Highs and Lows

Everyone tells you that you study abroad will be the best time of your life.  Looking back on the last nine months I can honestly say that I have had the most wonderful experience, making lifelong friends and amazing memories making me so grateful that I was given this opportunity.  However I do think that it is important to share that there are highs and lows to studying abroad and that it is unreasonable to be 100% happy all the time and give some suggestions of the things that I have found helpful whilst I have been away.

I have previously written about the academic differences between Mizzou and Manchester but I didn’t really make it clear how difficult that was.  At the beginning I found it frustrating as I was so used to the way things are done at Manchester and I struggled to be able to write shorter papers that included all of my points as well as doubting myself in multiple choice questions and getting lower grades that I felt did not reflect my capabilities or how hard I had worked.  If you grades are being transferred back to Manchester this is something important that you should think about because it took me awhile to get used to it.  It really helped me to speak to my professors and TA’s who are super open and helpful and I really do advise you to take advantage of every extra credit opportunity you get as I managed to turn by B+ into an A- because of extra credit.Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 14.11.43(Me with some of the other Study Abroad Students)

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True/False Film Fest

Columbia downtown is a mix of eclectic boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs and even has a karaoke bar which is great fun!  It is small but its range in shops makes it the perfect student downtown.  It is walking distance from campus and the dorms and there is some off campus housing that is in downtown.  It is usually relatively busy during the day but gets more lively in the evenings when students go out.

However for one long weekend in early  March, downtown becomes bustling and busy with thousands of people coming to Columbia for the True/False Film Fest.  The Fest shows non-fiction films, with musicians performing before the showings.  The whole of Columbia comes alive for this weekend and Columbia was even listed as one of the best 50 cities in the U.S to visit because of this festival.  People get really into the festival and walk around in homemade costumes all weekend.  There is also a parade/walk where everyone is invited to join in and people were encouraged to dress up in brightly coloured clothes and there were some crazy costumes.

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Why Mizzou?

“Why Mizzou?” “How did you end up in Missouri?!?”  I get these questions all the time.  It seems that my fellow Mizzou students are astounded that I could have possibly chosen to come to Missouri, but I love it here and wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Deciding where to study abroad is a big deal, you are committing to living somewhere for a year and it was not a decision that I was going to take lightly.  I did my research looking at the various universities, looking up the courses that I could take and basically seeing if it would be a good fit for me.

I knew that I was looking for a campus that had a lot of school spirt and Mizzou for sure has that! In the fall, almost every weekend is centred around American Football.  The whole campus turns into a sea of black and gold and people set up tailgates wherever there is space.  At tailgates Mizzou Alumni and student organisations will usually have a barbeque, music and outdoor games, it’s a way that people get hyped up before the game and is altogether an amazing experience.

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Academic differences between the US and UK

Being back at home over Christmas Break, I was asked hundreds of questions about what it is like to be abroad.  Over and over again people asked me how the university work here differs from home and it got me thinking, so here are a few academic differences that I have noticed between Mizzou and Manchester.

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New to Mizzou

WOW! Cannot believe that it has been four weeks since I moved into Defoe-Graham, my halls at the University of Missouri, Columbia (aka MIZZOU)! The campus is so beautiful and welcoming that I already feel at home here.  So much has happened but I will start by sharing my first week with you.

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My Beautiful new home!

When I arrived at Mizzou and moved into my halls (where I hung my Union Jack Flag with Pride) the other exchange students and I explored a little bit. My roommate Gabi, didn’t move in until Tuesday so I had the room for myself for a few days which was nice so that I could find my feet.  She is from Puerto Rico so we are the international room (even though Puerto Rico is technically a part of the USA – it is all very confusing but luckily I have an expert to interrogate and explain it all to me!)

The first week here has been crazy busy for me! Apart from having international orientation and exchange orientation I also had Greek Recruitment – otherwise known as Rush.  Okay so before you groan and click off this blog, hear me out!  IT IS NOT LIKE THE MOVIES! Most people, when they think about sororities think of stick thin girls who are mean and like to party – and that could not be farther from the truth.  I am not a size 0, 6 foot, beach blonde girl who always looks perfect and neither are 99% of the girls who are who are involved in Greek Life here at Mizzou. I spent Monday and Tuesday having every stereotype I had about sororities being blown, the girls are all normal, fun girls who take a genuine interest in you and do their best to make you feel at home as you attend their open house events.  I am not going to lie to you, the whole thing is kind of surreal, you line up outside the houses and a fog horn blows and the doors open and the girls are there smiling and start chanting their chapter songs at us! At the first house I couldn’t suppress a laugh but I soon got caught up in it!

The whole Recruitment process is complicated if you are not going through it yourself but I will attempt to explain it briefly! It is all a mutual selection process, if you want them and they want you, you will be invited back to the next round – and each day you have to cut down the number of houses that you chose to go back to. The first round is kind of like speed dating, you will have three girls chat to you and then decide if you can see yourself fitting in there! The second round is Philanthropy round – so bring the tissues – the girls explain their philanthropy and the fund-raising events they host.  These girls raise a phenomenal about of money for their chosen charity, it really is amazing and a really important part of sisterhood and the Greek culture for the girls, many of who have had their life improved from help from these charities!  Round three and you learn about sisterhood, so social events, you get a tour of the house and get more of a feel of the girls themselves.  It is also where they share their academic requirement, students who are Greek do above average at school and this means that they have a large focus on academics.  For round four you go back to two houses and learn about their ceremonies – each day is different and a private, secret experience so I’m afraid that I won’t be sharing it with you! This day was the day that I knew for sure that I wanted to be in Kappa Alpha Theta.  I felt at home and had an amazing bond with the girls – everyone talks about finding your home away from home, something that was important for me being so many miles away from home and I am happy to say that it is what I have found.

Bid Day is an exciting day where all the girls stand on the football field (my group was standing on the 50 which is super cool and I managed to check kissing the 50 on the football field off my Mizzou 22 bucket list!) and wait to find out which house they will be in!  Parents come to watch and so do Fraternities and some of the other exchange students came to watch which was really special for me that they supported me even though they don’t fully understand it!  You get handed your Bid and wait to open in before ‘running home’ to Greek Town and join your sisters. I was delighted to see that I had been invited to be a Kappa Alpha Theta!  I saw My Bid Day Buddy who was holding a Kite (Theta’s symbol) which she had made that said ‘Welcome Home Bea’ and then took me upstairs to give me a top and a goody bag.

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Me with Alex my Bid Day Buddy with the Theta Symbol.

Every Sunday before school starts the new freshmen class takes part in the ‘Tiger Walk’ where you run through the columns on the quad that you can see in the picture towards Jesse Hall (the building with the Dome).  This is a tradition that shows you starting school and you are greeted with Tiger Stripe ice cream which is yellow with black stripes and delicious! When you graduate from Mizzou, you run out of Jesse Hall and through the columns out into Columbia and into the world. It is a really fun tradition and I loved being a part of it!

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The Balloons are released as we run through the columns.