By Doris Ngai, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
This time last month, summer vacation officially began for me when most of my friends at Manchester are still revising for their end of May and early June exams. I went to Orlando Universal Studios and Disneyland with my significant other that I met during my semester abroad at Umass. I think the best things in life really do happen to us so unexpectedly.
For instance, I would never have guessed that by studying abroad, I would get the chance to meet a group of like-minded , crazy and compatible friends in the US. I had also never expected to meet a group of students from Chinese University Hong Kong (my hometown) who were also on a semester exchange program and treated me like family while I was away in a foreign country. I knew for a fact that I used to be the most shy and introverted person I know. Ever since being at Umass Amherst however, and after meeting all these new and amazing friends, classmates and professors who taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone more, work hard, and stand strong in what I truly believe in, I came home feeling like a brand-new and changed person, and the crazy part is, I am not even exaggerating it.
America as you may know is quote on quote known as the land of freedom, though through my observation and my short time I had spent in this country, I think American’s are very individualistic, people really work hard and put in the effort and are also incredibly independent and confident in themselves. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I would really like to thank Manchester, Umass and the United States for giving me this opportunity and chance to study abroad and creating so many fond new memories that will stay with me forever. Thank You Umass, you were truly wonderful to me and I wish to reunite with you in the early future.
If you are still patiently reading my blog, first of all congratulations, give yourself a round of applause and pat yourself on the back for getting through the rather dull part of the blog and if you are still sitting there thinking to yourself;
Is this really the right choice for me? Should I study abroad? Or more specifically, should I choose to study abroad in the United States ? The answer is Yes, Yes and YES!
Why? Well because the future is full of possibilities and uncertainties, sure whilst you are away you may not have the best time and realise, “hey this really isn’t for me”, but you know what? It might also be the BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU! If you put yourself out there in very uncomfortable situations like myself, and then realise it is not what you had initially signed up for, you learn and grow from that.
If you do not expose yourself to uncertainties and uncomfortable situations at all, you will most certainly not grow as a stronger person. Don’t look back 70 years from now on and regret not saying YES to studying abroad because let me tell you, there will be challenges and there will be difficult times when you feel so lost and down, but when you do realise that you had overcome the hardships, you will finally realise your strength and your courage as a human being.
Personally for me, I decided it was right to study abroad specifically in the United States is because one, I have always been influenced by American media whilst growing up in Hong Kong. I have also pretty much been asked my whole life whether or not I am American because of my accent, in which of course, was influenced by American television. Second, I saw that Manchester was offering this opportunity to allow students to study abroad and I thought to myself, what a great idea, this gives shy Doris a chance to step out of her comfort zone, see and learn a different culture, why not? Lets do this. If its good, that’s great, and well if it’s not what I had expected, guess what, that’s also a positive experience within itself. Bad thing happens, you live and you learn and become a mature and stronger person because of this experience.
Lastly, I want to experience a different education system at a lower cost because if you are aware of the American college tuition, it is pretty expensive.
Below in bullet points, I have concluded some of the main things I wish I knew before studying abroad in the United States, enjoy…
“Do not compare your study abroad experience to anyone else’s experience because it is so personal, unique and subjective. Also, the more you put in, the more you are going to get out of it”
- Put in 100% effort in all your work from the beginning of your time whilst at college, because the college professors are really helpful and they are willing to help you out one on one during office hours and they average out your grade in the end through continuous assessments, essays and exams so work hard from the beginning
- Get a driving license if you can before you come to the States because it will make life a lot easier for you
- Go to the frat parties at least once when you are in college because you really get a sense of the “American college” party experience but don’t get peer pressured into doing things you do not want to (don’t get hazed into doing the things you don’t want to)
- Americans are really nice and down to earth, but saying thank you, holding the door open for the person behind you, and saying sorry when you accidentally bump into someone is really not as common as you would think
- Don’t get too attached to the friends you meet whilst away because if you are like me, I found it really hard to say goodbye to them when we had to break up for the summer holidays
- Amherst is a very safe town, but I can’t really say the same for New York, Boston and Washington
- My favourite place on the east-coast in order is Washington DC, New York, Rhode Island Newport but holiday wise, I would recommend Miami and Orlando Florida are also great places to be for great relaxation
- Studying abroad is pretty expensive, budget budget budget! If you gotta save the dollar, go save the dollar because if you are trying to have a fun and adventurous spring break or summer vacation, you gotta make those sacrifices/ I have decided to stay in a cheaper accommodation this semester when I get back to Manchester in Year three because of poor budgeting
- At some point, you will probably have to explain to that ONE SPECIAL INDIVIDUAL that you are NOT from London, and Manchester is not part of London. Just sayin.