Experiencing Life in a Whole New Way

Study abroad program gives criminal justice majors new perspectives











It was softly raining, the kind of rain that makes everything around seem peaceful and fresh, as Steiner Houston, a sociology and criminal justice student at Weber State University, and his trip roommate, Tony Graf, Salt Lake County deputy district attorney, walked down a London road that led to Westminster Abbey.

Because of their interest in criminal justice, they sought out the Secret Intelligence Service’s (MI-6) building and attempted to take pictures. Suddenly, an MI-6 security officer popped out of an alcove the duo hadn't noticed. “You’re not allowed to take photos here,” the officer announced. Then, without further explanation, he retreated to his alcove, out of the rain, Steiner recalled.

Bewildered and humored by the randomness, Steiner and Tony continued along the walkway that followed the River Thames, surrounded by historic buildings and museums — an experience they will never forget. “If I had to pick a moment on the trip that made me fall in love with London, it would have to be that evening,” Steiner said.

In May 2017, Houston and Graf, along with a group of students, faculty and community members, explored London during a new study abroad program hosted by the Department of Criminal Justice.

The opportunity, which lasted two weeks, was advised by two criminal justice faculty members: assistant professor Monica Williams and associate professor Bradford Reyns.

“Going abroad provides a new perspective on the world,” Williams said. “Experiencing life in other places leads students to critically examine those parts of everyday life that we take for granted.”

The program led students down centuries-old halls of London courts, through the historical troves of several museums, to meetings with criminal justice professionals such as police officers, lawyers and magistrates, and into the seats of restaurants serving everything from traditional English meals to spicy Bangladeshi dishes.

“There is so much diversity and culture in a place like London,” said Marissa Siegrist, a student in WSU’s Master of Criminal Justice program. “I had never been out of the country before, and this was a great way to start.”

Not only were the study abroad participants exposed to the London culture, they also learned about the components of the city’s criminal justice system.

“This was one of the best educational experiences that I have ever had,” said Houston. “I learned so much in this short, two-week trip, information that I have already been able to apply to my school work.”

Kenneth Rhoton, a Master of Criminal Justice student, agreed.

“[The professors] challenged each person in the class not only to enjoy the culture that we were exposed to, but also to learn about the key aspects [of the region] that have influenced our own society,” he said.

The department plans to host the study abroad trip every other year, with the next opportunity scheduled for the summer of 2019. Reyns suggests students prepare now by saving money and visiting the blog participants created for the trip.

Tori Schaffer, a criminal justice student, is grateful the trip will be available for other students in the future.

“If there was a student thinking about going, I would tell them to just do it,” she said. “I am so glad I did because I felt like I was able to get a better understanding of criminal justice. It’s such an amazing experience.”

The trip is open to both students and community members.

Williams and Reyns believe this kind of opportunity will change lives.

The participants second that opinion. In the words of Gwen Seifert, a recent WSU graduate who attended the trip, “Going abroad gives you the ability to experience life in a whole new way.”

Anyone who is interested in participating in or providing funding for this life-changing opportunity for a student should contact Rebecca Schwartz in the study abroad office.