By Grace Clarke, Psychology, University of Maryland, United States
I am going to keep my next couple of blogs fairly short, and as useful as I can to those of you who are thinking about applying to study abroad, or to those who have already applied and are waiting to hear about whether they are going (good luck!!).
My first piece of advice is relating to academics. It’s true what people say about the difference in workload between the U.S. and U.K. You are given homework from pretty much every class, very much like school, so you will probably have something to do most evenings. Taking four classes (12 credits) is a reasonable amount for me: it is manageable in terms of keeping up with deadlines, but it also isn’t too much to stop me from enjoying my social and personal time. Although I can’t say that I am the best at time management, I would definitely recommend staying on top of your studies and going at a steady pace, so that it does not all pile up the night before the due date – because, unfortunately, it will be a rather daunting pile!
Following on from the previous advice, my second recommendation would be to make the best out of a bad situation, i.e. having a lot of work! My friends and I often study at the library together. Although it can be slightly harder to concentrate than if you were to lock yourself in your room alone, it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Passing the year is very important, but you also have to make sure you make time for other things in order to get an all-round experience.
My third piece of advice is regarding accommodation. I opted for on-campus housing, which for me, is great. I am within a five-minute walk to pretty much all of my classes, and the library is probably about a 75 metre walking distance from my dorm. I have a roommate, which has worked out well. We get along, our schedules do not clash, and we manage to refrain from getting under each other’s feet. I chose to share a room when applying to Maryland, and I am happy I did so. I think it is a great test of adaptability and consideration of other people. I am a very sociable person, as most exchange students are, so having someone around most of the time is fine for me. However, my time here has definitely made me appreciate any time that I get alone, and I definitely look forward to having my own room once again. Just to emphasise, I am not complaining about sharing a room, but just a warning to those of you who really value personal time!!
Onto the fourth…food. Again, I am speaking about my specific university, so I can’t say if it is the same everywhere, but with my dorm, I have to buy a meal plan. This is super convenient when you’re on the go, but my friends and I found that we got pretty bored of the meals fairly quickly. If you’re a fussy eater, and enjoy the freedom of cooking, I would not recommend this route.
Finally, as I will discuss in my next blog, travelling during the semester is a must if you have the means to do so. I am also planning on travelling over the winter break, as we have a five-week holiday (with no assignments or exams to revise for, might I add). I am fortunate in that my parents are visiting for the first two weeks, and then I have exciting plans to travel with some of my friends, which I will be sure to write about in my blogs next semester.
I want to point out again that I am in no way being negative about my time so far, and I am happy with the decisions I have made, but I think it is important to be honest and give those of you who are planning to study in the States things to think about when arranging your exchange. I hope this helps!