It’s been three weeks since I landed in the US and UMass is finally starting to feel like home. The weather has been amazing, even if a little too humid at times, but its been perfect for exploring the campus. There’s so much to talk about and it’s hard to know where to start but here goes!
For anyone travelling abroad on an exchange, here’s a few tips that might clear up any pre-departure questions and settle some nerves. These definitely helped me out over the first few days here.
Make the most of students who have been abroad before! At meetings back in Manchester, I managed to meet someone who had been to UMass the year before and he had some great advice and was always willing to answer questions I had, no matter how stupid they seemed to me. Even better, he was actually visiting friends here when I was due to arrive so I was able to stay with him for free on my first night. If you’re reading this then thanks again!
Peter Pan buses are a cheap and easy way to travel between cities and campus. I only took the bus from Boston to UMass but they travel all over the north east of the US going to places like New York and Baltimore and even Toronto in Canada! I’m hoping I can find the time to get to these places over the next year.
I traveled with another exchange student so from the start of the trip at Manchester Airport, I didn’t have to do anything alone. Having someone to talk to and just double check things with really helped put us both at ease. Within an hour of being at UMass for registration, we were Instagram famous on the official UMass story!
Classes here are a lot smaller than they are back home but it really helps if you have questions to ask and don’t want to speak in front of an entire lecture theater. Your professors learn your names, want the entire group to participate and overall, they seem more approachable. I’m not saying that you can’t or you shouldn’t speak to lecturers in Manchester but I feel more comfortable doing it here. I’ve been to office hours of one professor to ask about a research project and got the clarification needed within 10 minutes. The Integrated Science Building, where all my lectures take place, is extremely modern with great study spaces.
All over campus there are great places that you can sit to study be that inside the W.E.B Du Bois Library (the world’s tallest academic research library and the second tallest library in the world!) If studying indoors isn’t for you, lots of students sit around the pond and do work or just relax.
The Durfee Conservatory is another place on campus where you can go and enjoy some quiet time to relax and read a book, do some homework or even just enjoy looking at the hundreds of plants that call it home.
The equivalent to Freshers week here was a lot different than at home. There was an event on every evening under a huge tent where you could go and spend as much or as little time as you liked. There were so many freebies! The events included a BBQ, arcade and games night, well-being evening, a huge outdoor screening of Wonder Woman and of course the activities expo where you could sign up to the clubs and societies.
I knew before I came to UMass that I wanted to join their Outing Club which goes hiking, climbing and canoeing to name a few activities. I went on my first trip with them over the weekend which was a sunset hike to Mt Holyoke and the views were amazing! We all stopped to get ice cream on the way back and it was a nice way to meet more new people with shared interests.
I’ve been to my first football game too and lets just say that it isn’t for me. The UMass Minutemen may be one of the the worst college teams in the country but the game itself was full of too many pauses and not enough action so I may have left at half time… The marching band were great and I got a free t-shirt for going so it wasn’t all bad!
Fun Fact! My neighbor in my dorm is actually the college mascot, Sam the Minuteman!
That pretty much sums up everything I have done in my time at UMass so far. If anything, being able to reflect on it as I wrote this post has made me realize how much I’ve done and how much I still want to experience while abroad. I guess that means I can’t sit around my laptop all day so I best get back outside to do some more exploring and of course studying!