Academics and Dance Drew Student to Storrs from Down Under

Casey Jessop, an Australian exchange student and member of the UConn dance team, poses for a portrait in the Student Union on Nov. 29, 2011. (Max Sinton for UConn)

Casey Jessop, an Australian exchange student and member of the UConn Dance Team, at a practice in the Student Union. (Max Sinton '15 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

Casey Jessop had plenty of top-notch universities to choose from when it came time to study abroad. Her home institution, the University of Melbourne, is a member of Universitas 21, an international network of leading research-intensive universities, and has exchange opportunities in 13 different countries, including the UK, China, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.S.

Of the two American universities that are part of the U21 network, Jessop chose UConn because of its location, academics, and the Dance Team.

Now in her junior year, Jessop will graduate with a degree in marine science – a major she’s decided upon because of her experience at UConn.

Before arriving at UConn, she was equally attracted to zoology and marine sciences. “I’d thought marine science was very specific,” she says. “UConn has made me realize I definitely want to do marine sciences and marine biology, and that I might like to go into research.”

She says her favorite class is parasitology. “The professor who teaches it, Janine Caira, is amazing; she’s made me aware of the broad spectrum of areas I could research.

“Now I know I could do marine science with parasitology from the ocean,” she adds. “There’s more ocean than land at home.”

Jessop is used to lecture-based instruction in her home country. “So this is the professor at the front of the room, he’s got a big projector and he usually doesn’t know your name,” she says.

The UConn dance team practices in the Student Union on Nov. 29, 2011. (Max Sinton for UConn)

The UConn Dance Team practices in the Student Union. (Max Sinton '15 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

She says the classes she has taken at UConn are more personal: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my classes here; you get enough guidance from the professors to do well. The heavier workload at UConn means I’m always learning new things.”

Jessop has also learned first hand about UConn’s inimitable school spirit as one of 21 members of the Dance Team, performing at all home and away football games. The team dances at all of the men’s and women’s home basketball games, too, and will compete in April at the National Dance Alliance Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla. These spring semester opportunities clinched Jessop’s decision to extend her exchange – initially for the fall semester only – to the end of the academic year.

Casey Jessop and other members of the UConn dance team practice in the Student Union on Nov. 29, 2011. (Max Sinton for UConn)

Casey Jessop and a teammate practice in the Student Union. (Max Sinton '15 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

“Obviously I love dancing and was part of a club of six dancers back home, but it was nothing like Huskymania,” Jessop says. “Back home we look up to U.S. college dancers. I thought it would be amazing to be on UConn’s Dance Team – but I wasn’t sure if I was good enough. When I got here I thought I might as well look into it since I’m here.”

The team’s coach agreed to give Jessop an audition, as she was still in Australia at the time of the regular tryouts.

“I said ‘I’m an exchange student – I have this experience. Any chance I could be part of the team?’” says Jessop. “The coach asked a few other questions, said ‘It was lovely to meet you,’ and we went from there. I’m very privileged – and lucky.”