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2/12/2013 4:45:00 PM
Blythe student fulfills dream of studying in England
Shiloh Whitson stands outside Buckingham Palace in London. Whitson spent three months studying in England between September and December.
Shiloh Whitson stands outside Buckingham Palace in London. Whitson spent three months studying in England between September and December.
The village of Handsacre in Staffordshire, England.
The village of Handsacre in Staffordshire, England.

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - For some of us, getting out of town means a trip to the Coachella Valley or Phoenix. For 17-year-old Shiloh Whitson, a Palo Verde High School junior, it meant a three-month stay in England.

As part of the Study Abroad UK student exchange program, Whitson, who has dreamed of visiting England since the 4th grade, stayed in the village of Handsacre in Staffordshire, north of the city of Lichfield, from Sept. 14 to Dec. 15 of last year.

"It was cold and foggy and it really rained a lot," she said about the area she stayed. But she was thrilled to be able to trade the Blythe sunshine for the cloudy skies of England.

Whitson would catch a bus for a 15-minute ride to Nether Stowe High School in Lichfield, a math and computing school where she took classes in geography, math and English. The host family she stayed with consisted of a single mom, Beverly Grineyles and her 21-year-old son, Joe, a musician. Joe's girlfriend, Rebecca, became a best friend to Whitson while she was there.

While most of her time was spent in the small village and in Lichfield, she did have the opportunity to travel to Wales, where she visited a small town and tasted real Welsh ice cream. She was also able to make the two-hour train ride to London for a day with her friends during her last week there. They went to a football (soccer) game, watching Villa take on Manchester United.

"That was the best part to me," she said.

They also visited Warwick Castle, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben while in London.

For Thanksgiving, which isn't celebrated in England, Whitson was able to enjoy a holiday dinner with a group of Americans at a restaurant, where the waitress wished them a "Happy Thanksgiving" written on their bill.

"I always wanted to see the culture and hear the accents," Whitson said. "They do speak English just like us but they are so much different: their way of saying things, the slang and the way they dress and talk."

She said they drink tea all the time and call French fries chips; dinner tea, cookies biscuits and they "drive on the wrong side of the road."

Whitson made friends at school with other Americans who were part of the program and attended the same school as her: one from Utah, another from New Mexico and a third from Indiana. No one had a car so to get around she would have to take the bus or call a taxi. Trips into Lichfield had to be worked around the bus schedule.

In the village she would hang out with friends playing Xbox's Just Dance and watching UK XFactor, which she said is better than the American version.

The stores were all different than in the States, though they did have a McDonald's and a store similar to Wal-Mart, ASDA

"Money was called pounds and their cents pence," she said.

Overall, she said that the trip was an eye-opener for her in that she was able to experience so much while abroad.

"I want to go back tomorrow," she said. "It was so awesome. I didn't expect it to be so different."

Whitson had to raise more than $6,000 for the trip and was helped by many folks in Blythe who contributed. Her uncle, Rick Downs, held a raffle BBQ at B&B Bait with a $1,000 Yellow Mart gift certificate as the winning prize.

I really want to thank the community for their donations," she said.

"Without Rick Downes, this would not have been possible," said her mother, Erin Whitson. "He really stepped up."

Shiloh Whitson said she has been invited to go on holiday with friends in England next summer and she has made it a goal to get back there.

"There's so much more out there to see and experience," she said. "I feel like I have friends for a lifetime that I'll always keep in touch with it with. It will always be a great memory and I hope to relive it someday. You don't realize that that is over there and it exists and that it's within reach."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Article comment by: Tyler McMillin

This story of Shiloh Whitson's goal helped inspire me. There is a project I want to setup in town, in which the city had initiated but didn't care on further. Because it involves on a railroad track, I really need to maintain and preserve it, because it's historical. The story's inclusion of accomplishment tells me to not give up cleaning the track.

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Town

Keep reaching for the stars Shiloh! How exciting and fun for you to get to experience other cultures. That will go a long way in your life and help you to see the difference in people is what makes us all the same. The fact that you worked for this and it wasn't handed to you makes it that much more special. You are a wonderful role model for the young kids in our town! Thank you PVVT for showcasing this young woman.

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Article comment by: Kelsey Gonzalez

I'm so proud of you cousin! This was a once in a lifetime experience & I'm glad it was a life changing one for you. I love you! Xoxo...

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