Student Life, Studies and Spring Break

by Maddie Wood, English Literature, University of Missouri at Columbia

A lot has happened since my last blog!  First, let’s talk about academics, as, much as I hate to acknowledge it that is the reason that we’re here!  Unlike Manchester’s exams at the end of the semester, Missouri tests you throughout the semester.  Whether that’s through graded reading journals, pop quizzes, in-class tests, graded home works or midterms, I can guarantee you won’t go a week without having to hand in or sit something.  Now, although this sounds horrendous (and believe me, sometimes it can be!), it means that nothing that you submit can be truly detrimental to your grade.  As I struggle with large exams and tend to under perform, for me it’s reassuring knowing that I’m being graded continuously on my work and that my grade doesn’t all rest on one single bit of work.  So although I can’t say I’m used to my 8 a.m. classes yet, I’m not entirely opposed to the American method of constant assessment.

While we’re on the subject of assessment, I’d like to talk briefly about midterms.  These are exams that are usually sat in class near the middle point of the term, as their title suggests and are usually worth 30% of your final grade.  There was an undeniable atmosphere of apprehension during what’s known as ‘first wave’ on campus, but with it came a great feeling of solidarity amongst the student body and the student centre had a bouncy castle and space hoppers at the end of the week to help students destress, which I personally think is a great idea!

Although my life has been seriously dominated by work recently, in March I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the True/False Film Festival, which is held in Columbia each year.  For one weekend, the city really comes alive and the whole place is buzzing with creative artwork, upbeat buskers and excited crowds.  I worked as a steward in the Forrest Theatre in downtown Columbia, which was so enjoyable, despite the long hours.  I met some really wonderful people over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing after party that the festival held for the volunteers.  I would highly recommend that any future Mizzou exchange students should make the most of this opportunity if they can fit it in with assignments as it was definitely one of my highlights so far.

Apart from an evening trip to St Louis to watch the Blue Notes vs. Ducks (which by the way was an incredible experience and truly showed me the wonders of ice hockey), I hadn’t really travelled at all.  Therefore jetting off to the beautifully sunny weather of Miami Beach for Spring Break was much needed and an amazing way to kick back and enjoy a new part of America.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to do Miami Beach justice in this blog, but I’ll give it a go!  A group of 10 of us, mainly international students stayed in a one bedroom apartment in a great location on the island, which was really lovely and gave us a welcome break from the college dorms, despite being slightly crowded!  Being back in a cosmopolitan city was really wonderful and there was so much for us to see and do in the week that we were there.  My friend, Victoria Rowlands, has already written about our outings in Miami Beach so I don’t want to repeat her too much, but I’ll give you a quick summary of what we got up to.  As the beach was only a 10 minute walk from our apartment, we made the most of the white sand and the beautifully clear ocean.  Living in England my whole life I’ve always been under 2 hours away from the sea, and it’s been a bit bizarre living thousands of miles away from a large body of water here in Columbia, so I really enjoyed being by the ocean again and trying to remember how to swim in choppy waters!  A group of us went on a boat trip to an island on one of the days, which allowed us to see more of Miami and admire the million dollar properties on Stars’ island.  Another one of my highlights was going to the Miami Heat game, which was an adrenaline packed game against the Brooklyn Nets and another amazing experience.  In addition to its diverse culture, and beautiful art deco buildings, Miami also boasts an impressive nightlife, which we were able to take full advantage of thanks to their over 18s nights, meaning that the whole of our group were able to enjoy the clubbing scene.  This really reminded me of Manchester and it’s awesome to be able to say that we’ve had a night out in Miami- bragging rights for at least a year when I get back to Manchester!  The holiday was particularly wonderful for me as I had the opportunity to meet some of my extended family for the first time as they live in Florida and kindly came to Miami Beach for the day to meet me.  Had I not been on the Study Abroad program it is very likely that I would never have been able to meet them.  All in all, it was an amazing week and I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to enjoy a typical American Spring Break and experience Miami.

Upon returning to Mizzou (which now weirdly feels like home), we realised that we only had 6 weeks left, and now only 5!  It’s crazy how quickly this past week has flown by and I have an upsetting suspicion that the next 5 will do exactly the same.  The campus is so beautiful at the moment as it’s a botanical garden and the plants are coming into bloom, which, unfortunately our Manchester campus just can’t compete with.  There are so many more things that I want to do here at Mizzou and I’m really hoping that I can find the time to do them as well as finish all of my upcoming assessments (of which there are many!) and survive my final exams.  After the semester ends, I’m flying to Chicago on Friday 13th (eek!) with a fellow Manchester student who’s also here at Mizzou and then we’re going to New York City to see what the big apple is really like, which I’m sure will be amazing and we’re both really looking forward to.  I’ll write another update on my travels at the end of my time in America, which I’m sure will come much too soon.  Until then, I intend to eat many more burgers and use the phrase “y’all” as much as possible!

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