A Summer Abroad: Online Gators Study Microbiology in the United Kingdom

Microbiology Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an opportunity to enhance perspectives on foreign cultures while experiencing unique lessons outside of a traditional classroom environment.

Several students of Dr. Monika Oli’s Medicine, Microbiology, and Health course embarked on a 21-day excursion across the United Kingdom. Below, we highlight the experiences of three UF Online microbiology and cell science students, Alicia, Ryan, and Sophia, who were able to take the international trip to study with Dr. Oli.


Ryan Miller of Melbourne, Florida, became interested in going abroad after enrolling in a course with Dr. Oli as a high school senior in 2020. “I took a dual enrollment course with Dr. Oli called Microbes Without Borders. She talked extensively about the trip. Flash forward about a year and a half to when I became a UF student, and the opportunity arose. I thought it’d be a great way to learn about how microbiology works around other parts of the world,” said Ryan.

Traveling to English-speaking countries removed the struggles often presented by language barriers, but broadening Ryan’s international horizons still came with a few cultural hiccups. “The formalities were very different. People would often say ‘cheers’ and there’s no tipping your wait staff. I didn’t realize that, and on my first day I tried to leave a tip at a restaurant. It was my first real oops while abroad,” said Ryan when describing the transition.

Alicia Evans of Middletown, New Jersey, experienced Europe in a new light as a repeat visitor. The flexibility of online education allowed Alicia to join her classmates in the U.K. by traveling directly from her home state of New Jersey. “This was my third time abroad. I’ve actually been to Edinburgh, and it’s one of my favorite places, so that was a draw towards the trip for me,” described Alicia.

In addition to revisiting Edinburgh, there were plenty of other incentives for Alicia to study internationally. “This trip wasn’t just visiting one major city like London. We got to see Scotland and educational cities like Oxford and Cambridge. I particularly loved Oxford and Cambridge because I’ve read so many books written by authors who went to school there, so the history aspect was just amazing. The fact that there was a really good mix of science, culture, and history was probably the best part for me,” said Alicia on her latest international venture.

“As a broad overview, one of my favorite things was just being on the trip with UF. As an online student, sometimes you feel distant being away from campus and without the actual face-to-face interactions of a traditional college experience. It was nice getting to meet my peers.” -- Ryan Miller, 19, Microbiology and Cell Science


As any seasoned adventurer might tell you, time flies when you travel internationally. Throughout the 21-days spent overseas, Dr. Oli blended microbiology-related lessons with plenty of free time for students to explore and take in new cultural sights. From bunking in communal hostels to riding the historic London Underground, students were able to absorb some of the unique offerings of England and Scotland.

“In Edinburgh we visited a place called the Edinburgh Fermentarium. This lady has a shop where she makes fermented food and beverages like kombucha and kimchi. We learned all about how she made these items while huddled around her small table watching her mix ingredients and explain the fermentation process in detail. Then we got a tasting. We were able to see how something fermented for 30 days can taste one way, but if you take that same item and ferment it for 60 days, it now tastes like something completely different,” said Ryan when speaking on some of his favorite international experiences.

Sophia John of Miami, Florida, also mentioned how traveling internationally puts into perspective just how young the United States is as a country. In recalling some of her favorite experiences abroad, she said, “The hikes to Arthur’s Seat and the Devil’s Staircase, and visiting the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine were definite pluses for me. I can go on and on, but the experience of being somewhere with so much history! It was amusing when our tour guide would give us dates and I’d realize America wasn’t even a thought when some of these events took place. I was really looking forward to Stonehenge, and when we got there it was roped off and much smaller than I expected. Not that it wasn’t impressive,” said Sophia when speaking on the world-famous prehistoric monument with origins dating back over 5,000 years.

“You should have seen me at the Stonehenge gift shop, I had to be dragged out of there,” exclaimed Ryan on his experience. When touching on the historical aspect, he also added, “We’d be walking around and a tour guide would casually mention in passing, ‘That building over there is from the early 1400’s,’ and your reaction is just in awe. That’s over 300 years before my country was even founded. It really puts into perspective just how historical a lot of things in Europe are.” When relating his lessons to the subject of microbiology, Ryan said, “There’s been a lot of progress in the medical field. Things like the discovery of penicillin and some of the first successful surgeries ever performed took place in England and Scotland, and you just never really take the time to sit and think about that.”

“I would say we had a lot of free time, but not much down time. Every minute of the trip was packed with something interesting and there was never a dull moment.” -- Alicia Evans, 37, Microbiology and Cell Science


UF’s study abroad offerings meant Dr. Oli’s microbiology students could engage with all kinds of educated minds while traveling internationally to the United Kingdom. “We went to a lot of presentations by researchers and attended some panels. We even got to have informal discussions with grad students. Some were local, some were international from other parts of Europe, others were American like me. It was really amazing to see the different options there are for studying internationally in a longer term, or even for grad school. It’s something that caught my eye and definitely gave me something to think about,” said Alicia.

Touching on what led these three students to studying abroad, each had insight on why they chose to take advantage of the opportunity.

Ryan’s journey gave him an expansive look at microbiology and cell science. “I took that dual enrollment course with Dr. Oli which really sparked my interest in microbiology. I kind of got a sense of the bigger picture. Yes, biology is a thing, but then you have all of these microbes and they’re so important to us. That led to microbiology, and I decided to take the trip,” described Ryan.

Alicia found herself transitioning from a different profession. “I had a previous career in software, but I wanted to have more of an impact on health. I really wanted to get into science, so that led me to think more about biology. When I was considering applying to UF as a microbiology and cell science student, I saw a lot of videos that Dr. Oli posted and I emailed her to say I’d like to talk about UF. That’s when she told me about the trip, and it sounded really amazing,” explained Alicia.

Sophia also mentioned how Dr. Oli played a big part in her decision to travel internationally with UF. “I saw that it was hosted by Dr. Oli, and I’ve had several classes with her. I felt comfortable and knew everything would go smoothly with her at the helm. The program itself felt geared to me currently as a microbiology and cell science student going into medicine right before I started my MPH (Master of Public Health) program. Also, it’s study abroad. After two years of lockdown, I wanted to travel,” said Sophia.

Dr. Oli has now ventured internationally with UF four times, but this trip was her first time taking students enrolled via UF Online. “I was very excited when I saw their applications, especially since I’ve known all three from previous classes. Although the trip takes an intensive 8-9 months to plan, once the trip begins, I feel like a bystander. I see the students take in and embrace the information. I watch them interact and share their stories, seek out unique things to do together in the evenings, and learn so many intangible impressions,” said Dr. Oli when recalling the trip.

“To students who are considering studying abroad, I would say go for it! The connections that you make, exposure to new cultures and ideas, and the ability to learn a bit about yourself are well worth it. It doesn’t have to be a grand tour, just putting yourself out there is a rewarding experience.” -- Sophia John, 32, Microbiology and Cell Science


Studying abroad introduces students to transformative challenges and opportunities to engage and embrace different cultures from around the world. UF is no stranger to bringing students to foreign lands. Past trips that have been organized by the UF International Center include places like Australia, France, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Madagascar, Peru, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

If studying abroad is something you might be interested in, the UF International Center is a great resource for those interested in learning about studying, researching, internships, and service acts abroad. Traveling while simultaneously earning college credit is the ultimate way for students to make the most of their college experience and break down barriers set by classroom walls.

Want to learn more about studying abroad with UF? Speaking with an advisor or visiting the International Center is a great starting point to learning more about the incredible experiences offered abroad by UF. The UF International Center helps students with all aspects of traveling abroad. From planning tips to health and safety concerns, it’s a useful resource to learn more about many important aspects of studying abroad. If you’re considering taking the step, then go ahead and dust off your passport today!


Get started on your own path to an exciting career in the sciences with a degree in Microbiology and Cell Science. Offered by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Microbiology and Cell Science major allows students to experience first-hand research and participate in engaging labs, all while being taught by UF’s renowned faculty. Ready to take the next step? Learn more about UF Online’s Microbiology program by visiting the degree page or attend an upcoming virtual information session to learn more.