Photo by Morgan Grana.

When Gareth Rees-White first started his courses in American studies at UC Santa Cruz during fall quarter, he was reading the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner — then in winter, Toni Morrison and Mark Twain. This quarter, he will be reading the Twilight series.

“In my first quarter there were loads of courses that sounded amazing,” Rees-White said. “Then in winter there were less, and this quarter I’m taking a class on vampires because it is my only option.”

An international student from England, Rees-White is studying American studies at UCSC as part of a year abroad program offered by his home “uni,” the University of East Anglia.

Rees-White knew that he wanted to attend a UC ever since visiting California on a family vacation while in secondary school.

“I was sitting on the beach with my sister in Santa Barbara and the volleyball team was practicing,” Rees-White said. “I remember thinking — this is a university?”

When applying to universities a year later, he chose American studies as his major because it offered the chance to study abroad in the United States. His abroad program dictates that he take 70 percent of his courses at UCSC in the upper division of the American studies department. Earlier this year, American studies faculty voted to suspend admission to the major as of July 1.

Citing the reasons for the major’s suspension, faculty said the needs of students were not being met due to the fact that only five professors were specific to the department and that other departments were spread too thin to lend adequate assistance. Department head Eric Porter said students already in the major should not have trouble completing their degrees, though according to Rees-White, that assurance does not include a wide enough selection of classes.

Rees-White chose Santa Cruz for its natural beauty, iconic boardwalk and its American studies major. Of all the schools Rees-White looked into, only UCSC had an established American studies program, an aspect of the university that largely factored into his decision to attend. If he were applying for study abroad this year, however, Rees-White could not chose UCSC because of the reduction of classes. Rees-White said that the suspension of the major will reduce the number of international students at UCSC.

Since coming to Santa Cruz, Rees-White has fallen in love with the redwoods — and a woman. He refers to the latter as the most serious relationship he has been a part of, and says they already have plans to see each other after he goes back to England. Despite self-professed poor skills, he says he is also equally infatuated with the extreme sport that put Santa Cruz on the map, surfing.

In his time at UCSC, he has made many friends, sharing British culture with them as he learns what it means to be an American.

“I would like to think that I have influenced the culture a wee bit,” Rees-White said, “and it has definitely influenced me.”