My Year Abroad...

My top five biggest surprises of my first semester abroad…

So in two weeks time I’ll be back in England and getting ready for a Christmas at home. As excited as I am to be going back to England, I’ve had a great time living here for the past few months and definitely don’t feel ready for my experience to be over so it’s a relief that I’m going to be back in January. So much of what’s happened in my first semester I was warned about, but there are a few things that really have surprised me so here’s my top five surprises…

1) I didn’t get fat

Ok, so this seems like a weird one but you have no idea how afraid I was that I was going to put on some ridiculous amount of weight when I moved to America. I mean have you seen the size of some of them?! My biggest fear was coming home and having that awkward moment when you see people for the first time and they have to pretend to not be shocked by the state you’ve got yourself in! My fear was only increased when we first went into the dining hall in my dorms and were faced with the amount of food they give you. If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you’ll know that it didn’t take long before I was desperate for a few home comforts and getting pretty sick of the dining hall offerings. Having said that, I was still pretty worried. I can’t deny that I’ve had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten since being here (especially burgers, look out for a top 5 burgers coming soon!) but somehow, my clothes still fit me and I appear to have remained fairly normal sized, which is a huge relief!

2) I’ve made some friends for lifealbany

Yeah it sounds cliché and I find myself cringing a bit when I say things like this but some of the people I’ve met since being here will hopefully be in my life for a good while. Maybe you wouldn’t think that’s surprising but at every new stage of my life I meet people who become irreplaceable to me and there’s always a tiny part of me that can’t believe I’m always lucky enough to find such great friends.

3) I’m learning stuff

When I came here I was consistently told that it was easy and so I wasn’t expecting to learn much. I can’t lie, I have found much of the work I’ve been given pretty simple compared to the level I’ve at least been attempting to work at in Nottingham. However, this is a country that has produced some of the most intelligent and influential people to have ever existed, so they must be doing something right. In some ways, I’ve actually found the education I’ve gained over the past few months more valuable than a lot of my time in Nottingham. The main difference I notice here is that I feel like they encourage you to think for yourself a lot more. When I write an essay in Nottingham I spend my time reading endless articles and chapters and scrutinising quotes until I can’t bear the thought of ever hearing about the topic again and I often forget most of what I wrote about approximately 5 minutes after handing it in. Here it’s so much more about original thought and what I’m learning is staying with me. All I’m trying to say is that to suggest that American university is easy is too simplistic, as much as I value an education from a university like Nottingham, being here has encouraged a completely different way of thinking which is just as important to me as being able to write a good essay.

4) It feels like home

I never struggled much with the move to Nottingham, it’s only an hour away from home and the two places I’ve lived there have almost instantly felt like a second home to me. When I came to Albany I was expecting a slightly more difficult transition yet it’s been almost disconcertingly easy. Within a few weeks I was settled in, I’d found my feet and it was down to daily life. I do have the odd moment when I’ll be sitting on a bus or walking through the mall when it suddenly hits me ‘I LIVE IN AMERICA!’ but other than that it’s as if this has been my life all along. It’s a huge surprise to me that I didn’t struggle more and I think I kept expecting at some point that everything would go wrong, but I’m nearly at the end of the first semester and I still feel as though I kind of belong here. I know I’ve been crazy lucky to find it so easy and it’s not to say I don’t miss home insane amounts but I guess I’ve just been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to find another place that still feels a bit like home.

5) It’s the little things

This week Albany saw its first proper snow of the winter, in fact, it arrived just as December did at midnight on November 30th. Promptly at 12.30am, two of my friends arrived at my door to drag me outside to play and so I did…in my pyjamas. So many people came out, for some of the other international students it was actually the first time they’d seen snow, it was a lot of fun. Being out there got me thinking about what it means to be doing a year abroad. I think when you know you’re going to be studying abroad, there’s this idea that you’re going to have this huge, non-stop adventure when the truth is, you’re still going to study at a university and a lot of your life is going to class and doing assignments. I have had some amazing experiences since being here that I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I’ve travelled to New York City multiple times, been to Washington D.C and Philadelphia, I’ve had a proper American Thanksgiving and been in the midst of hurricane preparations (which luckily didn’t make it to Albany), I’ve got to go to University in a different country and experience a completely different style of learning, I’ve been to American football and ice hockey games and even seen the Knicks play in a preseason game, so much of the past few months has been extraordinary and exciting and has helped me learn so much more about the country which I study. I am so grateful for all these experiences but what I’m surprised about is the little things that I’ll remember about this semester which were in a way just as significant. The first time Sophie and I saw a touch screen vending machine or an escalator for trolleys and found them both hilarious beyond words, the bizarre questions Americans ask us and their reaction to finding out we’re British, getting to go to a burger place proclaimed by Obama himself as the best burger he’s ever had and being in America during an election, for that matter. Coming here has already been one of the most important experiences of my life and I’m sure there’s loads more to look forward to but what I remembered when I was out there playing in the snow is that it’s the little things that keep you happy wherever you are. It’s not all about waiting for the next big trip I can take or event to look forward to but also just enjoying those everyday moments that you find hilarious or exciting, being here is just life and it’s great.

It's Snowing!

It’s Snowing!

That’s all for now