Hannah Sharp

A life-changing experience

Hannah Sharp, an exchange student from England, had always heard about Southern hospitality, but faced a dilemma when she experienced it for the first time.

“I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to people I didn’t know who greeted me on the street,” she says. “They’d say ‘Hello, how are you?’ when they were about level with me, but when I went to reply, they’d already be past. Do I carry on the conversation, even while we’re walking away from each other? That took some getting used to.”

It was that openness that endeared the South to Hannah, who spent the last academic year at LaGrange as a Georgia Rotary Student Program.

“People are much more friendly here, so much more interactive with strangers,” she says. “The experience of America as a country has been very different. Although it’s the same language, it’s completely different – the culture, weather, food – everything's a lot more different than I expected it to be, considering that it was still Western culture.”

Even the approach to higher education is unlike what Hannah is used to in England.

“Here in the U.S., you can choose your classes and your major, you can even change your major if you want to,” she says. “But in the United Kingdom, you don’t apply for a university, you apply for a course. I will be doing primary (elementary) education, and that is all I will study for three years. Nothing outside that area.”

So Hannah was thrilled to be able to sample subjects that interested her – especially theater.

“My big passion is theater, so it's really wonderful to have a year to study it,” she says. “One of the great things about LaGrange College theatre department is that you're also involved with other things, so I've learned about props and building sets, which is something I would have never had the opportunity to do at home.”

She also had the opportunity to appear in all three of the program’s productions. She says the fall show, “Metamorphoses,” was very interesting because of the multi-casting.

“We all played multiple roles,” she says. “We got to be narrators, gods, regular people. It was fun, but it also was a serious play with deep messages.”

The winter production, “An Evening with Tennessee Williams,” was the end result of a Jan Term course.

“We were able to travel to the places where Tennessee Williams was born, grew up and worked,” she says. “We visited sites in Mississippi and on to New Orleans, which was fantastic. It made it easier to see his plays from his point of view.”

But it was her last show at LaGrange that Hannah enjoyed the most.

 “‘The 39 Steps’ was so much fun. It was an extremely fast-paced comedy.”

Hannah says she wasn’t on stage very much in the first half of the production, but she was able to sit in the wings and watch.

“It was so exciting, getting that wonderful vibe from the audience. Everyone was laughing and I got very excited to go on stage. It’s a really, really great feeling.”

Because the play was set in England, Hannah served as a dialect coach.

“D.J. Grooms, the star of the show, was pretty good with his English accent, so I just helped with some words,” she says. “He had trouble with the word ‘Sorry.' ”

Two of the actors shared many roles that required several accents.

“We worked mostly on their Northern accents because they were already pretty good with their Cockney London accent,” she says. “Considering how small England is, there is a surprising amount of variation in the accents.”

There was one course in particular Hannah says she will be able to use in her future profession.

“I took a class called Creative Dramatics where we worked with puppets and the dramatic interpretation of poetry aimed at children,” she says. “We actually went into a number of schools to work with the children. It was a wonderful experience that will transfer home with me.”

Home for Hannah is the small town of Gillingham.

“It’s in the southwest of England in a county called Dorset,” she said. “It is a beautiful part of the world.”

While she says she missed her family while in the States, she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything – especially her time spent with other Rotary scholars.

“We spent a lot of time together on weekends learning skills like diplomacy and community service that we can incorporate when we get home,” she says. “We’ve formed friendships with so many people from so many different cultures – Lebanon, Turkey, South America,  Denmark, Sweden, Zimbabwe, literally all over the world. These things will stay with us for a lifetime. We all are incredibly grateful for this experience.”

Friends for the Journey

LaGrange College attracts the best and the brightest from all over the world. For example, our most recent incoming class consisted of men and women from 19 states and 10 countries, and included:

  • 76 members of Beta Club or the National Honor Society
  • 71 members of service organizations
  • 51 team captains in varsity sports
  • 25 leaders involved in student government, with 11 presidents
  • Three students involved in school publications, one as editor
  • Two Eagle Scouts
  • 20 musicians in band or orchestra
  • 18 singers in choir
  • 31 entertainers in performing arts
  • 85 students in religious activities.

But you don’t have to be a star in high school to succeed at LaGrange. Here, you’re given the opportunity to discover the best in yourself and find your destiny – all in a caring and supportive environment.