By James Eyke (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)
Well the first few weeks of being here certainly have been very interesting. When I first got off the plane the first thing that struck me was the heat; the first full day was the hottest day of the summer so far. So for the first two weeks we had what felt like tropical weather, which was all very nice.
After we were taken care of and settled in nicely by the brilliant International Programs Office, we had a good few days of leisure before classes started. One of the more interesting nights was a frat party at a frat house. One could say it was very interesting to view this completely new, male-dominated subculture.
Classes here are taught very differently to back in the UK. They are generally much smaller (my Advanced Inorganic class has six students in it) and closely resembles secondary school / college classes. There is much more one to one discussion with the professor which is extremely helpful if you are unsure about some of the work. Homework is also a thing here, with set pieces of work given at the end of most classes.
Away from the academic side of things, the scenery here is absolutely fantastic. Being 90 miles west of Boston, we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Here is a photo that I took from the top of this fire watch tower located on top of a hill a few miles out of campus; it really gives you a sense of just how large this country is.
One of the highlights so far has been a day trip to Boston. It really is a wonderful city full of history. I was lucky enough to stumble across a guided tour of the Freedom Train just as I got off the bus. I can now happily say that I know just a little bit more about the start of the American Revolution now. After that I went on a boat tour of Boston Harbor, with commentary of course.
The day after Boston we headed down to a local swimming lake called Puffers Pond that is often frequented by college students. The water was surprisingly warm and there is even a large rock to jump off.
The weather now has finally started cool a bit and the famous fall colours are starting to appear in the trees. Trips coming up soon are New York and Six Flags New England, which I am certainly looking forward to. In about a month the demonic winter weather will descend upon Amherst, and who knows what that will bring.