Firstly I am very sorry about the lateness of this post. I have only recently returned to England and I thought I would (belatedly) share some reflections about my period abroad. I was really supposed to do this around the time I was saying goodbye to NC State but I didn’t for a few reasons. Firstly this would have clashed with exams, goodbyes, last minute plans and packing. All of which at the time are excellent forms or procrastination. Then once I had said goodbye to North Carolina and begun a few months of travelling I was frankly just extremely busy. But finally, and probably the closest to being the true reason; I really didn’t want to write it. Even thinking about writing that goodbye blog at the time really brought home the fact that I was going to be saying goodbye to that great place after an amazing year. So even thinking about it bummed me out let alone actually having to think about it and write it all down. But now there is some space between me and that event and I’ve made it back home safe and sound lets give it a go.
But where to begin? I guess firstly I would just recommend that anyone, if they get the chance to study abroad, take it. You will meet great people, get to try all kinds of things that you would never get the chance to normally and at the very least, you’ll almost certainly get a year of better weather than Manchester! But seriously, you will have a fantastic time wherever you go. I’ll be honest, NC State was hardly my first choice when applying to go to the USA but having been there for a year I’m looking back and really questioning why I wanted to go anywhere else. I really got everything I wanted form my American university experience; college sports, red cups, good weather, amusing southern accents and tones of amazing places to visit both in North Carolina and well beyond. On this note, I guess something else I will be saying to anyone going abroad to the USA is travel, travel, travel! And don’t just stick to New York, Chicago and California. There is so much to see and enjoy in that vast and varied country and I think the places I would most recommend are ones that most do not get to see such as Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. And do not be worried about Visa time constraints, a quick trip into Canada and suddenly you have a full 90 days at your disposal to go where you like.
I guess perhaps on a slightly more serious reflective note it is time to talk about my thoughts on this year from an academic stand point. Honestly I think I’ve probably come away from this year slightly disillusioned with the university system here in the UK. Maybe its just that the style of teaching and learning suited me better over there but I see far more positives to the University system there than I do here, although admittedly this is heavily counter balanced by the tuition fees they pay. Before going there one of the things I was most nervous about was what I had been told about the fact that I would need to participate in class for my grade. However this is far less scary when it isn’t in vast lectures, the norm here but extremely uncommon in the USA; you don’t feel like you’re standing out as much and so it isn’t the great fear that it is here. Certainly I believe this new-found comfort with speaking up should at least help me with tutorials when I return for my final year in Manchester. The greater interaction between professors and students is also something I feel I will miss when back in Manchester. I got to know many of my professors very well over there and it helps you feel more comfortable in discussions and particularly with asking questions. This is not to say the professors at Manchester have ever been unfriendly or particularly unapproachable, but just the way our interactions are set up here makes me and I feel the majority of students as well, utilize them less. Looking for positives though I hope that my time abroad will encourage me to better get to know and utilise their expertise in my final year. Overall I feel I have grown this year. The American system has helped me get better used to handling lots of work simultaneously and prioritizing and organizing my workload so that things do not build up or accidentally left to the last minute. I just hope I can maintain these good habits back in England where it will often seem like less of a necessity as I will have fewer pieces of work (even if they are all going to take longer and are more important individually)
Overall though, I am oh so glad I was able to have this opportunity. I wouldn’t change the last year for anything! It was amazing, both in the halls, the university and the USA as a whole!