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Hello UMD College Park!

It’s been a month since I arrived at the University of Maryland, College Park and I know it sounds cliche but it feels like I have been here for my whole degree. I have learned that when you are forced to make friends in such a short space of time when you are away from all your friends and family, they really do become your family. I knew before I came to Maryland that I wanted to travel and that is exactly what I have been doing, in fact, since I arrived on campus I have only spent one weekend actually in Maryland. So far I have visited Washington DC, The Jersey Shore, New York City, Manchester (New Hampshire), Philadelphia and next weekend I am heading to Vermont. Maryland is definitely in an ideal location for travelling (but I will talk about that more in my next blog).

As I mentioned I have made some great friends so far, however, not many of them are American. Obviously, coming on exchange to the states you would think that I would be surrounded by American people, which I obviously am, but it has definitely been a huge culture shock for me. While people assume that the states and the the UK are so similar the Americans here in Maryland are extremely different to my friends from home and the culture I am used to. The biggest difference is definitely the humour. I am pretty sarcastic and in the UK when you are good friends with someone you can laugh at them and yourself in a jokey manner, so far I have realised Americans find this a little more difficult. So all of my friends are other international students (pictured above). My closest friends are from Australia, Germany, Austria, Singapore and England and this has lots of positive features attached to it, especially with regards to travelling, as international students are definitely more keen to travel than people who have lived in the states their whole life, which is why I have been able to go on so many spontaneous trips.

My accommodation here in Maryland is pretty standard, the outside of the building is beautiful and before I arrived I assumed from the outside that the inside would be just as nice, in reality it is not much better than Fallowfield. My first night on campus  in my new bedroom was definitely the worst night here as there was no air conditioning. I looked at the thermometer on my phone and it was 29 degrees at one point. However, the next day I went out and bought a fan and it has been all up hill since then. I am in an apartment with six girls (2 from Spain, 1 from South Korea, 1 from Singapore, 1 from Dubai and me), and I LOVE IT. So far there have been no arguments and even though we are from all over the world we are all so similar and have so much in common. My roommate is the girl from Dubai, and she has made the roommate experience extremely enjoyable. I was pretty nervous before I arrived with regards to the whole roommate situation but she is so easy to be around and to share my space with. Also she is a Muslim, so it has been so interesting speaking to her about her faith, watching her pray and celebrating Eid with her. I wouldn’t change anything about my housemates and my living situation, UMD definitely did a good job in allocating us all together.

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(My halls of residence).

Finally, my first impression with regards to studying is that America is very very different to the UK. I will dedicate a whole blog to this in the future, but just briefly in general America is a lot easier than the UK. While there is a lot more reading that must be done by a certain date and tones of pop quizzes, assignments and participation required. In general, the content and the standard is much simpler than in Manchester. This has meant that I am able to complete my work including essays much faster than in the UK allowing me to have my weekends free to explore the states.

So far, I love it here in Maryland and I’m not missing Manchester just yet but I will see how I feel after all my midterm exams.

Reflections

Fleur Spedding – Geography – University of Hong Kong

As I have come back to Manchester and reunited with my friends and housemates, they all seem to ask the same question – How was your year abroad? Every time I answer ‘It was amazing’, but I find it difficult to really put into words my whole year. So much happened and there were countless incredible experiences that have made this year special, and probably changed me as a person. I am much more open to trying anything that comes my way, whether it be chicken feet (a local Hong Kong delicacy) or climbing a 13,000 ft mountain (Mt Kinabalu in Borneo). This year really makes you realise how important it is to take risks and be confident in doing whatever you want to do, as it all usually works out in the end.

Being back in Manchester, the last year feels like it flew by. I have a type of reverse culture shock, where it feels weird to be back in Manchester whilst also figuring out how Uni life works here instead of Hong Kong. Such as remembering all my passwords, how to use the student system online, which bus to take etc. I know once I’m back into the swing of things I will feel settled again, just as I did in Hong Kong. It was amazing how quickly I felt settled there, it has become my second home. Every time I came back from a trip last year (we made the most of the cheap flights and long weekends) I would feel like I was back home again in Hong Kong airport arrivals.

As a reflection post, I will look back at some of my most memorable moments and experiences. First of all the hikes and scenery in Hong Kong is like no where else I’ve visited. There are numerous hikes, from easy to physically challenging all with incredible views. This is dragons back hike, one of the most famous. At the end you find a beautiful beach called Big Wave Bay where you can relax.

Secondly, I will miss the views over the whole of Hong Kong. The amount of people in the space that Hong Kong has, makes it one of the most densely populated places on earth. This means there are buildings going up constantly to reach the needs of the growing population. This leaves you with views like this from the top of Victoria Peak.

I will really miss the netball club and the girls I met there. This was such an amazing way of getting out my comfort zone and meeting a load of new people, mostly local Hong Kongers but also other exchange students from Sri Lanka etc. I would never have met these amazing people if it weren’t for netball. We also won the league tournament which I will always cherish as a memory.

 

I will miss how there was always something going on. Any day any time you would find something to do or visit, new cafes, festivals, bars, carnivals, anything!

I will really miss the food in Hong Kong and Asia in general. Some of the best cuisines I’ve tasted have been all over Asia, and dumplings and dim sum in Hong Kong is definitely my favourite. I also perfected my chop stick technique.

I was lucky enough to go on some amazing trips, such as Myanmar, Taiwan, Laos, South Korea, Vietnam, The Philippines, Borneo and Japan. This last picture is taken from Japan, Tokyo in Electric Avenue. Japan is one of the most interesting and fascinating places I’ve been to my entire life. How different it is to anything you would know in the UK, the food is delicious and the people are the friendliest out of all the countries I’ve been to – a definite recommendation!

Overall, I can easily say I have had the best year of my life, met countless incredible people and visited countries I never thought was possible. I 100% recommend a year abroad to anyone thinking about it, and don’t be put off by Asian countries and language barriers. At first I was a bit weary, but most people speak English and its more rewarding being able to adjust to a country that is so opposite to the norm in the UK.

 

Hello UMass!

It’s been three weeks since I landed in the US and UMass is finally starting to feel like home. The weather has been amazing, even if a little too humid at times, but its been perfect for exploring the campus. There’s so much to talk about and it’s hard to know where to start but here goes!

For anyone travelling abroad on an exchange, here’s a few tips that might clear up any pre-departure questions and settle some nerves. These definitely helped me out over the first few days here.

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Welcome to campus!

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Settling into life in Montreal

By James Walley, McGill University, Canada.

Wow, what a start to life in Canada.

So far, my expectations have been well and truly exceeded and I am incredibly excited for what the rest of the year has to hold. I have now been here for over three weeks and so much has happened in that short space of time.

Granted, the first week was not the stress free start I wanted and instead it was filled with intense house hunting along with the tedious tasks of sorting out bank accounts and phone contracts. However, I did manage to explore the city and surrounding areas; such as downtown Montreal, Le Plateau, the old town and the beautiful Mount Royal Park, a huge urban park in the middle of the city that has an awesome view over the island of Montreal and beyond (see above). Fun fact: Mount Royal Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park.

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St Joseph’s Oratory, next to Mount Royal.

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Go Tarheels!

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

To explain the title, it would be easier to simply say that that is what the students at UNC call themselves. It has some links to the Confederate side of the U.S Civil War, but that’s all I know.

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My Halls of Residence for the year – all girls accommodation that’s called Manly!

Writing this I realise that I’ve been here at UNC for three weeks, but it feels so much longer. Settling into campus life hasn’t taken long, and I even have the joys of my first midterms next week. Continue reading “Go Tarheels!”

First thoughts on an Italian adventure – the emergence of the food baby…

By Gemma Sturt, Florence, Università degli Studi di Firenze

As I’m writing I’m sat out by the Arno with what seems to already be my 100000th espresso of the day, a bag full of complete steals from the local market and a gorgeous afternoon view… needless to say the reality of living in a city as jaw-droppingly beautiful as Florence hasn’t really sunk in yet. The city is certainly historic and, although a very popular tourist destination and only a mere 2 hour flight from London, the day-to-day lifestyle of an average Florentine is utterly different to that in the UK.

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View of the river Arno from my current spot

 

 

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The End

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

My first ending was my last haircut which was followed by ‘have a safe flight back and do come visit!’ a bit absurdly premature at that point since I still had another 2 monthes to go till D-day but it felt poignant nonetheless. From them on I tried to experience everything with the consciousness that time was running out and everything was a special moment worth savouring; an exhausting ambition. Also very hard to do, when you spend the large part of a year investing a lot of time, emotion and energy into carefully crafting a little belonging in a new place and you get to the comfortable place of starting to take this for granted, it feels completely counter-intuitive to throw all that effort into peril by telling yourself it will all soon just come to a halt. Much like wiling away ours melting chocolate, mixing ingredients, baking the bases of a cake with three different icings and toppings which you bring together to make a tremendous three-tier layer cake. Then the point at which you have laid out the plates to eat it and the knife is poised to serve it, you abruptly stand up and throw it in the bin. And the weirdest thing is: you are vegan (true story) and were never going to eat it in the first place! You new this peculiar fact from the first bag of sugar but got carried away with the exhilarating baking process so that it was still mega painful to watch that masterpiece topple out of sight.  I may have veered a little off-piste with that metaphor but it is to stress the weirdness that is having an end date on a life which you are ending on one level wilfully and on another with a lot of sadness (I realise this sounds a bit like I am talking about suicide, which is also more dramatic than I intend)

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Highlights of Case Western So Far…

By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA

So I have been in Case Western Reserve for just over two weeks and it has been hectic. After 2 days of travelling including 2 trains and 2 flights, I arrived late at night, extremely tired after being awake for over 24 hours.

When I finally reached campus the sun was shining and it really showcased the lovely campus. My home for the next year is in The Village, an accommodation on the north campus for the upper class (3rd and 4th years). My favourite part of the village is that all the houses overlook the track and field area where the ‘Spartan’ teams train. It feels extremely American and I love it.

 

It really has been an actioned packed few weeks but I will go through my highlights of what I have discovered so far. For the first week, I had orientation, which is sort of like freshers week in England but led by the University. We were split into groups mainly with freshman in it and had two lovely leaders who took us to all of the events. Although most of the people were a bit younger than me it was a good way to meet new people, get familiar with everything Case has to offer and ease you into the uni life. One part that will stay with me the most was the ‘tradition’ or class photo. As Case is a small school with around 5000 undergrads, every year they take a photo with the new class on the field. It made me feel part of the Case community and I think it’s a great idea.

 

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My home for the next year at The Village

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Travelling and Final Highlights

Although a little delayed, it has taken me a while to appreciate and reflect on my time abroad. My second semester was packed with ceaseless moments of embracing the rest of my time abroad. I felt a sudden urgency to make the most of everything and every opportunity and as I result found myself buried in work in my free moments. The big difference with America is the constant stream of work which you receive from all classes you undertake, largely different to the few assignments each semester that my professors at Manchester would set. Therefore I, like many others at the university, would spent my entire evenings in the library!

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View from Willis Tower, Chicago

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A Sun Devil Welcome

There is a reason Arizona State University (ASU) students call themselves sun devils, and I realized it as soon as I landed at the end of my 11 hour flight from Heathrow to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport; the heat. I have been here now for just over a month and the weather never ceases to amaze me. Bright sunshine and clear skies encourage you to make the most of everyday, which is handy as my time so far has been packed with new experiences and meeting new people. The first two weeks of my year abroad at (ASU) was spent on holiday with my parents, they came with me and we traveled around Arizona visiting places such as Flagstaff, Sedona and Tucson. Sedona, was by far my favorite with its iconic red sandstone formations. I said goodbye to my parents and moved into my new housing on Tuesday the 8th of August, and at the time the halls were still virtually empty. The move in date for most domestic students was the following Saturday, which included my three other suitemates. The three days before that were spent at international orientation, where I got to know fellow international students and was introduced to ASU’s Tempe campus and facilities.

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Sedona’s red sandstone

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First Impressions

Freddie Olsen, Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP), Mexico

 

What a first few weeks it has been!

 

Upon arriving in the suburb of Cholula the top priority was accommodation. Whilst Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) does provide campus accommodation, I personally wasn’t sold. Having spent a year living in a cave in the Owen’s Park tower the desire for halls of residence just wasn’t quite there anymore. Likewise the prospects of sharing a room with someone I had never met before and living on campus didn’t seem quite so appealing. However what shocked me most about arriving in Cholula is how open it is for International students. I initially doubted the availability of student accommodation in a colonial town which remains relatively Mexican aside from the universities. However a room was found nearby which worked out well, with a plethora of other international students with nationalities ranging from Swedish to Czech! The best part is that the house is organised and shared by a large Mexican family, which forces one to speak a lot of Spanish, as well as obtaining local knowledge and information which goes a lot further than the hyped up Lonely Planet guidebooks.

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Getting Ready

Packing was an extremely stressful process!

Trying to pack my life into one suitcase and a hand luggage bag was very hard, given that I am used to taking an entire car load to university with me. We had to filter my stuff down several times and still some clothes need to be sent out! But the most important thing is that I have the essential things, and that is my skis! Skis for Blog

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