Well, it has been a while since my last study abroad blog, a lot has happened, the main one being that I am no longer abroad. Now, I am contemplating my time on Rocky Top, Tennessee, underneath the grey skies of Manchester.

In America, I visited 5 cities in total. To try and tell you how different the culture is over there, I decided to review each city for 7 seperate categories. It’s a simple idea. Maybe the rankings might inspire you to take a trip to the Southeast of the USA.

Each city will be ranked for: Food, music, safety, bars, price, stuff to do and architecture.

Knoxville: My American home


Food= 2/5

There were some good spots, Wicked Chicken in Old City was spicy, the Rocky Top (University) dining hall always filled my belly. However, in Knoxville money is easily spent on unsatisfying meals. The Gameday sub is a prime example, for $6ish you can chew your way through a dry bread roll filled with lumps of sweaty ham and turkey. Yummy. No matter how stodgy the sub was I always came back.

A fat Gameday sub, not my professional photo, obviously.

Music= 3/5

Good stuff.  The preferred venue being Preservation Pub and the place next door, Scruffy City Hall, they had all sorts of music, including jazz, blues, and rock. The music played at Frat parties was okay, a bit cringey, luckily American’s aren’t aware of English cringe. You see, in Frat houses, “Mr Brightside” and “Party in the USA” are anthems rather than screechy singalongs.

Me and the other foreign lads also happened to be friends with a student band called Bad Neighbours. They toured the Fort (a Tennessean Fallowfield) with their mix of country rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd. When touring, the band entertained the crowd with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude. On one occasion, this involved setting a guitar alight as fireworks shot off behind them. Arguably, though, their rowdiness never stopped, as post gig they usually upped the ante, with a band member once seen climbing a cherry picker and another unconsciously wetting himself on someone else’s carpet. Jimmy Hendrix was probably incontinent as well, right?

An example of music at a frat party
A very low definition shot of Bad Neighbours’s flaming guitar

Safety= 3/5

Yeah, pretty good, I personally didn’t get hurt, but there was plenty of ways I could have. For example: I survived cliff jumping into Fort Dickerson, I survived football fans rioting after a bad referee call against Ole Miss (a rival of the Tennessee Vols), I survived Hurricane Ida, and then finally, I survived some ridiculously big Kentucky Tornado’s. Luckily, both deadly weather systems merely kissed Knoxville. I should also add, that on my first night of frat-hopping at the University of Tennessee, an alert appeared on my phone stating that a shooting had taken place only a block away. Thankfully, I was a safe distance from the skirmish, and to be truthful I never even heard the gunshots.

Before going abroad, I had to complete a compulsory risk assessment to be insured on the University’s policy. It was almost impressive that all the risks I outlined, happened. I got very lucky. Unfortunately, others didn’t, my friend Ben being one of them. As one night, whilst on the hunt for a calzone, he got his jaw broken by a would-be cage fighter on the street. His jaw then had to be wired shut for the following 3 months.

Cliff jumping at Fort Dickerson

Bars= 2/5

They really were quite mediocre, American’s seem a little more immature when it comes to consuming beverages, I think the disorderly pubs n clubs of Manchester win. Saying that, the sweaty innocence of places like Uptown have their moments, especially if you like jumping to Avicii and Pitbull whilst being advertised constipation medication by tellies on the walls. Also don’t be fooled, drinks may seem cheaper without the tax, but you’re expected to make up the minimum wage with 20% tips per drink (expected nationwide). If sit down bars are more your thing; The Hill, Preservation Pub and the Scottish bar in Old City, will give you nice places to chat and drink whisky that’s good. Not quite Pubs though. I am quite the oppressive Englishman.


Everything is reasonably priced, if not bought on campus. Cans of beer at football games cost $15. Which is wrong. If beer is left unattended feel invited to gain retribution.

Stuff to do=4/5

Knoxville has plenty, primarily, due to its sporting prowess as an SEC college town and also because it’s so close to the Smoky Mountains. Definitely get out and do some hiking and some swimming and some running. The Smokie’s are completely unique, think of steep sided valleys with dense forests, with black bears roaming as they wish.

Smoky Mountains in Autumn


It’s solid in places (Old City and Gay Street are easy on the eye) the campus could be more beautiful. The endless bricks do grow on you though. Something totally Rocky Top.

A Sk8er boi in Old City

Equivalent English city = maybe Nottingham, as Knoxville has a strong campus community and the city is smallish.

Stay posted for the next review (the Capital of the South) Atlanta, Georgia.

Leave a Reply