A Year On…

It’s been a while since I last posted and a while since I returned from the US. I left this time for a reason, to give me time to reflect. Coming back from the US at first was quite a strange experience, I felt in the first few weeks quite lost and not sure what to do with myself or where I fit in (I was away for 10 months without coming home). But gradually as the summer passed I found my place again and settled in. Starting university again in September was definitely scary, it felt like starting first year all over again, not knowing teachers or students very well. After a few weeks this feeling had, however, completely disappeared and it felt like i’d never left. One thing I did notice was that I was definitely more outgoing, more engaged with my subjects and eager to try new things. I think this was definitely a consequence of my time away where everything I was doing was new and scary, so being back in a city that I knew everything felt way less scary.

The classes that I took in UCSD gradually seeped into my studies back at Manchester in  a way I couldn’t have imaged or expected. When I was away I felt as though all the different subjects I was taking were completely isolated from other parts of my degree, yet they informed the way I approached classes at Manchester. Whether this be a person I had read, a film I had seen or even just an opinion somebody had voiced, these were individual to me and it gave me a really unique perspective on my degree. I also didn’t realise the role my time away played in my long essay subject. I was in America during the election of Donald Trump, and I found myself completely dumbfounded and confused by the whole experience. Back in Manchester, clearly I couldn’t get this off my mind, and this led me to question the how and why of it happening despite the fact I had been there and lived through it. As a result, I ended up writing my long essay on the election of Donald Trump, studying areas in particular I hadn’t visited to try and learn more about the psyche of those voting for him, looking specifically and class and racial hegemony and the role that played.

Now i’m coming to the end of my degree and applying for jobs every application I write i feel as though i’m discovering new ways my time abroad has helped shape me. This is either through experiences I had or things I gained. I was undeniably homesick for part of my time away, and at the time it felt like this feeling was ruining a lot of the experiences I was having. Looking back I can now see that this isn’t true. It’s only natural to feel homesick when you’re so far away from people you love and care about, negotiating time differences and navigating new experiences. I now know this period has given me a newfound resilience which has turned me into a stronger and more capable person.

It is a daunting prospect figuring out your place when you’ve been away for a while and this can be an off-putting idea for many people thinking of studying abroad, or people who are abroad currently. My advice would be to plan lots of things for your immediate return so you feel like you have thing to return to. But I can also offer you the insight that the gradual realisations you make once you’ve returned are invaluable and can help you in ways you won’t even be able to imagine yet!

Desert Times

I had the Friday off and a friend staying, so we decided to take a trip. I left for lectures on Thursday and gave him the instructions: ‘You organise it, I don’t mind where we go’. I arrived home later that day to a twinkle in the eye and a whisper of future riches…..’Vegas’. We hot-tailed it across the desert, passing from oasis to oasis, confused by rich, middle-aged white America’s idea of retirement bliss (desert restaurants and golf courses). Gradually the highway filled out and road signs started to advertise casinos and cheap motels — universal signifiers of good times and general happiness.

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San Diego – where to go

San Diego is a very strange city. Like most American cities it’s so big that it is divided in to various areas, however what’s unique about San Diego is that they are all (so conveniently for a non-driver) separated by freeways (rejoice! American’s love cars! more roads – why not?!). That said, some of the areas are really cool, with each having their own ~vibe~…so here’s a breakdown:

North Park – probably one of my favourite parts of San Diego, sadly its not near the beach, but it resembles areas like the Northern Quarter the most. Full of nice cafes/bars, breweries, book and vintage shops its a good place to hang out. IMG_1923

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Off-Campus v. On-Campus

There are certainly some things worth considering when deciding where to live when studying abroad, and these are definitely some things I didn’t consider when I made my decision. Coming from Manchester we are lucky enough to be at a university that is so amazingly integrated right in to the city centre that at time we often take for granted how easy it is for us to get around and see the city itself. When coming to America, and having chosen to attend a campus university I completely forgot about this as a factor when deciding where to live.

 

I applied, and was lucky enough to be accepted to live in the I-House in UCSD. I-House has been really great for me in terms of finding friends who are also on study abroad, going through the same experience and want to explore as much as I do. It’s handy being so close to campus that I can literally roll out of bed 10 minutes before a lecture and still make (albeit, even if I am a little late). There are however some drawbacks to living in I-House that as a student coming from somewhere like England, to American I hadn’t anticipated.

 

Socialising – I-House is great for finding a group of people to socialise with, however it’s not the best for actually providing a space in which you can socialise. The apartments are nice, however there are lots of rules in I-House that are heavily enforced by the RAs. These include policies where under-21s cannot be present when alcohol is being consumed by over 21s, ‘quiet hours’ which start at 10pm and are heavily enforced even on weekends and policies on how many guests a single person allowed. Though many of these are reasonable, the way in which they enforced has at times created toxic atmosphere being created between the residents and RAs. Coming from a lively city like Manchester it constrains socialising in the way that I’m used to and is at times incredibly frustrating.

 

Distance – though I-House has the bonus of being on campus it does mean it’s far away from the younger, livelier student areas and can be quite isolating at times. Having made friends that live off campus I’ve been lucky enough to experience both sides and can see how living off campus can create a completely different social experience. That said, living off campus without a car can also be challenging at times and is also something worth considering when deciding where to live. Even if you do live off campus its worth taking time to discover areas such as Pacific Beach where many students live and hang out to create links there. Coming from Manchester, commuting is something that as students we are used to, and though it may take a bit of time, can be worthwhile when integrating yourself in to the city a bit more.

 

Overall I would say take some time thinking about what sort of uni experience you want while studying abroad and what matters to you. If you like going out and want that as part of your time abroad, living off-campus if definitely worth considering as it gives you greater access to the city at large. If you really want to experience the ‘American university lifestyle’ and want to find friends easily then living on-campus is probably a better option!

Post-election California

I was reluctant to write a blog so soon after the election results as most of what I would have written would have been centred on anger, confusion and disbelief. This post has a slightly less cheery notion to it, however I think its one of the most important things that will happen to America whilst I’m here so it would selfish of me not to write about it. The dust has now settled and as America slowly prepares itself for a major shift in its political outlook I can see some of the effects its already having. Being at UCSD I’ve been in a sort of liberal bubble protecting me from a lot of the hatred that currently exists and was shown in the election results. Watching the election, I sat in my apartment with my friends (non-US) in complete shock at what was going on. Coming from England, that though has its political troubles at the moment, it seemed crazy that something like this could be happening right in front of me. I felt an extreme sense of distance from the American people, despite the fact I was right in the heart of it.

The next day there was a huge sense of mourning across the campus. I received multiple emails from faculties and departments reassuring students that UCSD does not stand for the hatred that was so widely glorified during the election. Comforting messages were chalked across the campus grounds. In my politics lecture people weren’t buzzing to discuss the results as you’d expect, but were solemn and quiet.

Prior to the election I felt the campus wasn’t particularly political, it certainly wasn’t known for it, and I never felt a real sense of buzz for the election before it happened. However, moment after the result was announced I felt a major change in this. Not even hours after Trump victory had been announced a protest started, it came past my window so my flat mates and I joined in the march. Thousands of people all unified marching through the campus grounds distancing themselves from divisiveness of the election. It was the most at home I’d felt at UCSD and I felt truly proud to stand with fellow pupils, and even though I don’t live in America I felt it was important to stand up on behalf of those who can’t and on behalf of everyone across the world who disagrees with what happened.

UCSD has a massively diverse student base, and being so close to Mexico a lot of what was raised during the campaign will have direct and detrimental effects for many people who study and work here. Being here for the election and the aftermath was something I’ll never forget, and getting to stand with everyone here is something that will always remain close to my heart.

Welcome to San Diego

I’ve been in San Diego for two weeks and the first thing one notices on the West Coast of America is how tanned everyone is. It’s not your accent that stands out; it’s sitting on the beach looking like a ghost (humble brag, humble brag, I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve been to the beach). The weather here is amazing; holding back the urge to Snapchat every sunset has become a daily struggle. And in true English spirit I have also managed to complain about being too hot on almost every occasion.

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