The Highs and Lows of College Park

by Millie Elwell – the University of Maryland, College Park.

Spring blossoms on campus

Now I’m a semester and a half into my study abroad at UMD, I think that I am somewhat equipped to discuss the best and worst things about campus life. Truly, I just cannot believe how fast the time has flown by and it makes me very sad to think that I will never be in college again. As hopelessly American as it sounds, it is great being a ‘Terp’.

There are so many highs to choose from, but I think the UMD basketball games are definitely up there! The sports culture here is very different from in England, where we usually just sit around in a pub watching football on a TV. The atmosphere is crazy, there’s always free t-shirts and live entertainment in the breaks. The tickets are free for students, which is great, and going often means you get to know the players, the chants, and where to get the best snacks in the stadium (pretzels!!). Honestly, the experience is just so fun.

The last basketball game of the season (we won!)

What I’ve learnt most whilst being here is that you really have to throw yourself into it. American culture is not like English culture at all, even though we (technically!!) speak the same language. For things like sports, it will feel unnatural at first to join in as enthusiastically, but add some irony to your excitement and you’ll have a great time. For example, you have to learn that a night out starts at 8/9pm here, not at 11pm like in Europe, and that spirits are cheaper than beers. You’ll discover that many Americans have little sense of geography and quite wide-ranging (and occasionally uncomfortable) politics, but that’s okay. My favourite thing is that many of my America friends think I am an excellent comedian, which of course I’m not! But any sort of quick wit and sarcasm will get you very far in their eyes.

The Lincoln Memorial in DC.

The hardest things about living in America would be the health system. Its complicated and chaotic nature will make you love the NHS like never before. Trying to sort out your insurance information and decide which health services you should go to when it’s 11pm and you have an infection is not a fun experience, but roommates/friends really help! My advice would be to prep when you arrive, as you never know when you might need healthcare, and therefore you’ll be prepared if the situation occurs.

Another challenge would just be the money. It’s hard to balance finances when you want to say yes to everything, but can’t. Honestly though, it just becomes normal to pay double the price for milk, eggs, and vegetables. It is what it is! I’ve just learnt to budget in a different way than I have previously in Manchester, and there’s always a cheap way to do things (even if it means a 10 hour layover at the airport, do it with friends, bring snacks, and its much more bearable!).

Overall, my experience has been completely chaotic, but I mean that in the best possible way! The highs and lows are things I will realistically never experience again, so why not experience them? Life is short and College Park awaits!

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