

She has interned for Prairie Communications in downtown Monmouth and this semester is doing design work and marketing for the College’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research.

“It was pretty great,” said Oakson of finally realizing her goal to be abroad. “I feel really accomplished now that I’ve been.”

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