Brit revisits F-M after studying abroad at MSUM



Matt Cairns
Matt Cairns

In the spring of 2012, Matt Cairns had five options for American schools where he could study abroad. After doing some research he packed his bags and traveled 4,042 miles to MSUM for a semester.

The difference between Cairns and other students who study abroad is illustrated in the number of return trips he’s made to the area. Cairns has been to Fargo-Moorhead four times in the last year to visit the people, community and school that impacted him more than he thought possible.

Cairns grew up in St. Albans, a suburb of London, where he enjoyed playing soccer and hearing his dad’s journalism stories. He attended the University of Portsmouth and chose the American Studies major, a course he knew would lead him to a semester in America.

“I’d loved it when I’d been over with my family, and I’ve always wanted to come over for a longer period of time,” Cairns said when discussing why he chose his major. “It was sort of a history course, so it was perfect for me.”

(From bottom left to right) Ed Dowdell, Josh Dudack, Megan Sanford, Matt Cairns, Nicolette Wontor and an unnamed student attend the first Dragons After Dark event of Fall 2012.
(From bottom left to right) Ed Dowdell, Josh Dudack, Megan Sanford, Matt Cairns, Nicolette Wontor and an unnamed student attend the first Dragons After Dark event of Fall 2012.

Cairns, his two good friends, Ed Dowdell and Josh Dudack, along with five others, arrived in Moorhead two weeks before school began. When classes were back in session, Cairns witnessed “Minnesota Nice” instantly.

“I loved it,” he said, admitting they may have gotten more attention because they were foreigners. “Everyone was just asking us questions or letting us know if we needed help in the area, they were happy to help.”

F-M’s welcoming atmosphere is what’s drawn Cairns back time and time again. The amount of people inhabiting London makes it impossible for him to see a familiar face. Whether in a coffee shop or walking down the street, he is refreshed to be in a place where community is important.

“Around here you do kind of self-consciously get used to people and start acknowledging them,” Cairns said. “Everyone’s much nicer because of it and I like that it’s kind of smaller … there’s a nice atmosphere. It’s more relaxing, just a little colder.”

London’s average winter temperature of 32 degrees compared to Moorhead’s blistering winds and negative degree weather doesn’t keep him away, though. Cairns supports his new favorite football team as he sports purple and gold Vikings mittens, and he’s learned the more layers the better.

After a semester at MSUM, he and his friends begged their teacher in London to stay another semester; however, since it was their last year of school, they had to return. Cairns even debated transferring to MSUM to pursue his passion for journalism, but was offered a journalism job in London at Sky Sports shortly after.

“As much as I wanted to come back to MSUM, I thought it really didn’t make financial sense when there was a journalism job offer,” he said. “I learned a lot there (at Sky Sports), but a part of me was always like, ‘I wish I’d gone back.’”

International relations taught by Professor Conteh is a course that impacted Cairns during his studies at MSUM.

“I had Professor Conteh, and he was probably the best professor I’ve had in my whole life, in England or America,” he said. “Brilliant … (He) could have been talking about bricks, and I’d listen to every word.”

Some of Cairns’ favorite memories outside of the classroom include training, playing and traveling with the guys on the MSUM club soccer team, attending the sporting games on campus, Dragons after Dark and homecoming events. When he visits F-M  he makes MSUM a part of his trip, as he sits in the CMU to catch up with people and drink coffee.

Cairns has one week left until he returns to London to begin his job at Omnisport, an international sports news agency. In the future, he’s sure he will visit in the summer, depending on his job.

When asked about moving to America, he’s all for it.

“I’d love to come back to America and live for a spell. Yeah, if I could find a journalism job out here I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t take it up and move out,” he said. “I just loved it even more than I thought I would. I’m always really gutted when I have to go back to England.”

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