Published on February 23, 2024  
art students at National Gallery

In an incredible journey of learning and exploration, art professor Larry Thompson led 19 Samford University students across the pond to the heart of London in fall 2023. This initiative was part of Samford Abroad portfolio's flagship program, hosted in the Daniel House. The experience offered a unique blend of academics, cultural immersion and personal growth.

As part of the program, Thompson guided the students through photography lessons in the bustling streets of London. The city, with its blend of historic architecture and modern structures, served as a perfect canvas for the students to hone their photography skills. Under Thompson's guidance, they learned to capture the essence of the city, interpreting its beauty through their lenses.

photography assignment in LondonThompson gave the photography class engaging prompts to stimulate their creativity. In one assignment, students were tasked with photographing individual objects resembling letters, then using the letters to spell out their names. Another assignment involved capturing varying perspectives of a chosen subject: a close-up, a distant view and a shot combining both. These diverse tasks kept the students engaged, encouraged them to think creatively and from varying viewpoints and ultimately helped them perceive their surroundings in a whole new light.

art students at Daniel HouseDuring their stay, Thompson and the students undertook a creative project—transforming the living room space in the Daniel House into a recreation of a London tube. The team designed the space with a green tile backsplash and a replica of a tube logo, featuring "Daniel House" in the middle of the infamous red circle. This project fostered teamwork and creativity, and it allowed them to leave a permanent mark for future students to experience.

“I loved how well-rounded the trip was,” said Madeline Schaeffer, senior graphic design major. “One thing I appreciated was the balance of working hard and being able to explore and create a London that was our own. And our community at the Daniel House was amazing. Everyone was really good friends, and by the end of it, we became family.”

four art students in LondonThe students were also assigned internships during their time abroad at various agencies and businesses to give them the opportunity to learn hands-on in a professional setting, to step beyond the classroom. Schaeffer and her classmate, Anne Elise Cairns, were assigned to an event design agency specializing in graphic design and motion graphics.

“As a senior, it was really important to have the opportunity to intern and explore a professional setting,” said Schaeffer. “The biggest thing I learned from the internship was how important your work community is and the people you surround yourself with.”

inside the National GalleryBeyond academics, the London trip offered the students a chance to immerse themselves in a new and unfamiliar culture. They learned about art theory, interacted with locals and experienced the London lifestyle firsthand. From navigating the busy streets to savoring local cuisine, every experience contributed to their personal growth.

“I learned was how small I am in the world, and not in a bad way,” said Schaeffer. “I am a tiny piece of the bigger puzzle of life. Though I may be a small piece, I am an important piece. It's easy to go through life on autopilot, but so many opportunities present themselves when you step outside of your immediate bubble. In London, every day was a new day. You could walk outside and see artwork in the street and see people walking around who are in different parts of their lives, from different backgrounds and cultures, and it just gives you a whole new perspective.”

When returning to the states, professor Thompson expressed his gratitude to Samford University for giving him the opportunity to lead the students abroad.

"Being able to reconnect with students on such a profound level was soul-saving," said Thompson.

For both Thompson and the students, the semester abroad was more than just an overseas trip. It was a journey of discovery, connection and personal growth that will remain with them for a lifetime.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.