My time abroad

My year abroad was the best thing I ever could have done, I learnt real life lessons and I have made friends for life. I seem to be slightly stumped on what to say in this blog, just because the whole thing was so fantastic and is already starting to blur into one big memory. But what I would say is grab every opportunity as it comes, make friends with everyone and get involved with every trip, club and activity you can, because it really does fly by and it’s over before you know it.

When I returned to the UK I definitely had a bit of a culture shock, it was really weird not being complimented on my accent all the time, and actually being surrounded by familiar faces. So WARNING it is so weird when you get home. But I am enjoying not living out of a suitcase… at least for the time being.

Anyway instead of babbling on about everything I loved during my year abroad (because I literally could write a book on this). I will just briefly mention two of the best things about my year abroad.

Therefore, two of the biggest highlights of my year was my mega trip around the West Coast of America and a creative project I completed for one of my LGBT modules. Since I have returned home to the UK every one has been asking me about my West Coast trip, but because it was so amazing I often can’t find the right words to express its magnificence. Therefore I decided to make a video which I believe highlights the best parts of my trip, it is titled (Sam and Amelia- Summer 2018).

Similarly a lot of people have been asking me about the academic differences between the UK and the US, and I always tell them about my creative project. When I was studying at the University of Maryland I was given the opportunity to either write a 15 page paper or to complete a creative project… so of course I did the creative project. I decided to write an LGBT rap which I have attached below. The rap is titled ‘What is Queer’ and is about a variety of theory, subjects, stories and modern day concerns that I learned about in my LGBT Latino/ Latina America class while studying in America. There are a million opportunities just like this at American Universities, particularly at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ergo if you think you would rather spend a year doing fun projects then writing essay perhaps America is the place for you.

Also attached below is a copy of a video I completed for my course mentors at the University of Manchester which highlights the positives and negatives of my year abroad. It is a very honest video which doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that sometimes the year abroad wasn’t all positives, so again give that a watch.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Global Ambassador and I hope that I have been able to cover a lot of things you may have been curious about. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to add or message me on Facebook and I will definitely be around in the IPO locations a lot next year to answer anymore questions.

How to survive a long distance relationship

One of my biggest worries before going abroad was whether my long term boyfriend and I would survive living 13 hours away. We had lived together for the first two years in Manchester and had both decided to go abroad in our third year. He would be studying at the University of Vermont in Burlington and I would be studying at the University of Maryland in College Park. The Universities were both on the East Coast of America and looked fairly close on the map, how bad could it be right? However it wasn’t until we both got into our respective universities that we realised we were actually about a 13 hour drive away or a 2 hour flight away. The flying didn’t seem terrible until we looked at flight prices, with most of them being around $200 return to either city we knew we would probably have to see each other a lot less than expected. In the end we made it work and are still together today, however it didn’t come without sacrifices, arguments and sadness about missing each other. But in the end it was worth it. So in this blog I have decided to give everyone my top ten techniques on how to make a long distance relationship work whilst on a year abroad.

Firstly before reading my techniques I would say they should be taken with a pinch of salt for those people who are going abroad and leaving their partner back in Manchester or elsewhere in England. My boyfriend and I did have it a lot easier than most, in that we were in the same time zone and at least on the same continent, which definitely made communication and meet ups a lot easier. But with that said I hope that some of my advice can still be applied to people making it work across countries rather than just across states. So without further ado here we go.

  1. Always make time for your other half

This is extremely important when trying to survive a long distance relationship. While some couples may choose to have a certain day of the week to call/ facetime my boyfriend and I were fairly relaxed about that, we normally just facetimed when we were both free or just fancied a chat. We did however talk everyday. Some days it was basically just a good morning message and a good night message as we were busy with new friends, travelling or had deadlines for essays. But for me that was enough to know that we were doing ok and showed we at least thought about each other everyday. It is crucial to keep in contact when in a long distance relationship, especially because you don’t always know the next time you will see your other half.

2. Try and keep them as up to date with your life as possible

This was sometimes difficult for me while I was abroad. I often forgot that my boyfriend wasn’t just with me constantly, so I would talk about new friends, professors and places on campus that I just assumed he knew about. Then I would have to remember that he wasn’t here with me. Ergo make sure that when you’re catching up you talk about the somewhat mundane things like what classes your taking, the name of your professors, the type of food in the dining hall and where you like to go out. It might seem like common sense but these things can easily be forgotten, and to me knowing these things helped me picture where my boyfriend was and what we was doing in his new life in the USA.

3. Remember to ask them about their feelings/ how they are doing

I was sometimes not the best at doing this either… When you’re having the time of your life it is sometimes hard to remember that other people might be having a bad day or might be missing home or missing you. I can admit that sometimes I forgot to ask my boyfriend if he was stressed about finals, or what he was up to or if he missed home, because often I was hanging out with new friends or on trips or had my own issues. However, it is extremely critical to remember that in a relationship it is always about the both of you, so don’t neglect your partners feelings and emotions. Even if you’re having the best time or they are, you must remember that the other person might need you even if it’s just a five minute chat to know that you are always there for them.

4. Encourage them to meet your new friends (even if just over Facetime)

This point kind of links to the 2nd point on the list. When you’re abroad you will be surrounded by new people some of whom will become your friends for life. It is important to include your other half in your new life and introduce them to the new people that you are spending all your time with. I know I felt a lot better after I met my boyfriends roommate on Facetime and subsequently met him later. It makes you feel a lot more secure knowing that your partner is in good hands and has made a good group of solid trustworthy friends. As unfortunately sometimes a year abroad isn’t always fun and games, and if something did go wrong it is important to know that your other half has a good support network there to help.

5. Send each other presents, letters, postcards

I LOVED doing this whilst on my year abroad, sending and receiving gifts made my boyfriend and I feel loved and special. It didn’t have to be anything expensive or extravagant as lets face it both of us were practically broke for our entire year. But the small things just helped to remind us that the other person was thinking about them, especially when you’re so far away from each other and from home. I would definitely recommend this tip when trying to keep a long distance relationship work because even the smallest gift can make you feel closer to your other half.

6. Try not to be jealous

This is a CRITICAL point and I am telling you from experience it wasn’t always easy, on both parts. I can hand on heart say that normally my boyfriend and I are not the jealous type, but sometimes a year abroad can make you go a little insane. It is much easier to get jealous about people who you have never met who suddenly are in all your partners photos, it is easy to get jealous about people who get to go on trips, nights out and dinner dates with your partner (especially when you can’t). And it is definitely easy to get jealous when your partner seems to be having loads of fun while you might be writing an essay, going to a shift or feeling homesick or ill. But you can’t take your jealousy out on them because lets face it they are probably feeling the exact same way at times too. The way to make a long distance relationship work is to ALWAYS trust one another and to know that if they could they would be doing all these fun things with you. But for this time in their life you aren’t there. Therefore you need to encourage their happiness and involvement in their new life, because realistically we would rather be jealous sometimes that they are having a great time than be worried and sad if they hadn’t made friends or were having a terrible time. You just need to learn to be the bigger person.

7. Plan things in the future to look forward to

This point definitely made things easier. Again for my boyfriend and I it was normally only a matter of weeks before we got to see each other so we usually had something planned to look forward to. I would sometimes sit there and count up the days in my head when we would next see each other, particularly when I really missed him. This really helped.

8. Remember it is normal to change as a person when you do a year abroad

I didn’t expect to change as much as I did on my year abroad. Prior to going abroad like I mentioned earlier my boyfriend and I lived together, we study the same degree and we have most of the same friends. Therefore, we were together almost everyday. But when I went abroad I became extremely independent, I was used to just hanging out with my friends that he didn’t know and only really thinking about myself day to day. But you know what? THIS IS NORMAL. It is normal for you and your partner to change on a year abroad and to change when you don’t spend as much time together. It is even normal not to miss each other every second of the day. You shouldn’t feel guilty when you don’t always miss each other, because that shows you are living your own life and actually enjoying it. So you just need to learn to adapt to these new changes and hopefully like them rather than letting them get between you.

9. Find a private spot where you can talk to your other half (especially if you have a roommate)

This was essential for me while I was abroad due to the fact that I had roommates for both semesters of my exchange. Ultimately, even if you love your roommate (like I did), you still need a private spot to talk to your partner. Therefore, I would recommend knowing what your roommates schedule is and seeing if there is a time you can Facetime/ Call your other half when they aren’t around. Otherwise I would suggest asking your flatmates if you could use the communal space for a short period of time to speak to your other half at least once or twice a week.

10. Sometimes you will have to make sacrifices

While you might not always want to make sacrifices you have to in order to make a long distance relationship work. Sometimes you have to miss out on a pre drinks, or a movie night with your roommate or a house party on a weekend in order to speak, see and meet your partners needs. I’m not saying I had to do this a lot but sometimes I did have to sacrifice doing things with my friends to visit my boyfriend. However, I never for a second wished we weren’t together because of it. Which I guess shows that it worked for a reason. Ultimately though you must remember that sometimes you do have to put your other half first even if that does mean not always doing what you want to do, because I know for a fact my boyfriend sacrificed things for me too. Therefore, as long as it isn’t one sided then sacrifice is healthy whilst on a year abroad.
Anyway, those are my top ten tip for surviving a long distance relationship. Now WARNING cheesy pictures from some trips my boyfriend and I went on together.

 

Spring Break USA/Mexico style

So I did it. I had the real USA college spring break style vacation (yes I did just say vacation, I am a real American now). But anyway I loved it. I headed to Mexico with 4 of my friends and we sunbathed, swam, and had the most amazing experience, in one of the coolest countries I have ever visited.

So prior to my trip whenever I would tell anyone I was going to Mexico, particularly Americans they wouldn’t say have fun or that is amazing. They would always say ooo ‘be careful’ or ‘be safe’, now I’m not sure if that is because there is so much anti- Mexican rhetoric circulating in the USA right now, or simply because many Americans have never travelled before. But anyway, before I arrived in Mexico naturally I was slightly worried especially after all the horror stories I had heard before my arrival. Lost baggage, stolen phones, drug cartels and creepy guys. Well I can hand on heart say I didn’t experience anything like that. In fact the Mexicans I encountered were some of the kindest and friendly people I have ever met in my life. Obviously this is a fairly sheltered account of Mexico as I only stuck to the area of Tulum beach (which was swarming with primarily American tourists) and the area of Yucatan where Chichen Itza is located (again a huge tourist hot spot). So maybe my blog wouldn’t be the same if I had been walking around late at night in Mexico City for example. But I feel like this is the same everywhere you go, there are always scary places you wouldn’t want venture and there are always places you feel safe. I can happily say that Tulum was one of those places.

So if anyone is planning on spending the year in America in 2019 or are doing a spring semester somewhere in the USA I would highly recommend Tulum. Especially if you are looking for a more classy style spring break rather than a Maga, Zante kinda thing. Back when I was 18 I would have loved to have done booze cruises all day and pass out on the beach. But now I’m a little older I wanted a nice mix of culture, drinking and relaxing (I hope I don’t sound too much like a mum). Anyway, I will lay out my Tulum vacation itinerary with costs. I would encourage you all to go.

So we flew out from Washington Dulles Airport to Cancun International Airport (costing $254: roundtrip). Once we arrived in Cancun we had arranged for a private shuttle to pick us up from the airport as Tulum is about a 2 hour drive from Cancun. When we hopped off the plane, got through security and got our dollars changed to pesos we walked outside and there was a man waiting with a sign with our names on. We then hoped in our shuttle and made our way to Tulum. The shuttle cost roughly $150 for 4 people (roundtrip) so individually it was only about $40, which was definitely worth it for the ease.

Once in Tulum we checked into our hotel, the Residencia Gorila. It was a really cool place run by two twenty year olds. The vibes were so chill and we got a room for 5 people with two double beds and a bed on the upper level of the room. It was set up kind of like a tree house. I will attach photos below. It was in a great location and was about a 30 second walk from the beach. The cost of the hotel for 6 nights was $1200 which ended up being about $300 each.

Once we were in Tulum we tried to eat fairly cheaply. The area we were in was quite expensive and prices were fairly standard, so about $7- $10 for a meal. But in Tulum town the meals were a lot cheaper, meals were roughly $1-$3. So maybe you could venture into town and grab some food, but I would definitely recommend staying in Tulum Beach. A taxi into town costs roughly 150 Pesos which is about $8, so divided between 4 people it is virtually nothing. You must always remember to agree on a price before you get into a taxi.

When we were in Tulum as I mentioned previously we visited Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world. The roundtrip bus trip cost 460 pesos which is roughly $25 each, and once we arrived in Chichen Itza we paid to have a tour guide show us around. This is a must, without the tour guide we wouldn’t have had a clue, so it would have been pretty pointless heading all the way there. The tour guide cost 1000 pesos for a private tour, which divided by 4 cost us $15 each. Absolutely worth every penny.

Also when we were in Tulum beach we visited a cenote which was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. It was called Grand Cenote and again was a must if you are in Tulum. It cost 180 pesos each which is roughly $8-10. Again so cheap.

Finally the other activity we did while on our trip was we cycled to the Mayan ruins. The overall cycle was about 13 miles to and from our hotel. The cost of the bikes was 200 pesos each, again roughly $10. Then the cost to enter the ruins was again 200 pesos. So overall that day cost us about $20.

The final expense of the trip was the clubs, the club I would highly recommend is called Papaya Playa Project, it is a beach club and is about a 10 minute drive from the Tulum Beach strip. It was so amazing, especially after a year of listening to cringey American music as frat parties. I needed a night like that.

I will now attach a list of the restaurants and bars I visited when in Tulum. All were great and great value for money.

  1. Raw Love
  2. Ziggy Beach Club
  3. Hip Hotel
  4. I Scream Bar
  5. Gelato
  6. La Zebra
  7. Taqueria La Eufemia

If you end up going to Tulum Beach it isn’t hard to find restaurants and bars. It was an experience I will never forget. Overall the trip ended up costing me roughly $800 including spending money. It was so worth it and I would recommend trying to venture out of the states for spring break if you can.

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Budgeting while abroad (USA students)

Before starting this post I just want to firstly say that going abroad is like nothing you will ever experience. The only thing I can relate it to slightly is first year of University. You want to do everything, get involved with everything, see everything and say yes to everything anyone asks you to do. That is why budgeting has been so so difficult while abroad. Before I came to the University of Maryland and started my year abroad in America I would say I was good with managing money. I never went into my overdraft and I had a job since I was 16 and did babysitting before then so I believe I understand the value of money. However, that all went out the window when I started studying abroad, I burnt through money like there was no tomorrow. Booking trips almost every weekend, going on day trips to DC and Philadelphia etc etc. I have spent more money so far on my year abroad than I think I spent in my first two years of Manchester combined. So far I have had the best year of my life and I believe that is partly due to the fact I have been able to travel so much and I have been able to say yes to everything!

So my advice to you is to save save save.

Obviously everyones financial situation is different and I don’t want to put anyone off doing a year abroad, but I would say that even after working 16 hours a week in Sainsburys PLUS overtime hours for 14 months attempting to save up for this year abroad. I wish I had saved even more money. That brunch in Manchester, that night out in second year, that new top IS NOT WORTH IT, just save every penny you have for your year abroad. Travelling and seeing the country/ continent/ city/ state where you do your year abroad is the most valuable thing I have done so far. I have learnt so much from visiting different places in the USA and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So when you are planning for your year abroad just think MONEY!! I can’t stress it enough how expensive but amazing the year abroad is. Now I don’t want you all to have a terrible first and second year and sit in every night doing nothing because you are saving for the year abroad, but if you can’t get financial aid from your parents, or you want more of a disposable income than your student loan provides then try and get that part time job, or cut out buying avocados and hummus every week from your Sainsburys shop, or don’t buy that new dress from Urban Outfitters wear something you already have or borrow something from your housemate. This year whilst you are abroad will be like no other and if you are anything like me you will want to fully immerse yourself, but unfortunately that is expensive so bring as much money as you can individually to your year abroad.

But also don’t make it so you aren’t living within your means! This post so far makes me sound like I’m living it up like Kardashian, that is not it at all. Of course it is important to save but also live like a student and travel like a student while you are studying abroad. I will now attach some tips/ websites/ hostels I have used and stayed in during my year abroad in the USA. I am located at the University of Maryland on the east coast of the USA so most of my advice is for the east coast.

 

Hostels

Philadelphia

https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Apple-Hostels-of-Philadelphia/Philadelphia/25291?source=adwordsenhostelnames&network=g&creative=238879803558&adposition=1t1&uniqueclickID=17646545456748156027&sub_keyword=apple+hostel+philadelphia&sub_ad=e&sub_publisher=ADW&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3Mja5uTJ2QIVQUSGCh0ThQzJEAAYASAAEgI5B_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

(Good location, right near the city centre so you don’t need to pay for public transport to get around- also has a kitchen so you can cook which always makes things cheaper than eating out)

Boston

https://www.hostelworld.com/backpackers?source=adwordsdynamic&network=g&creative=231063902293&adposition=1t1&uniqueclickID=5899841116389202259&sub_keyword=&sub_ad=b&sub_publisher=ADW&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-bbRg-XJ2QIVzB6GCh2UYw76EAAYASAAEgKAmvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

(Amazing hostel, the owner is hilarious and gives you free rides to the city centre, also breakfast is free, it is a cool place to meet other internationals travelling around the states)

New York

https://www.hotels.com/ho462386/?dateless=true&PSRC=G21&hotelid=462386&rffrid=sem.hcom.US.google.003.00.02.s.kwrd=c.231927366611.49220243420.973558967.1t2.aud-312071203346:kwd-304644876602.9007733..%2Bvanderbilt%20%2Bymca%20%2Bnew%20%2Byork.EAIaIQobChMI7LmSoOXJ2QIVhSaGCh3MHA_bEAAYAiAAEgKr2vD_BwE.aw.ds&semid=49220243420.973558967.1t2.aud-312071203346:kwd-304644876602.9007733..%2Bvanderbilt%20%2Bymca%20%2Bnew%20%2Byork&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7LmSoOXJ2QIVhSaGCh3MHA_bEAAYAiAAEgKr2vD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

(A lot more expensive than the other two listed above but this place is about a 10 minute walk from Times Square, it is a great place to stay the first time you visit NYC, but after that if you are planning on going back to NYC I would suggest staying downtown or midtown around Little Italy or Bowery, it is a lot cooler than uptown and the Subway is so cheap $2.75 per ride, so it is really easy to get around in NYC)

Austin

https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Firehouse-Hostel/Austin/64785?source=adwordsenhostelnames&network=g&creative=238903119115&adposition=1t2&uniqueclickID=3835759228473506792&sub_keyword=firehouse%20hostel%20austin&sub_ad=e&sub_publisher=ADW&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzonh3eXJ2QIVEQaGCh2XQw0AEAAYAiAAEgKxKfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

(If you are thinking about venturing into the Deep South Austin is the best place in Texas to go, it is a hip city with lots of young people. This hostel was great and in a fab location, also it offers free breakfast which is always great)

Obviously always look at airbnb to see if it compares well with the price of hostels!

Another major tip is not to fall into the trap of booking something cheap which is pretty far out of the city and then spending loads on uber. Before you go to a city always read up on the public transport to make sure it really does work out cheaper staying outside of the city centre. This goes for airports too, sometimes it might seem cheap to fly out of a  particular airport but make sure there is a cheap option to get there, because sometimes to only option is an uber or a taxi and the prices can be INSANE.

Finally when I have travelled during my year abroad I have used sites such as

  1. Skyscanner (compares flights to see which are the cheapest
  2. Wanderu (compares bus and train prices to see which are the cheapest)

Buses normally work out the cheapest especially over trains in the USA. But flights are often cheap too, obviously take into account if a flight is 1 hour and a bus is 12 hours whether you would rather spend $50 more and have a whole half a day extra in your destination.

These are all of the financial tips I can think of. Don’t let money put you off doing a year abroad there are loads of cheap options of doing things and you don’t have to travel there are loads of fun things to do every weekend on campus too! But while you are in Manchester save save save because a year abroad can be very expensive, but 100% worth it!

UMD College Park dining plan

Before going to America I expected the food, even the food in the dining hall to be AMAZING. I had visited America before doing my year abroad and knew that American portions were typically gigantic food was covered in excess amounts of salt and sugar and lots and lots of bbq sauce. However, I think I kind of forgot that this might be enjoyable for a 10 day holiday but maybe not for an entire semester. I found that I very quickly got sick of fast food, greasy food and extremely sweet food. By the time I came home for christmas I was craving good old bangers and mash with some decently cooked vegetables. Don’t get me wrong there are of course healthy options on the UMD dining plan but any food made for a huge number of people is never as delicious as a home cooked meal or going out to a restaurant. Also the food got very very repetitive really quickly, for the first week pizza, burgers, chicken wings were an enjoyable option but by week 3 I actually felt myself vomming in my mouth when I thought of eating those things again anytime soon.

However, as I realised I didn’t have the money to eat out and no kitchen in my accommodation in Maryland I had to just make the most of it. I learnt a few tricks of the trade. So for the first couple of weeks I had no idea that there was a stir fry bar in another section of the South Campus dining hall. When I discovered this it meant that there was another option that was somewhat healthy to enjoy for lunch and dinner. Also, I discovered a microwave in the dining hall that I didn’t know was available to students. Also over the semester we were asked to conduct a questionnaire regarding the standard of the dining hall and I know that me along with a number of other students complained about the lack of healthy options available at the ‘salad bar’ this has led to a new salad bar on campus!

While the food isn’t amazing I would say that if you are planning on attending UMD College Park it is the only real option. The neighbouring shops are pretty far and extremely overpriced and without a car it would be practically impossible to do a weekly shop if you live on campus. Also some of my favourite parts about exchange this semester have been eating three meals a day with my new friends. It really does help you become close to people and can help with things such as loneliness as it acts as a perfect opportunity for you to talk about your day. Finally being on the dining plan has definitely helped me become more proactive during my year abroad. This is due to the fact that if my friends have classes the same time as me we always meet for breakfast/ lunch, which means that because I am meeting people I have more of an incentive to actually get out of bed rather than snoozing my alarm for another hour. Overall, the dining plan is a good thing to be on at UMD College Park but it doesn’t hurt to go to a restaurant with friends or while travelling to get away from the repetitive cuisine.

This was during our ‘Christmas Dinner’ (Beware of the little man in the Santa hat!! He only lets you take 1 banana out of the dining hall)

Life with a roommate

Before leaving on my year abroad I felt that everyone had talked to me about the dreaded “roommate” situation. Everyone who had been on years/ semesters abroad before me had horror stories lined up about their roommate. So of course I was nervous. I hadn’t shared a room with someone since I was 9 years old and to say I was a bit worried would be an understatement. When I was given my roommate allocation I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was allocated another international student. Although a lot of people asked me if I was disappointed she wasn’t American, honestly I wasn’t. I knew that if I felt homesick, or was having a bit of a culture shock she would be feeling it 10 times more than me because she was from even further away, Dubai. We emailed, which then turned into Snapchatted and Facebooked before we arrived in Maryland and upon our first meeting we didn’t even feel like strangers. We were both extremely chatty and had a lot to talk about makeup, music, the Kardashians, to be honest I would have been shocked if she didn’t know who Kim Kardashian was. It soon became clear that some rules would have to be laid down in our room for my roommate to feel completely comfortable, and I of course was willing to do so. My roommate was a fairly strict muslim, she prayed five times a day, didn’t eat pork, wore a hijab etc. So we decided to make the rule that boys could only come into the room if she wasn’t present or if she knew about it in advance so to make sure she would be wearing her hijab. We also agreed that no boys would stay the night unless organised in advance (I have a boyfriend so this wasn’t an issue for me). It was a bit of a shock at first as I lived with three boys in my last house in Manchester, and shared a flat with boys and girls in Oak house in first year. It took a bit of getting used to not just waltzing into my room with my friends who are boys, but I appreciated that she wasn’t being awkward or trying to make it strange, but ultimately religion and her comfort level came first and I was absolutely fine with that.

Once the big rules were out of the way we also made a rule that I could ask her anything about her religion and she could ask me anything about western culture, alcohol, media, fashion etc. and we would answer truthfully. I loved that we made this rule because I never felt awkward asking about her faith or about Dubai as a nation. I ended up learning so much and realising that even though I believed myself to be a fairly educated cultured person there was a lot I was unaware of. In fact, prior to living with my roommate I believe in some cases I was naive and ignorant about Islam. Of course this was all great and I was so lucky that we were both chatty and had lots in common, however, of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows (it never is when you live with someone). We spent the first couple of months without a single disagreement, in fact the entire semester was pretty smooth sailing apart from one thing.

I like to call in Alarmgate.

So my roommate was a very hard worker, I mean she studied constantly day and night. Which is great I guess. But it started getting not so great when she would set an alarm at 3am or 5am to get up and study. However due to the fact she was a heavy sleeper she would snooze the alarm or just not hear it at all, which would mean that I would have to get out of bed and turn the alarm off. Or just as I was getting back to sleep the alarm would go off again because she snoozed it instead of turning it off. This went on for about 4 nights before I said anything, as I wasn’t sure if it was midterm week etc. However, I eventually had to lay down the law and tell her that she wasn’t allowed to set an alarm before 7am, and if she did she had to turn it off the first time it went off. She wasn’t allowed to snooze the alarm. This worked and we only had 3 or 4 more occasions where she snoozed the alarm. This might sound kind of immature to get het up about an alarm, but sleep is very important to me and I had, had, had to say something. If she read this now she would definitely be laughing and the last thing she said to me before she left was hope you have a good sleep next semester.

My roommate was only here for a semester and is now back in Dubai. My best friend from last semester will be moving into my room for the Spring, which I am really excited about. Ultimately, for me the experience of a roommate was amazing and I never once wished that I was allocated a single room. But I do think it is important to remember that your room is your space of comfort, safety and SLEEP. So make sure you aren’t afraid to talk to your roommate and tell them what you require to feel comfortable because at the end of the day if you don’t talk and if you don’t express your needs you won’t be happy in your own space. My roommate and I weren’t the best of friends, in fact we spent very little time together outside of our room. But we were friends and I wouldn’t have changed her for the world.

This picture is us on the only snow day of the semester. This was the first time she had ever seen snow.

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Academic differences UoM vs UMD

So with mid-terms approaching I thought now would be the perfect time to highlight academic differences between the University of Manchester (UoM) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). I have now been at UMD for almost 2 months and I can confidently say that there are huge academic differences between the US and the UK. Upon arrival at UMD the US academic system seemed really overwhelming at first. The first week of classes contained similarities with that of UoM as professors handed out syllabi and ran through the overall content of the class and discussed exams etc. However, there  seemed to be so many more essays, tests, quizzes than what I was used to in Manchester. I was so worried. Obviously, my year abroad in the US is extremely important for my future education, but I also wanted to do a year abroad in order to travel and see more of the states. But how could I do that with so many assignments? I had images of myself sitting in the library every weekend.

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Hello UMD College Park!

It’s been a month since I arrived at the University of Maryland, College Park and I know it sounds cliche but it feels like I have been here for my whole degree. I have learned that when you are forced to make friends in such a short space of time when you are away from all your friends and family, they really do become your family. I knew before I came to Maryland that I wanted to travel and that is exactly what I have been doing, in fact, since I arrived on campus I have only spent one weekend actually in Maryland. So far I have visited Washington DC, The Jersey Shore, New York City, Manchester (New Hampshire), Philadelphia and next weekend I am heading to Vermont. Maryland is definitely in an ideal location for travelling (but I will talk about that more in my next blog).

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