After almost 6 months studying at NC State, leaving America feels difficult to process. It seems like I only got settled to all of the differences a couple of months ago – and with Spring Break, mid-terms, finals and making travel plans, time really does go by fast. Especially now that I’m sitting in the airport ahead of a 26 hour journey home!
I actually left NC State just over two weeks ago to go travelling with some fellow exchange students, but today is the day I’m flying back home to the U.K. Because Alexander Hall is such a sociable dorm with both international exchange students and American students, it was difficult to say goodbye to people you’ve had such a close bond with over the semester. But, living in such an international community means that you have friends all over the world – as well as in America.
We started our travels in New Orleans, Louisiana (pictured above is our tour to Honey Island swamp). 6 nights was just enough time to take in the craziness of the city, with Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street being lively into the early hours. New Orleans has a multitude of historic sights, such as the cathedral and 1850 house, and you can check out the madness of Mardi Gras and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina at the museum in the main square. It really is a one of a kind city in the United States – no other place is quite like it.
After New Orleans, we flew to Las Vegas. Being underage, there wasn’t a lot for me to do when walking through the hotels (which due to their huge casino’s, serve as the main tourist attraction) but it was still nice to get a feel for the place. The highlight was undoubtedly a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We went to the South Rim in Arizona, and to be honest the view didn’t even feel real.
Following Vegas we got the Greyhound to Los Angeles, where we spent 3 nights in Koreatown. LA is great, and not quite as plastic as Vegas, but is also very spread out. Trips to Hollywood and the beaches in Venice and Santa Monica took a day each, so planning where you want to go is key. Public transport will take you to most places, but you’ll be travelling for a while!
Our final stop was San Francisco. As I was only there for 2 full days I couldn’t do everything, but we managed to fit in the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Castro District, all of which are worth visiting. We stayed in Alameda, around 40 minutes out of the city, meaning that like Los Angeles travelling into our destination often took a while, but the money saved on accommodation was worth it. Also: stay away from the bus system unless you’re staying in actual San Francisco; the BART will take you everywhere, is faster and often cheaper!
Now that study abroad is at an end, I couldn’t be happier that I got this opportunity. It truly is once in a lifetime, so if you’re reading this and unsure, my advice is to go for it: you won’t regret it once it’s over.