By Elizabeth Hardy.
So, more or less everyone has left for their exciting year abroad. And after patiently waiting for months watching other people have fun, it is my turn to go. And leaving the airport just a week ago, I had no idea of the crazy (but amazing) experience this week’s upheaval would be for me.
To help me organize my thoughts, I think I’ll make a list. These are the things that have struck me most about California in my first week:
- Size. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is bigger here. Be prepared for food to be about 4 meals worth. The good thing I have learnt is that it is totally acceptable to ask for a doggy bag/box to take the food home with you. Take-away food is really cheap as well, so you can get a few meals in one for not much.
- Speaking of size, the roads. Coming into Santa Barbara via Los Angeles is certainly an experience. The roads are huge, and of course everyone drives on the odd (I won’t say ‘wrong’) side of the road. It is expected that you will learn this fast, otherwise you will be squashed by a huge truck that nearly everyone seems to own.
- This is not London. People in Santa Barbara, often complete strangers, are happy to help out. I am so grateful I took advantage of this – being completely new in a foreign country is frightening and often very disorientating. Luckily I managed to find several people very quickly to help me, and for that I am thankful.
- The academic system. It is very different to how we study in the UK – mainly because class participation is not only recommended but necessary to get a good grade, and because there is a huge emphasis here on continuous assessment. For example, in one of my classes there are 3 scheduled tests and 4 unscheduled tests during the 10 week quarter. Whilst the tests will be bite-sized compared to what UK students are used to, you also have to be on your academic game all the time. I’ll make sure to post more on the academic system when I’ve had more time to understand it!
- Fraternities and Sororities. They exist. They are almost exactly like in films. I am yet to discover much about them but from what I can gather they are indeed as bizarre as they look.
- The sun. It shines, all the time. Yay!
For the people that have managed to read this far, I’ll give you a little information about the University itself. UCSB (University of California Santa Barbara) is based about a 2 hour drive north of LA, on the coast. And when I say on the coast, I mean this in the most literal term – the University owns it’s own lagoon and beach. This is a regular haunt for students and is quieter than you would imagine, particularly considering the amazing sunsets.
The University Beach
Most students live just outside of campus, in a place called Isla Vista (IV). IV is pretty well known as a party town, particularly nearer the beach although there are some quieter spots. The benefit of living in IV (as I do) is that it is very close to campus, which is so much bigger than Manchester. Try to imagine University spanning from University place to the end of curry mile and you’re just about there.
In terms of accommodation, I live in co-operative housing. This is essentially a cheaper way of living with other people, where chores and cooking are shared. If you are interested in how this works, I myself am still learning so it would be beneficial to direct you to the website: www.sbcoop.org. All I can say is, I have met some fantastic people so far and I am very excited to see how the relationships I am starting to forge develop over the upcoming year. I am insanely excited for the upcoming year in general!
That’s all for now folks.