Reflections on Studying Abroad

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Manly Hall Residence building – feels weird not to be living here, but I’m not going to miss the stairs!

It has been just over a year since I left to study at UNC, and I can honestly say I wish I was there now – well maybe not right now due to the hurricane! It’s a bit difficult to compare student life in America to student life here at Manchester as there are ups and downs to both campuses. At Manchester I felt it was a lot easier for me to get involved in things – the freshers fair was easy to navigate, and I joined a campus hockey team and orchestra. UNC did offer these things, but I felt they were harder to find, even at fall fest (their version of freshers fair). I also didn’t take my saxophone and hockey stick abroad, I did only have one suitcase! Still, UNC was a lovely open campus, not in a city, with plenty of places to sit outside and eat, and whilst Manchester does have these things, UNC doesn’t have the rain.

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Travelling after Studying

Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sea Otter at Seattle aquarium

Obviously, studying abroad so I could travel after wasn’t the reason I chose the exchange year course, but I’m not going to lie, it was a perk. Considering a lot of people do this, I figured I’d write down some things I learnt about planning travelling, and actually travelling.

Plan, plan, plan. You can’t plan too much. There are times where you might want to leave things to fate as it were, but other times things need to be booked in advance. A lot of things like hotels and flights are cheaper when booked in advance, which I’m sure you know. It also means that you’ve looked in advance for things to do in the places you’re going to, and so know what to book in advance, and what to leave to the day etc. It also means that you’re more likely to stick to your budget.

Grand Canyon, West Rim – take lots of water!

BUDGET! If you have saved up and have plenty of money, you will be fine, but I’d still suggest having a budget. You never know, you may wander into a Sephora (or another shop you like). Don’t forget to add suitcase expenses to your budget. I made an excel spreadsheet, with the rows of the places I was going, and then columns of hotel, airplane, food, tours, cash. You can do your own, but it’s a basic one. It might seem a bit too far, but it meant I knew I wasn’t going to get stranded in the middle of America with no money. It also means you know how much you’ve spent, and don’t have to check your bank account a lot, or carry around a lot of receipts with you.

Make a quick list for family. It can be very simple – just the place you are, where you are staying, and the dates you are there for. Gives them peace of mind, and means someone will always know where you are.

HP world 2
Orlando ft. rain

Hotels vs. hostels vs. Airbnb. Saving money vs. decent living. In some places you are limited by where you can stay. I went to Yellowstone, and I really didn’t want to camp, it was airbnb. There were some hotels, but in this case they were more expensive, especially as they were closer to the car. If you use money saving websites to book hotels, then set your rating of cleanliness to a decent level, that way you can hopefully find a cheap but acceptable place to stay.

Arguments. People do differ, but as a person who needs time to themselves to recharge, I knew being with the same person for 5 weeks was going to be difficult. My advice would be get it out. If something annoys you, or they do something you dislike, say something fairly quickly, That way, when you get tired, you’re less likely to have a massive argument where everything spills out. Also make sure you agree on most things, and compromise when you can’t. A larger group can make this difficult, but at least you’ve tried to include everyone in the planning.

Capilano Suspension Bridge – not for those who fear heights…

Lastly, a few more singular things I’ve learnt, mainly for America:

  1. Car hire for under 25’s means an additional charge is added on top of the original car hire
  2. If you go to New Orleans, have one day where you do very little, that way you can really experience the night out before, the heat is terrible when you don’t have a hangover, so I wouldn’t try it with one
  3. When are you coming back? So try it whilst you’re there
  4. Pack as lightly as possible – souvenirs
  5. Travel with old towels – you can give them away before you fly home
  6. Share toiletries, and have small bottles that you can refill rather than big ones that don’t run out
  7. If you want to see moose in Yellowstone, they’re most active at sunrise so it might mean a very early start
  8. You can never drink too much water in Vegas, or at the Grand Canyon
  9. America is bigger than you think it is…

I’m sure I’ll think of other tips once I’ve posted this, but as a quick list I travelled to: Nashville, Orlando, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, Seattle, Vancouver. If you go to any of these places, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Tips and Tricks I’ve learnt

by Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  1. Speak to the people who’ve gone abroad before you – you might think you know all the necessary stuff for going abroad, but it can’t help to speak to people who’ve gone before you. They may give you cheaper ways to travel, transfer money, or you simply have someone your age who can just reassure you of the amazing time you’re going to have. Personally, I got told that I could waive the insurance here at UNC, saving me a lot of money.
    New Orleans – Alligator Swamp Tour!

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Chemistry Abroad

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Considering the large number of chemistry students in my year that went abroad, I thought a few things I learnt about studying this subject in particular may be useful. A lot of the points do refer to chemistry but can be applicable to other subject areas, especially other sciences, and also they mainly refer to my host uni, UNC Chapel Hill.

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Going Home for Christmas

Snow doggo
Snow Doggo

When you study abroad for a year, going home for Christmas isn’t as simple as it normally is. Despite the Manchester to London train being expensive, flights to and from America do actually manage to top that, and so whether you stay abroad or go home is a question that needs to be asked.

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Finals and other things

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

Last day of classes was yesterday, and whilst it’s good to know that I’ll be going home for Christmas soon, it does mean I have my finals to take first. With the multiple midterms I’ve taken, and despite the fact that only two of them were in the middle of the term, it does mean that I’ve had to keep on top of my work so I’m somewhat prepared for the finals, even if I do have them at 8am.

Christmas Lights on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill

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Go Tarheels!

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

To explain the title, it would be easier to simply say that that is what the students at UNC call themselves. It has some links to the Confederate side of the U.S Civil War, but that’s all I know.

My Halls of Residence for the year – all girls accommodation that’s called Manly!

Writing this I realise that I’ve been here at UNC for three weeks, but it feels so much longer. Settling into campus life hasn’t taken long, and I even have the joys of my first midterms next week. Continue reading “Go Tarheels!”