Reflections on Studying Abroad (just another excuse to keep talking about my year abroad, really)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So this is my eighth and final blog (try not to get too upset) and its basically just a short one to talk about what it’s like being back in Manchester, post-Illinois.

I moved back to Manchester partway through the summer and have been back at university proper for about a month now. First things first, all of those things they tell you about “reverse culture shock” are actually pretty true. The fact that people don’t want to constantly hear about what you did last year; the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to answer the question “How was your year abroad?” in a single sentence; and the fact that anything you say, even the most mundane of stories, instantly sounds more pretentious when prefaced with the phrase “When I was in America…”. Luckily, there are still plenty of opportunities to talk about my year abroad to people who actually want to listen and I have been volunteering myself for Open Day talks, Study Abroad Fairs and Information Sessions ever since I got back.

Being back in Manchester does feel pretty strange. It simultaneously feels as though I never went away, but also like I missed out on a year and can’t quite put my finger on where I was. I’m definitely one of the lucky returners due to the fact that the majority of my close friends from first and second year have stayed in Manchester, which probably contributes to my feeling like nothing has changed. However, this feeling so comfortable being back also makes it feel like Illinois never even happened, which is pretty sad. On the other hand though, I’m instantly reminded that I’ve been gone when all my friends start talking about some hilarious thing that happened in third year and I have no clue what they’re on about; or when I reference something from “last year” before being quickly reminded by my housemates that that was, in fact, two years ago.

There are definitely things that I miss about Illinois and study abroad in general. The fact that everything was so fresh and exciting, I was constantly meeting new people, going to new places or planning the next trip; as well as the fact that you could get away with practically anything just by being British. And while I did find the workload incredibly tough, especially during my first semester, I do miss the fact that because everyone always had some kind of work to do, you could always find people to have a study session with after dinner. I would say that my work ethic has definitely improved because of this, I’m now a lot less prone to just leaving stuff to do “later” and, as a result of the new and improved me, I’ve discovered sections of the main library I never knew existed (The red area? The green area?!) and managed to nab myself a seat in the Ali G for the first time in my university career.

As for the things I don’t miss, continuous assessment would have to be number one. Yes, I still do have a fairly consistent amount of work this year (I am a fourth year, after all) but not constantly having homework to hand in, or the possibility of a surprise test means that I can actually focus more on understanding what I’m learning and doing my work to a higher standard. And when everyone in Manchester was gearing up for freshers week, my friends back in Illinois were gearing up for their first set of midterms and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out where I would rather be.

So that’s pretty much it for my study abroad blogging career. It’s been a wild ride and I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve had to say and maybe (just maybe) even found some of it helpful or interesting. I’ll hand it over to the people who are actually on exchange now because their lives are roughly 99% more exciting than mine at the moment. But still don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions or want to know anything more about studying abroad. (Like, genuinely, please ask me about my year abroad…please).

One thought on “Reflections on Studying Abroad (just another excuse to keep talking about my year abroad, really)

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I am from New Zealand and I’m going to UIUC for the spring semester on exchange. I wanted to know what university hall/dorm you recommend? There are so many so your insight would be great. I am 21 years old and will be taking senior (300 level) papers. It would be great if you could please email me your recommendations. Thankyou!

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