By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve, USA.
Now that I have been back in Manchester for a few weeks, it is a lot easier to reflect on study abroad and what I learnt over my year in America.
Studying at Case Western Reserve has given me a much better work ethic and made me a lot more organised. I know how to use my time more effectively and it has made me a lot more motivated when doing my work. If you want to be pushed academically then I think Case is the right place for you.
Participating in study abroad, in general, has given me extra confidence socially and academically. I find it a lot easier to speak to new people and find common ground with different types of people. Academically, I found that I can trust my abilities and knowledge more and work better independently as I had fewer friends on my course to work with.
I was worried that after a year abroad a lot of my friends would have graduated, but there are so many other students who have studied abroad or who have done industrial placements. It also meant that I have got closer to certain people on my course. So, if you are worried about the fact some people have graduated, I would say be open minded and see it as an opportunity to meet new people.
Mainly though, I have realised that a year goes so quickly and nothing has really changed in that time (apart from the cost of a meal deal rising to £3.50).
Overall, year abroad is a challenge. There were many times where I wanted to go home but I am very glad that I didn’t. If you are considering it, I would say go for it, but also be prepared to find it difficult. Don’t compare your time away with anyone else, and ignore other people’s social media posts. Everyone will have their own unique experiences and I wouldn’t change my year for the world.
I have now been home for over 3 months and I thought I would write about my thoughts on leaving Case Western and my road trip around California.
The last few weeks of term were extremely stressful with trying to pack up my belongings, say my goodbyes, plan a road trip and submit all my final work. Luckily, I did not have any finals to take and I decided to leave the campus early and meet up with friends from Manchester to travel around the East Coast. But this did mean that saying goodbye to all the great people I had met felt very rushed.
As I am writing this post it is orientation week at Case Western. It feels so surreal to see everyone enjoying themselves on campus and me no longer being there. I think it has finally hit me that year abroad is over – all be it 3 months later.
One of the highlights of my year abroad was all the travelling I did and for the final trip I packed in as much as possible. Starting in Santa Barbara I travelled to LA, San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.
It is nearly impossible to capture all these incredible places and moments but I did manage to record some of the best ones on my phone. Although I have practically no skills in video editing, here is a video of my travels:
Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Case Western Reserve University is a small school compared to Manchester or some of the largest state schools like NC State. While it is less well known then schools like the University of California or Arizona State, Case is a really good choice for study abroad and these are the reasons why:
Private School with Great Opportunities:
Case Western is a private school in America and I felt privileged to experience life at one of the top institutions in America. For a small school, there are so many good facilities and opportunities better your life and career, from networking days to careers events, Case really has it all. Just be prepared to work hard. In the beginning, I found it intimidating being surrounded by such smart and driven people, but their ambition really inspired me and has pushed me to do the same.
Diversity is something that is celebrated at Case Western. There is a good mixture of students from different backgrounds and so many events to get involved on campus. I was introduced to the African Students Association and felt instantly welcomed by the society despite not being from African Heritage, and the same could be said for all other societies guided towards minority students. Research:
There are so many opportunities to get involved in cutting-edge research at Case and it is ranked in the top 20 for research institutions in the US. I was lucky enough to join a research group for my second semester and it was a life-changing experience. I noticed how many students conduct research on top of their studies and the research they are doing is really making an impact on society. There is also a showcase of all the incredible research that is done on campus so if you are a bit of a science nerd like me, Case Western is a great place to get involved in research.
While Greek Life is not for everyone, around 35% of students at Case are Greek. Although Greek life is important to many people, it seems to me that at Case it is a way to meet like-minded people and life-long friends. The Greek community does not dominate campus, and I found many of people involved friendly and easy to talk to. If you are thinking to rush, the fraternities recruitment is very relaxed, while the sororities only formally recruit in the spring semester. I wish I had joined a sorority, so if you are considering it I really recommend attending informal events in the Fall Semester.
Cleveland and Trying new things
I know that Cleveland has a bit of a bad reputation in America, but I would say this shouldn’t stop you from applying to Case. The campus is located in University Circle which is a nice location around 20 minutes from the downtown area of the city. I got to experience a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do in London or Manchester and I think this is exactly what studying aboard is for. I would suggest going to:
Coventry Village – A sweet area with good restaurants and coffee shops. Phoenix is a great place to study if you want to get off campus
Watch a Cavs Game – If you are in Cleveland you have to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers play at least once. Even with the cheapest tickets, you get a good view of the court and basketball is a lot of fun
Cleveland Museum of Art – A great art museum 5 minutes from campus. On the first Friday of every month, they host a late-night event with music and drinks where you can experience the art galleries late at night.
Severance Hall – If you enjoy classical music, the Cleveland Orchestra regularly play in the concert hall.
I decided to stay in America over the Christmas break instead of flying back home and I would encourage other students to do the same.
I was lucky enough to travel to Montreal, New York, Boston and Miami and each destination was completely different from the last. After overcoming the initial loneliness of spending Christmas away from my family, I really valued the opportunity to travel and spend time with other exchange students who were in the same position.
Before coming to America my friends and I decided to spend Christmas together in Montreal. This was an easy choice to make for me as the flights home from Cleveland are extremely expensive. Instead, I decided to use the money and travel around as much as possible. I flew out to Montreal on Christmas eve, got a freezing cold greyhound to New York, spent less than 24 hours in Boston and took a spontaneous trip to Miami to finish off the holiday. The four cities could not have been more different and Miami has since become my favourite place I have visited.
I spent my Christmas day and New Year’s Eve in Montreal alongside other students from Manchester studying abroad. We stayed in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood and I would recommend taking the walk-up Mount Royal to get great views of the city and to go ice skating.
On Christmas Eve, we were invited to have dinner with other exchange students from all over the world. Spending Christmas away from family can be tough, but it felt special to meet so many other students making the most of their time abroad. All of us were given Christmas cards despite being complete strangers and it was a sweet gesture.
On Christmas Day, we managed to successfully cook a full Christmas Dinner for 10 people in an Air BnB, which was as chaotic as it sounds. We went on a Christmas day walk, watched Love Actually and exchanged presents; it felt like a home away from home.
Being in Montreal in the middle of winter was tough and you should not underestimate how cold it will be. But the city had a lot of culture and history and was a great location to spend time with friends.
We took an 8 hour Greyhound to travel from Montreal to New York and stayed there for 5 days. New York was packed with things to do and great food but was as hectic and busy as you would expect. The city was full of character, the street scene was interesting and all the tourist attractions were definitely worth visiting.
We visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Centre, High Line, Times Square, Central Park, the list could really go on. I would not miss visiting the World Trade Centre Memorial as it was breathtaking.
Even though we were hit by a massive snowstorm across the East Coast, we managed to pack in a lot in the 5 days but it was not nearly enough time to cover such a great city.
We stayed in Boston for a night but this was not nearly enough time. Compared to New York, Boston is a laid-back city with a lot of open space. Having visited Boston since it has really grown on me. It is a nice city to walk around with my favourite area being North End where there is familiar European architecture. If you have limited time like us, I would not miss Faneuil Hall Marketplace. There are great food stalls selling Boston treats like Clam Chowder in a bread bowl.
In a rash decision, I decided to extend my holiday for a few more days and join some friends in South Beach, Miami. After battling – 20 degree weather and snow storms the warm beaches and palm tree-lined streets were much needed. Miami has now become one of my favourite destinations. I loved the bustling strip of hotels on South Beach, the colourful art deco houses and the idyllic sandy beaches.
Little Havana was a great neighbourhood to walk around and try delicious Cuban food. The downtown area was flashy and extravagant, like most of Miami. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money in Miami, but I would go again in a heartbeat.
A year ago, I would not have pictured myself jet-setting around North America instead of spending Christmas at home in England. Yet my holiday was one that will be remembered for a long time. I loved the way students in a similar position came together and supported each other during the time and I would urge other people to do the same.
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
As the end of the semester approaches, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would reflect on the incredible experiences I have gained from studying abroad.
It is easy to forget why you chose to study abroad when you doing the third round of midterms and have spent endless evenings in the library. I was feeling slightly lost, terribly homesick and unmotivated until I realized how lucky I am to have experienced new things and to have travelled around the world.
Over the last month alone I have managed to travel to Toronto, see Niagara Falls, experience a traditional American Thanksgiving and walk around downtown Chicago. I will try to share some of the incredible things I have done and encourage people to make the most of studying abroad:
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Studying on a year abroad is one of the best opportunities that you will ever have in your life. Meeting new people, being in a different culture and learning to be completely independent are incredible skills to have, but studying abroad can also be extremely tough, especially if you get ill. I, unfortunately found myself in the hospital after a month in and although it was hard, I am feeling much better.
As a student who has also suffered from anxiety and stress-related problems, year abroad can be especially tough on your health. So these are my tips for coping with the mental and physical strain of being abroad:
If you are feeling sad or homesick, speak to someone about it. I can’t stress how much better I have felt after just explaining to someone how I feel. If someone asks ‘how are you’ and you are feeling homesick tell them! Chances are they will make you feel better and offer empathy. Don’t be afraid to tell new people how you are really feeling.
Listen to your body! If you feel unwell please go and see a Doctor, you know your body best if something does not feel right then go and see the Doctor as soon as possible.
Make sure you have health insurance. I am on the student health plan here and although it is expensive the care I got whilst in the hospital was incredible and so efficient.
Speak to a good friend or family member. Most people are only a phone call away. I have sometimes avoided ringing people as I thought it would make me feel more homesick but it was the complete opposite.
Do not isolate yourself. It can be easy when things get difficult and lonely to isolate yourself further by staying in your room. But get out there! Explore the area, go for a coffee on your own, be brave and text a new friend. It is really important to spend time with people.
It is okay to have bad days and to cry. (even if it means crying in the food hall whilst eating your waffles) Sometimes you just need to let out the emotions you are feeling.
Write down your feelings. I have been keeping a diary and been trying to write it in as much as possible, especially when I am finding it tough. It is good to look back on the times you felt bad and realise they are just days and you have got through all of them.
Fuel your body with good food. It is easy to forget about simple things like eating when you are so busy especially if you are missing home-cooked meals. However, your body needs fuel and energy
Spend time in nature. I have organised to go hiking and escape from the city and campus for a day.
Use the services your university provides. At Case, we are so lucky to have a walk-in counselling service where you can be seen immediately if you need someone to speak to. There is also a service called ESS who can help you time manage your week and prioritise your work.
Switch up your work environment. Working in the same place every day can quickly become boring. Maybe work in a coffee shop, or form a study group with friends.
Join a society or club. It is definitely an easy way to meet like-minded people who share the same interest as you.
Get active! Doing exercise has definitely helped me, but remember to also have breaks.
Study 45 minutes on and 15 minutes off. This method has helped me especially when I have put off starting work. 45 minutes doesn’t seem too daunting and taking regular breaks is important.
Most importantly, take time out to yourself. Have a day to just do absolutely nothing and unwind when you need it.
Studying abroad for me has been a great opportunity to learn a lot. It can be hard and lonely at times and especially so if you get sick, but for every bad day, there are plenty more good days.
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
So I have been in Case Western Reserve for just over two weeks and it has been hectic. After 2 days of travelling including 2 trains and 2 flights, I arrived late at night, extremely tired after being awake for over 24 hours.
When I finally reached campus the sun was shining and it really showcased the lovely campus. My home for the next year is in The Village, an accommodation on the north campus for the upper class (3rd and 4th years). My favourite part of the village is that all the houses overlook the track and field area where the ‘Spartan’ teams train. It feels extremely American and I love it.
It really has been an actioned packed few weeks but I will go through my highlights of what I have discovered so far. For the first week, I had orientation, which is sort of like freshers week in England but led by the University. We were split into groups mainly with freshman in it and had two lovely leaders who took us to all of the events. Although most of the people were a bit younger than me it was a good way to meet new people, get familiar with everything Case has to offer and ease you into the uni life. One part that will stay with me the most was the ‘tradition’ or class photo. As Case is a small school with around 5000 undergrads, every year they take a photo with the new class on the field. It made me feel part of the Case community and I think it’s a great idea.