By Shifra Power (North Carolina State University, USA)
Whilst everyone else was making New Years Eve plans, I was cruising through an 8 hour 55 minute flight from London Heathrow to Raleigh-Durham International airport. Although the official move in date wasn’t until the 3rd January, my dad and I decided to head out to Raleigh on the 30th December to check out my new home for the next term. I was grateful to fly out with someone familiar to settle in for the first few days, especially when an emergency purchase for a new winter coat was needed (cheers Dad).
On that note, a fair warning to future travellers – don’t assume that the average weather temperatures will be loyal every year. I don’t think I was able to feel my toes for the first three days I was in Raleigh. With record low temperatures hitting the United States this January, I could easily convince myself that I am studying in the Artic circle.
Nevertheless, my first impression of Raleigh has been superb. Despite the cold, the sun has not stopped shining so far and the warm welcome from North Carolinians has been unrivalled. As I arrived before most of the students, there were lots of opportunities to explore the surrounding area before it got too busy. The city is beautiful to walk around with various historical sites marked out along the streets. The actual downtown area was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but it is quite a nice change from the manic madness of Manchester city centre. Having the time to stroll around meant I was able to spot little details around the city that might otherwise go unnoticed. I thoroughly recommend heading into Downtown Raleigh on New Year’s Eve to witness the ‘famous’ Acorn Drop. Think New York City’s ‘Times Square Big Ball Drop’, but more wholesome. The streets are filled with food stalls, rides and a pop-up wedding chapel (complete with a plastic tiara and veil).
I also managed to accidentally become a food critic. Sampling Southern cuisine became a prime objective before the start of the academic term, with my quest for the finest fried chicken well underway. Thus far, I would highly recommend The Pit Barbecue Restaurant as a mid-range/good quality place to try a range of popular BBQ dishes celebrated in the Southern states. For an infamous American breakfast, the Flying Biscuit Café in Cameron Village (just a 10 minute walk away from NC State main campus) was another great find.
After a few days of gathering dorm-room essentials and navigating my way across NC State’s vast and beautiful campus, I eventually moved in to Alexander Hall (the Global Village). I had spoken to my roommate on Facebook for a few weeks leading up to move in day, which made meeting each other significantly less nerve-wracking and a lot easier. Who knew two strangers could bond so quickly over a chicken costume and a box of Cadbury Heroes? Being in halls that are half international, half American has definitely contributed to how much I’ve loved my time here so far. Everyone wants to socialise with each other, go for group meals between classes and organise trips for long weekends.
I’ve only just started classes so I haven’t formulated the main differences between teaching styles in the UK compared to the USA. But considering that I am studying Star Wars in my Film module, I have no reason to complain just yet…
Until next time,