‘¿Oye tío, por qué hay tanto guiri aquí?’ was a phrase I heard that stuck with me for days after. I was in a bar in the centre of Seville with a group of other friends from the UK, when some locals began laughing and chatting about us in Spanish, unaware that we could understand them.
By Isabelle Lydon, Eötvös Lorànd University, Hungary
After a long six months apart my friends and I had a much-awaited Erasmus reunion. Since most of the group is from Ireland, we deemed this the most appropriate place for the reunion (apart from Budapest itself but that’s for the next reunion). However, we had a few people, including myself, fly from England, Italy and of course people came from all over Ireland.
By Hannah Castenskiold, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As a Geography student, it only came naturally to me to map out the journey of moving and settling into the city of Amsterdam. I decided to use story maps as a way of visually recording the chronological order of funny experiences whilst moving in, in hope to share with others the ups and downs of a big move!
by Tara Brougham, University of Melbourne, Australia
A big part of being on exchange is of course being in a new country, and being able to explore as much of your new home as possible. Therefore, when mid-semester break came around at the University of Melbourne me and two other exchange student friends chose to take this opportunity to explore another part of Australia – its red centre and Uluru.
By Emily Fujii Kyriakidou, University of Melbourne, Australia
Navigating the academic challenges of the University of Melbourne requires a blend of smart planning, consistent effort, and effective study techniques. Unlike the University of Manchester, the University of Melbourne’s assessment structure includes not only quizzes and assignments but also mid-semester tests that can account for 20-30% of your final grade. These mid-semester tests are crucial, as they cover a significant portion of the course content.
My name is Christevie, and I study Philosophy, Politics & Economics. I moved to Manchester from London and I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I spent a year abroad at The University of Toronto (UofT) in Canada.
During this time I got to do a lot of exciting things. Canada bordering the US meant I got to travel to New York, Los Angeles and San Diego for affordable prices with friends! I also got to live in a multicultural city on the 41st floor with an amazing view. Of course, my year abroad was for studying, and since UofT has such a diverse range of courses I got to learn about so many new things. One of my favourite courses was African Youth Languages! If you are considering a year/semester abroad, I would recommend it! It is great to put on your CV and it is a fantastic opportunity to explore a new country as a student, which is an affordable and enriching experience. You will meet so many amazing people and create memories that you will never forget. If you want to fall more in love with your degree, travel and develop your independence send that application
By Augusta Arron, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As many know navigating the housing market as a student in Amsterdam right now is a little stressful to say the least. While everyone I know from Manchester has faced no problem with it at all, getting a place through UvA’s limited accommodation lottery system, I made a very silly mistake in the process which in sum left me basically homeless. In this blog I’ll run you through how this happened and offer some tips you don’t follow in my mindless footsteps.
Finding a place to live on the other side of the world may seem like a challenge. Here are my top 3 options for living in Cholula as a student, and the answers to some accommodation related questions I had before moving into my house in Mexico.
By Laura Docherty, University of New South Wales, Australia
Last weekend I was able to book onto a group camping trip in the Northern Territory, to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) and go hiking in the Red Centre. It was incredible and I would definitely recommend visiting NT; it is so different from everything else I have seen in Australia!
By Louis Hazeldine-Cosgrove, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest.
Going to university in general is a big step for forward for anyone. However, finding out you are going to study abroad can feel like being thrown into the deep end.
No support system; no friends; new language; different culture and many, many nationalities.
It is a lot to get used to and it is not for the faint hearted. But it is an opportunity only a small handful of people will get to do. So, I present my best tips and advice to ensure your time abroad is one that will have a lasting impression on your years at university.
New country, new people, new friends and many opportunities await you. The first couple of weeks will be a blur, no doubt. Interactions with lots of people, it is easy to get carried away! In my experience, everyone you meet is in the same boat. Being confident and sociable is the best way forward, from starting conversations and meeting new nationalities, you will be sure to make many friends throughout your time there!
Additionally, it is easy to be pulled toward people who share the same nationality as you. Whilst it is good to know people who speak your native tongue; I have met many interesting people of different nationalities. Being English myself, I rarely meet anyone who is not primarily English back in Manchester. Often it is a breath of fresh air speaking to so many new people, with different native tongues. You will be surprised how much you will learn off them!
After this ‘limbo’ period, where University has not started yet, and it still feels like you’re on holiday. It is beneficial to familiarise yourself with your surroundings; to ensure you manage to settle in.
Knowing where to shop; locations of favourite food items; local transport stations; knowing how to get home.
Little things like this, help a tremendous amount. I was recommended to familiarize myself with your class locations of your university before it starts. My primary building is a maze, and I would have been very late in the first week if I didn’t do this. Aswell as, ensuring you receive your student card and library card as quickly as you can, will make sure everything runs smoothly.
It is an amazing opportunity to learn how to cook new, local meals. Certain products at home will have a totally different equivalent here. For example, in Hungary, there is hardly any fish, and the Hungarians are obsessed with ‘sour cream’ with their cooking! Therefore, make compromises and explore the local dishes of your destination country. Often, trying to cook meals from your home country can turn out to be very expensive!
Whilst it is very fun going out, socializing and partying; it is very easy to find yourself in a ‘rut.’ Weather it’s not eating right, not enough sleep, homesickness or being very ill – it is always important to look after yourself.
Independence, in a new country is very liberating; not much else really compares to the experience. On the contrary, it comes with a new host of responsibilities. One of the most important is being solely responsible for yourself – mind and body.
Therefore, apart from your academic side – Keeping active proves very beneficial for your wellbeing. Weather that is continuing a sport from home; an entirely new one; joining a gym membership or simply exploring some local nature spots. It helps build your routine, keeps a positive mindset and often carries a social aspect to it.
Whilst you will be busy and pre-occupied during your year abroad, it is easy to forget about the friends and family at home. Sometimes all you need is a familiar voice to talk to or a friend to vent to over the phone. In addition, having an apartment in central Europe, north America and so on, is perfect for people to come visit you – if you are feeling homesick.
Everything has just been incredible here. The food. The weather. The atmosphere in LA and on campus.
And that last part particularly has been consistent throughout my entire time here so far. From the moment I stepped onto campus, everyone has been welcoming and has helped to make this experience what it has been for me so far.
Although I should note that I actually started my California Dreamin’ journey in San Francisco and gradually worked my way down to LA with some friends from England, weaving through Yosemite and Sequoia with a quick diversion to Las Vegas (not in California!) before reaching the City of Angels.
They’re absolutely bucket list destinations. The best way to see them is definitely to hire a car. Turo and FOX Rent a Car will provide cars to over-18s. If you’re at least 20, I recommend using Hertz since they have the most locations to pick up and drop off at, which is what I used since it makes your itinerary much more flexible.
Anyway, once I got here, move-in was a breeze and there were so many people to help me through the process and with my stuff. I’m in Troy East, which is nice because so many other exchange students live here too. It’s a massively international community and I feel like we can all relate to some degree because of that, which has made knocking on doors and getting to know people so easy.
I will admit, however, that coming from England, it was very strange having roommates at first, although they are amazing and have definitely helped me through bouts of homesickness and anxiety. Even if it is an option for you, I would strongly advise against living alone, at least in your first term.
And the view from our flat …
Life in Los Angeles and California
I have been really surprised by the breadth of not only what LA offers but USC as well. It’s almost too much for people like me who like to check everything off their bucket list.
If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to get started when you land in LA, I recommend heading straight for USC’s involvement fair (for societies) during the first week of lectures. I needed to put sunscreen on because it took hours to get from one end to the other (did I mention how brutal the sun is here?).
After a flurry of scanned QR codes and an inbox full of Google Form receipts, I think I’ve settled on a few that I really like: archery, debate, poker, and this really cool one called SC Outfitters.
Archery and debate are exactly what they sound like. I get to argue with people for fun on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I get to resurrect my Hunger Games obsession on Wednesday and Fridays. Poker is, well … poker!
SC Outfitters is this really cool student-led club that organises these insane trips around California’s vast network of nature and parks. Every month or so, they do a ‘trip reveal’ where you pick a customised itinerary distinguished by location and difficulty and embark on that adventure with a small group of likeminded nature lovers. It’s a great environment for getting to meet new people and exploring California. And the best part: transportation is provided!
But beyond the trips, they do weekly ‘Hammock Hangs’, frequent member parties and events like manhunts and scavenger hunts. Not everything is a hike and a half, literally.
As I’m writing this, I’m recovering from a long hike and lunch in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu.
Check it out.
And look who else I saw on the trail with me!
I’ve got some good trips lined up for the next couple of weeks as well.
The next one, which I’m especially excited for, is called ‘DON’T SWIM IN THERE!!!’, a trip to California’s famous Salton Sea. A massive body of toxic water created by roughly a century’s worth of farm runoff into the water.
You may be familiar with it if you’ve played Grand Theft Auto V; the game’s Alamo Sea in the north of the map is based on it. You know, where Trevor lives?
Between that game being one of the pillars of my childhood and just my overall fascination with weird bits of geography like this, it’s something I’ve always wanted to see. And now I’m going to!
So yes, when you’re here, definitely check out SC Outfitters.
Between meeting other Angelenos and Trojans and meeting nature, it’s just a great opportunity.
What’s On On-Campus
If you’re not the nature type or you don’t want to spend a fortune on Ubers or try to figure out the public transport, there is still a mountain of things to do on campus.
First of all, game day! American football is huge in America (duh!), and USC is absolutely no exception. You better make sure your wardrobe is fully stocked with Trojan gear, because you won’t want to be seen without it on game day (lest someone assume that you’re a UCLA Bruin, USC’s arch rival).
Think tailgates, BBQs, and just streets packed with Trojans as far as the eye can see. Very American. Very much what you see in films.
The USC Bookstore has plenty of merchandise to choose from, with four storeys to browse. They’ve got Nike, Lululemon, and even Apple products to choose from. You can also take a look at their selection online if you’d like to stock up early and take advantage of discounts.
And make sure to buy a season ticket to the games as soon as possible! It’s a great value and you won’t want to be left without one (I think you break even after going to just three or four games, and that’s out of 13 games in the season).
But again, if (American) football (get used to it!) isn’t your thing, there’s still a lot you can do on campus.
Opening week had a massive carnival with rides and a music event called ‘Light Up the Night’. I loved it.
And there’s always stuff going on in halls. My floor hosted a Pizza and Glass Painting Night recently, and now they’re preparing for a Día de Muertos celebration.
And I won’t be here for this one unfortunately, but they’re throwing a Thanksgiving Dinner for everyone soon.
If it’s not obvious, there is a lot to do here. Download the ‘EngageSC’ app. It’s one centralised system where information and tickets for all campus and university festivities are coordinated and released, and it even lets you see who’s going to what.
Everyday Life as an Exchanger
Okay, but what does the average day-to-day look like for me?
As you’ve probably realised by now, you really cannot ever be bored here, and even with a moderate workload, it can be quite a juggling act trying to find time for everything.
So far I’m taking three classes because I wanted to ease myself into the workload and environment (and thankfully I did; it has been a readjustment), and next semester I’m taking four. One is a module on risk management, the other is on business communications, and the third is about organisational behaviour. Here’s the new one next semester: Introduction to Seamanship and Navigation! I will be learning all about ships and nautical science through seminars at the Port of Los Angeles and during a two-day overnight OCEAN VOYAGE! I’m actually a bit nervous for that. I guess we’ll see how it goes.
I will say, the American approach to lecturing is quite different in that it feels way more holistic and narrative compared to the rigidly structured learning objectives set around a strict timetable in England, if that makes any sense. You’ll probably have more in-lecture hours at USC, but they’ll be much less densely packed with content and information (this is anecdotal of course and can totally vary, especially if you’re taking more STEM-focussed modules!). Overall, at the end of the semester, the total amount of content will probably be quite comparable.
Overall, the workload has been fair and appropriate. I definitely haven’t struggled although having assignments due multiple times a week for multiple classes can take some getting used to. You’ll always have tiny assignments due left and right that by themselves amount to almost nothing but that at the end of the term will matter quite significantly. And again, this is all anecdotal and will depend on the classes you’re taking, but generally speaking, this is the American way.
One thing I definitely recommend is to try and schedule all of your classes on EITHER Mondays and Wednesdays OR Tuesdays and Thursdays so that you always have extra long weekends for travelling and exploring (there are never Friday classes at Marshall, to my knowledge). The Tuesdays and Thursdays for me can be brutal, but it’s so worth it.
It can be quite complicated to sort the logistics of your timetable anyway though since you have to make at least 9 choices whose timings can never conflict (and there’s no software that can automatically manage this either. You have to make sure everything is conflict-free when submitting your choices).
My recommendation is to create a table in Word and put all of your choices into corresponding cells for dates and times so you can see everything laid out and visually identify any conflicts.
And again, my accommodation is great. Four storeys with a lift, air con in each flat, a full kitchen, and a balcony. Very clean and modern.
Things I Wish I Knew Before
There’s a reason why I’m so grateful for all of the fun and activities that the university provides on campus.
Unfortunately, it’s true what they say: Los Angeles is not a walkable city. Not even close. I do miss being able to just hop on a bus in Manchester and go anywhere for free (when I have my bus pass). It’s hard to walk in (at least this part of) LA, and there’s not much to see anyway outside of campus.
One thing I recommend is to look into the U-Pass from USC Transportation that I believe gets you either free or heavily discounted bus (and maybe rail?) travel throughout the city. I didn’t sign up in time and am definitely regretting it. The deadline is pretty early in the term (was September 13 for me), so you can quickly forget about it in the flurry of all of those start-of-term festivities and errands as I did.
You may also want to consider downloading the Citizen app, which is a public safety tool that gives you access to live information about crime and safety risks happening around the city as they are reported through police radio. The app is fantastic, accurate to the minute, and most importantly free! There have definitely been times where I’ve been able to make more informed decisions about going out when it’s late at night (to get food on Figueroa Street, for example) since I’m aware of safety concerns down to their exact coordinates with descriptions, live video at the scene, and the police radio snippets. LA is not the safest city but this is a pretty great consolation.
Finally, and this may be the biggest shock, but the weather can actually get quite cold. Not Manchester-level cold or even close to that, mind you, but on cloudy days or at night, there have definitely been times when I wished I had brought some warm clothes to LA with me.
Also, I want to mention that though I love my accommodation (Troy Hall) and would still pick it again if I had a chance to redo this experience, it was a shock to realise how diverse the housing options are, both in terms of university-owned and private housing. The one you’ll probably hear about the most besides the university-owned accommodation is the Lorenzo.
It’s a bit far from campus (there’s a free shuttle), but the atmosphere and culture may be more comfortable and familiar to you since it’s where most European students stay.
There is a tangibly different vibe at the Lorenzo compared to the rest of the USC environment, and if you’re worried about the adjustment of moving to Los Angeles, this might be able to mitigate that for you.
And you think my view was nice? Take a look at theirs (yes, that is one of three rooftop swimming pools).
Do keep in mind, though, that most private accommodation requires a 12-month commitment that will require you to pay a fine or find someone to take over your lease to break. I don’t know if the Lorenzo is included in this but it’s worth double-checking.
Well, I guess that’s it for now. Be sure to check back soon as I will only have more and more to share! Especially after my trip to the Salton Sea.