Stephen Fulham | The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
I realised it’d been a while since I last wrote one of these just before Spring Break, but couldn’t find the time to type one during travelling, and then in the fortnight since I’ve got back I’ve had a lot of deadlines. In short: I’ve been really busy in the past few months.
I mentioned the academic differences between UNC and Manchester in my previous blog. Since then, the workload has increased and it sort of feels like the same amount of work (in terms of quantity) as sixth form because every single class session requires readings and there are weekly written assignments for each class that I take. I’ve had a couple of midterms so far, which are generally worth one-fifth of each module’s overall grade. One of them was similar to Manchester’s essay based exams (one hour per essay) but was delayed by the snow so was turned into a take-home. Actually, I’ve had quite a few days of classes cancelled because of the snow (or threat thereof), which has been quite nice. Professors seem to have a lot of freedom in how they structure assessment, and another class’ midterm featured a lot of fill-in-the-blanks as well as shorter questions. Also new to me as an Arts student back home, was an assessed group debate which I did yesterday.
I’ve been playing rugby quite a lot since I got here, with at least three training sessions a week and usually a game against another university on a Saturday. This has enabled me to travel to other places in North Carolina which I otherwise probably wouldn’t have ever visited. We went on a tour down to South Carolina including Charleston, which was a really beautiful city. This past weekend we had alumni weekend where old players at UNC come back, socialise, and play a match against the current team – this was a lot of fun!
The day before Spring Break, Duke played UNC. For those of you who aren’t familiar with basketball (I wasn’t hugely before I got here), this is a really big deal. The two universities are just a few miles apart, and both are well known both academically and for basketball and so are huge rivals. Seeing as America is the country with the highest standard of basketball in the entire world, and one of the few countries where it’s followed at large, as well as the fact that rivalries in the NBA don’t really match college basketball for intensity, this means that this is one of the biggest basketball games in the entire world. Just the previous day I had visited the UNC Basketball Museum, seeing more about the great history this university has in the sport: Michael Jordan made his name here, UNC have won five national championships in their history, and boast one of the best records in college basketball. I managed to get hold of a ticket after a week of desperately trying, and even though we lost, it was still a fantastic experience and great to be part of an amazing crowd at the Dean Dome.
Over Spring Break I went back down to South Carolina, staying at a friend’s house down in Myrtle Beach for a few days. We found an amazing seafood restaurant where I had the best crab cake I’ve ever eaten. In the middle of the week we then drove back to North Carolina, stopping off at my friend’s farm. I got to shoot guns, including a Clint Eastwood style .357, which was very cool.
We then got the bus overnight up to New York City, changing in Washington, D.C., arriving around 6:30am. I didn’t really sleep much on the way there, so got to see a little of Richmond (Virginia), Baltimore (Maryland), and Jersey City (New Jersey) before we arrived. Our check-in time at our Airbnb was 2pm, so we walked around for ages. Seeing Times Square, the Empire State Building (which was actually two blocks/streets away from where we stayed, and of which we had a great view) and Central Park was kind of surreal. I also managed to find a phenomenal pastrami sandwich (hardly difficult in New York), which was by far the best breakfast I’ve ever had. Being in the early morning rush of the world’s most famous city was a sharp contrast from the quite rural part of America where we’d been just hours before. That night we visited Korea Town and went down to Chinatown on the subway. The latter seemed bigger than Fallowfield and really made Manchester’s and London’s seem tiny!
The next day we explored New York’s shopping areas, walking down Broadway, around Mercer Street, and along 5th Avenue (which I think might be named after the club on Princess Street). I spent what felt like a significant portion of my student loan – oops! – and we were all exhausted. The ACC Tournament was on while we were in NYC so we streamed the UNC games on a laptop in our room, seeing us beat both Louisville and UVa – go Heels! The next day we checked out of our room, and walked around New York for the rest of the day, eating at a posh hotel on Union Square; walking round the financial district and Wall Street; and seeing the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park, before getting a slightly questionable bus back to North Carolina, arriving back on Sunday.