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New College student, Sophie Kitching, recently returned from the USA where she represented the UK on the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship Summer Institute. This prestigious 4 week study exchange programme for young people from across Europe and the US was sponsored by the US Department of State and held on the campus of Purdue University, Indiana. As part of the programme, she had the opportunity to attend lectures on subjects ranging from the US Constitution to the importance of cross-cultural communication, alongside trips to Chicago and Washington DC. The scheme also offered a mentor programme and personal development workshops, aimed at developing the participants as leaders of the future.

 Sophie said, “It was a fantastic experience from beginning to end: fun, thought-provoking, and intellectually challenging. While the lectures and workshops were certainly interesting, what really made the experience so special was the unique chance to be able to form friendships with like-minded young people from so many different countries and cultures. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to describe my time in the US as life-changing – the connections I made, ideas I encountered and skills I learned there will stay with me for life. I’m really looking forward to developing my follow-on social action project here in Swindon!”

 She accessed this opportunity after success at the Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at the US Embassy in London, alongside fellow student and debater Edmund Dadge. After careful preparation alongside the rest of the Debate Society, they took home the titles of the best team and individual winner and runner-up respectively. Sophie explained, “Before I started at New College, I’d never debated before and couldn’t have imagined speaking in front of a room full of people. I’m so grateful for the amazing support I received that allowed me to benefit from this opportunity – both directly through the Debate Society (the highlight of my college week!) and also from all the excellent academic teaching staff.”

 Connie Roach, New College Lecturer and Debating Society Lead, said, “We are proud of what we do as a college to support our students, not only to help them get the best exam grades they can but also in developing their wider skills and enabling them to access other opportunities such as this”.