Thulase Sivapooranan The University of Maryland, USA
Tuesday 20th of August 18:30
I was standing in front of numerous tall, looming crimson-bricked and white-pillared buildings, both my small hands occupied: one holding onto a suitcase the size of me and the other clutching my phone with a mere 5% charge. No one was around; I did not know where to go; I was hours late to check-in at my accommodation! Did it get worse? Yes. Booming claps of thunder echoed from above and a heavy downpour of rain followed. There were booming bursts of thunder and it suddenly started to rain heavily. I never felt so isolated; I just wanted to cry with the clouds.
Eventually, I saw a figure in the distance, so I ran towards them, quite slowly (because I had to drag this heavy suitcase with me too).
“Hi ! I’m Tee, could you help me, please? I am an exchange student! I just landed! I don’t know where to get my keys from! Do you know where I can get them from?” I panted.
“Yes, sure! Don’t worry, I got you “said Josh calmly ( a junior home student at The University of Maryland ), and took hold of my oversized suitcase kindly.
He helped me move in, and then we went to the closest sushi restaurant to have dinner. We probably spent an hour at least, talking about Maryland, America, Manchester, our hobbies, ourselves. In that moment, I was overjoyed- I had an enigmatic smile painted on my face. I just made my first friend abroad, and I got a gut feeling that I was going to love it here.
Wednesday 21st of August 09:00
First day of Orientation
“Welcome to the University of Maryland! We are very happy to see you here. Our first session will start shortly, for the time being feel free to interact–“
I turned my head to see who was next to me and I smiled at them and introduced myself. It finally got to me that I was not in Manchester anymore; I realised that I was back at square one. New campus. New people. New everything. But as the day went by, I felt more welcomed and less overwhelmed. The orientation sessions were very informative; the staff were very welcoming, and all the exchange students were just as excited and nervous as I was.
Thursday 22nd of August
Most of the orientation sessions were as expected, including: how the US healthcare system works, Academic integrity and a Washington DC trip with all the exchange students. But, the safety and security session …oh boy, it gave me the heebie jeebies! UMD’s police department came in to give us the talk, and half an hour in they gave us a short “active shooting training” session. RUN. HIDE. FIGHT was the motto. It became very clear to me that I was going to be living in a high gun to people ratio country for the next four months. I need to be vigilant.
Friday 22nd of August
Last day of Orientation and I learnt a lot about the American Culture and History of Maryland. It’s good to see how far Maryland has come from the very severe racial segregation which was not too long ago, to now one of the most diverse states. (UMD is one of the most multicultural universities in the US too!)
We ended the day with a massive BBQ dinner outside the basketball courts! The atmosphere was amazing- full on High School Musical vibes. Just as I thought I would have time in the weekend to catch up with my family and friends back at home… one of my new friends popped the question “should we go to New York this weekend, seeing as we don’t have class homework to worry about yet?” And the next thing I knew, at 11pm Friday evening, the four of us were on a coach to New York!! As born and raised in London and Manchester, it is safe to say that New York is something else! I will be sharing my experience via my vlog and Instagram posts!
It’s only been a week since I have moved to the States, and I have to say that I am loving it so far! If you’re planning on coming to America, here’s two things that I’ve learnt so far:
- Take advantage of your British accent, the Americans love it!
- Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow –make the most of your time here.