Reflections on Studying Abroad

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Manly Hall Residence building – feels weird not to be living here, but I’m not going to miss the stairs!

It has been just over a year since I left to study at UNC, and I can honestly say I wish I was there now – well maybe not right now due to the hurricane! It’s a bit difficult to compare student life in America to student life here at Manchester as there are ups and downs to both campuses. At Manchester I felt it was a lot easier for me to get involved in things – the freshers fair was easy to navigate, and I joined a campus hockey team and orchestra. UNC did offer these things, but I felt they were harder to find, even at fall fest (their version of freshers fair). I also didn’t take my saxophone and hockey stick abroad, I did only have one suitcase! Still, UNC was a lovely open campus, not in a city, with plenty of places to sit outside and eat, and whilst Manchester does have these things, UNC doesn’t have the rain.

By going abroad I learnt that I could move to a different country and not completely fail at life. I know this is what doing a year abroad entails, but knowing that I could do this meant a lot to me. Going to Manchester for the first time in 2016 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To me, it felt like I’d left my entire support system behind, and that I was just going to shut down inside. This, obviously, didn’t happen, and going abroad proved to me that I can do more than I think I can.  It is a big step moving to a different country, and luckily for me I was still speaking the same language, but I hope any future students worrying about doing a year abroad realise is that not everything is going to go amazingly. Sure, you don’t want anything bad to happen, but it’s important to know that failing something isn’t the end of the world, and you can make things up with extra credit if possible. At the end of the day, your safety and happiness is what’s important.

Beautiful Forest Theatre on campus

Would I do anything different if I did my year abroad again? Probably, as there are some things I would change, but more tiny little details, rather than the overall experience. I met people out there that I hope to be friends for life with, even if the fact that they live in Australia makes it a little bit different to see them. I felt that I had the experience I wanted to have, and not comparing your year abroad life to others is a good start. Everyones experience is going to be different, and making yours what you want to be is a far better thing to do than spending time seeing who’s made more friends or gone to more parties, or travelled to new places – your exchange will be what you make it.

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