Returning to Manchester

Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, USA)

I’ve been back in Manchester for several months now.  I have to admit, on the first drive down Oxford Road and past Fallowfield, it felt strange being back. Also, being a fourth year made me feel a hundred times older. However, I was lucky enough that a lot of people I knew had also been on exchange or in industry so were still around Manchester and probably feeling as ancient as me. This only lasted for a couple of days though, once I’d caught the magic bus, revisited Piccadilly gardens, started lectures and met up with friends I hadn’t seen in a year, everything seemed to go back to normal and I fell straight back in to life at Manchester. I am lucky enough that I have stayed in touch with four other girls from Manchester, who I had been at NC State with and grown close to, which made returning less difficult as I hadn’t had to say goodbye to everyone.  It also enabled us to natter away about our year abroad and all the people and things we’d missed without annoying everyone with  “this one time on my year abroad…” I was determined to sign up for at least one society or class this year. After everything I had done at NC State, I felt like I should be able to find time for at least one hobby… five months in and I’m still hopeful I’ll find one.

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Goodbye NC State

By Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, U.S.A)

Sorry for the late post, It’s actually been a couple of months since I left NC State but the fact that my time there had ended only really hit me when I was on the plane home from Raleigh a month later, after heading back from my travels. With everyone finishing exams at different times and starting their travels it was a prolonged week of sad goodbyes. It goes without saying that it was really hard wishing goodbye to all the friends I had made, especially those I had lived with and seen every day, knowing that it could be a long time before I saw them again. However, I suppose it would have been worse not having anything to be sad about leaving behind. I know that the reason it was so difficult to say goodbye was because of the amazing experiences and year I’d had. What made it easier was maybe our naive determination that somehow we would be able to travel the world the following summer and all meet up.

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Travelling (Road Trip!)

Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, USA)

The story everyone else back home is tired of hearing about, my one month travels around the USA as a parting goodbye. Having only been to North America once before my time abroad there, I had a huge amount of travel options and only a month to complete them before my Visa expired. After lots of google mapping and many phone calls to car companies, the ultimate road trip began.

New Orleans

Six of us flew to Nola, where we spent four days in the home of Jazz music. Every night we were listening to Jazz bands in the French quarter, consuming a ridiculous number of Po’ Boys (huge sandwiches) and trying to avoid a tragic night on Bourbon Street.

Las Vegas

First described to us very accurately by our cabbie as ‘a Disneyland for adults’. Food and accommodation were fairly pricey but we managed to get a good deal staying at the Pink Flamingo, a hotel right on the strip (and yes they did have real Flamingos). As a group of majority girls, it was one of the cheaper destinations for entry into bars and concerts. Going to see Calvin Harris with a huge crowd at an amazing venue, the Omnia hotel, was definitely a highlight. We were there for three nights in total which was enough to experience it without it eating into our budget.

Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon

First impression of the Grand Canyon was ‘it’s huge’- sounds silly as the name clearly suggests this but I could not imagine how massive it was until I was standing at the top looking down into it. After a long drive from Vegas and lots of confusion over which car insurance we actually needed, four of us spent the next day hiking around the canyon from the unsociable hour of 6 am- we were super keen. Definitely a worthwhile stop, and was nice to have a mix of city stops and national parks. Antelope Canyon was about an hour drive away and was less known by the public but recommended by a friend. The tour took us underground into a rock formation with a pathway wide enough to walk through. It was one of our favourite stops and definitely worth it if you plan on visiting the Grand Canyon.

San Diego

Girls Trip! Finally, we made it to West Coast for the last 2 weeks of the trip. We were joined by other students where we spent most of the time on the beach. However, one day we got adventurous and attempted to cycle our picnic to a park on the top of a hill – we did eventually make it! This then deserved a round of cocktails, happy hour was our friend.

Los Angeles

In LA we were the typical tourists. Whilst there, we went to Griffith observatory to get a view over the city, strutted down the Hollywood walk of fame and tried to catch a tan through the clouds at Venice Beach. We spent a whole day at Universal Studios (loving the new Harry Potter world installation- hands down the ride through Hogwarts was one of the best rides I’ve ever been on, but no spoilers).

Santa Barbara

We only spent two days in Santa Barbara but it had a nice mix of mountains and beach within an hour of each other which made our plans pretty easy, spending one day on the white sandy beaches and the other driving into the mountains and walking to different lookout points. We experienced our first ‘In and out’ fast food meal, even ordering off the supposedly ‘secret menu’.

Yosemite

One of my favourite stops, after driving up the west coast to get there on highway one, making several stops at Pismo Beach, The Big Sur and Monterey; a long drive but a must see. We spent a day in Yosemite National Park hiking and climbing up waterfalls and got some of the best photos from the trip.

San Francisco

We managed to book last minute tickets to go and visit Alcatraz which was really interesting and pretty creepy. If you book in advance you can go on a night tour which would have terrified me but I’ve heard is worth doing. It was easy to get around without a car so we also saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street and even got a great view of the city from Coit Tower. San Francisco was very hilly so walking around was a great workout. To end the trip Sam finally got to celebrate his 21st birthday with some good old fashioned karaoke.

This month was truly an incredible experience and the three of us getting to meet up with other students from NCSU along the way made the goodbyes even harder but the trip even more unforgettable.

Best pre departure decision I made- to live in Alexander Hall

Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, USA)

Reflecting over my year abroad and trying to work out what made it so special, number one would have to be the amazing and total mix of people that were brought together by Alexander Hall. Being surrounded by other students from all over the world who were experiencing the same excitement and anxiety of being away from home made me automatically feel welcome.

Having an American roommate that had already been at State for a year, meant there was someone to answer all my many questions on arrival and later in the year, she invited me to a proper American Thanksgiving at her family home! However, Alexander Hall would not have been as incredible if it was not for their veterans (the students who have lived there over several semesters who have now sussed out the nights to go to, every building on campus and how to do tailgating properly). The tailgates (pre celebrations before a football match) would be set up every other weekend for all the home football matches with drinks, food and games provided without fail – even if it meant getting up at 7 am on a Saturday. I haven’t even mentioned the camping trips to the mountains near Ashville or the beach and lake trips they organised throughout the year, which the whole hall was invited to. I think on the last mountain trip we had a squad of 10 cars driving 4 hours just so we could all enjoy a weekend wandering around waterfalls with all the shenanigans of camping.

With there being multiple events a week, whether someone’s birthday, a concert or even a road trip, I was constantly busy and making the most of my time. However, living in such a busy and lively hall, did mean that I had to have lots of will power to study, especially when I was trying to be convinced that a night out was more important than my end of term project “Because it’s a year abroad!!” Glad to say, I seemed to find more hours in my day, by ditching weekends of Netflix and replacing it with my new hobby of travelling.

Living in an international hall was great for travelling, we were all on a year abroad and with the opportunity of being on another continent, we wanted to do as much travelling as possible. In the two term breaks where I travelled to Chicago and Mexico, both trips attracted a 30 strong army of Alexandrians. Also being in Mexico with two Mexican students and many others that spoke Spanish meant we actually knew what food we were ordering and managed to get discounts to many tourist spots. This gave us the chance to experience snorkelling with turtles, swimming in cenotes and visiting Chichen Itsa, a wonder of the world. As well as this we were enjoying the huge nightlife, living off tacos and guacamole for 10 days and of course we had to sample some tequila. It was the most incredible holiday and something I would have not imagined myself having the chance to do last year.

Meeting and living with international students means that one year on I have friends across the globe and however cheesy it may sound, living in Alexander hall gave me the opportunity to make lasting friendships and memories with people from all around the world. My time abroad would not have been the same without them.

NC State Campus (the home of the wolfpack)

Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, USA)

05/04/16

Hi y’all, I know it’s been a while since my last post, my second semester has been so much busier trying  to fit in as much traveling as possible as well as getting to host lots of friends and family from the UK (showing them how amazing NCSU is) before I head back home in just 2 months. It’s strange to think that I only have one month left at university; this year has absolutely flown by.

When I was initially applying to universities in America and even when I got accepted into North Carolina State, I was desperate to know what the university looked like to give me an idea of what to expect when I got there. Getting onto a plane packed to go abroad for the year was even more nerve-wracking when I had no idea what was waiting on the other side. This is why I am hoping this post will give you a glimpse into what Raleigh and NC State campus can offer and show you why I have come to love it so much.

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No magic bus to uni, it’s all about the Wolfline now. Most classes are on the main campus and within walking distance of the halls. However, there are some classes (mainly for engineering students) that are held on another campus called Centennial, which is a 10 minute ride on the Wolfline. Riding the Wolfline is free for everyone and can take you all around campus as well as some of the local areas such as Cameron village, Mission valley and Hillsborough street.

The main campus is massive, I’ve been here for almost 8 months and I still reckon I haven’t seen half of it. The student union was built last year and is a great place to grab food, with a huge food court, including restaurants such as One Earth selling sushi and stir fry, Jason’s Deli if you need to grab a quick sandwich before class and of course Starbucks. On the main campus there are 3 dining halls as well as 2 food courts and several cafes, meaning wherever you are you can be sure there will be somewhere nearby to grab food and a coffee.

For the athletes amongst you or just those who want to try out a couple of classes, the gym is free for all students and so are all the classes. The gym itself has 2 swimming pools, studios and basketball courts as well as a rock climbing wall for those of you feeling more adventurous. With all the clubs, classes and sports facilities they have if you want to join in, whatever level you are at, you can be sure there’s something for you. Also, because sport forms such a big part of university life, there are many matches, especially for ice hockey, American football and basketball, that have a great atmosphere and I highly recommend going and screaming along with the fans.

There are two libraries; the one on main campus is situated in the Brick Yard closest the accommodation and the other on Centennial called Hunt library, which is more like the learning commons in Manchester and which overlooks Lake Johnson (yes there is a lake on campus, something I only embarrassingly discovered recently).

Around the university there is Hillsborough Street which has even more cafes and restaurants as well as a bowling alley and a couple of bars. Mission Valley and Cameron Village are both complexes close to campus (about a 20 min walk) containing shops, salons, restaurants and a cinema. Downtown is a 10 minute drive from campus and is the heart of Raleigh. This is often where we go out in the evening as this is where the most popular restaurants, bars and clubs are situated. Although it is much smaller than Manchester, on a sunny day it’s nice to wander around the several small parks and a pay a visit to a great find of mine called ‘Treat’ to cool down with an ice cream. The science museum and state capitol building downtown are also good to take visitors. For those shopaholics amongst you there is also a shopping centre just 20 minutes drive from campus called Crabtree Valley Mall as well as Target and Walmart to pick up any essentials.

The location of NC State has also been great for travelling, being just a 20 minute journey to the airport and a coach and train station downtown. However, I’m not going to lie having a friend or roommate with a car in Raleigh makes it much easier to get around the city and State. As the beach is a 2 hour drive away and the mountains 4 hours, both are a must see if you come to North Carolina.

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I hope this gives you an idea of how amazing NC State is and explains partly why I’ll be so sad to leave in 1 month. If you’re looking for a proper American university experience that is different from Manchester, this is it!  My experience studying abroad here has been even better than I could have imagined and I hope that it you decide to study abroad you’ll find the same.

It’s time to talk about work (and a little bit of play!)

By Olivia Ehrnreich, North Carolina State University, USA

21st November

The last three months have been filled with outings, events and lots of work. In the last two months I have taken a trip to Chicago and spent a weekend hiking in the mountains in Blue Ridge Parkway. Some of the events that have stood out in the last month are the state fair which took a good four hours to walk around. Also I have now attended several football games, making me a fully-fledged member of the wolfpack as I and can finally understand the rules and join in the chants. I also got to experience my first American Halloween which is huge here, with the university putting up decorations and themed Halloween events on, a week before the actual day, leaving my wardrobe filled with costumes and face paint. I also had the most memorable birthday, turning the big 21! However, with all of this going on, every spare moment has been spent working, with exams at least every other week, lab reports due in and homework after almost every class, all of which counts towards my final grade, it’s safe to say there has not been much time for Netflix.

The grading system is very different here, rather than just having one exam at the end of the term, every single piece of work counts, which seemed slightly daunting especially with the different grading scale. An A grade achievable at 90% seemed impossible to reach when being compared to 70%, set as a “first” in the UK. There is a much more constant workload, with questions to be answered and handed in every week. In most of my classes, I will have three exams over the semester and a final at the end of the term that is cumulative. However, some classes also require a presentation or report to be written which is good for those of you who prefer coursework to exams.

At first the workload seemed overwhelming but after a few weeks I started to get into the swing of things (with a few hectic weeks here and there). The professors here have all been really friendly and helpful and they have office hours two times a week so you can drop in and ask questions. To look at more information on courses and professors, there is a site called ‘rate my professor’ with reviews from other students and a page on the mypack portal showing the course overview and class grade averages  from previous years. Taking Chemistry with graduate students means I have been encouraged to read articles and keep up to date with new research, which I had not done as much in previous years. There is also a bit more independent work in some of the classes where you have to make sure you’re up to date with work you have learnt in previous years, or possibly that you have not seen before, to make sure you’re ready and prepped for the next lecture. I’m not going to lie, being in graduate courses has been challenging as attending classes with PhD students when I’m just a third year has been a fairly large jump. However, this has made me feel prepared for my fourth year where I will be doing my own research as I carry out my Masters. Speaking to some of the other students who are taking undergraduate courses here, they have said that the style of work and exams differs depending on what course you’re taking. Quite a few of the exams include multiple choice and short answers but if you’re taking a humanity, there will also be essays and other written work to submit.

Don’t let the amount of work put you off, as well as keeping up with studying here I’ve been able to get involved in a huge amount of the student life. I’m having an amazing time at NC State and with the end of the semester coming up in only one month, I’m glad I have the opportunity to stay for the full year.

Arrival at NC State

By Olivia Ehrnreich, North Carolina State University

05/09/15

After arriving in North Carolina just over three weeks ago, I cannot believe how much I have done already in such a short time here. Driving on to NC State campus (on a bright sunny day-already way different from Manchester), I thought I’d never be able to find my way around, it is absolutely massive with a mix of uni buildings, accommodation as well as several football fields, tennis and beach volleyball courts and even hammocks, for those not so exercise orientated.

Memorial Bell Tower
Memorial Bell Tower

I could not be happier with my decision to live in Alexander Hall, following the advice of previous students, everyone was unbelievably chatty and my first week, which initially only contained orientation talks and scavenger hunts was filled with activities organised by the American students from my halls. For the first two days, eighty of us all went to dinner together on the main high street and at the weekend we were all driven to Lake Johnson, where we typically made the most of the opportunity to sunbathe and were shocked that the water was actually warm, not British coast warm, actually a comfortable temperature.  A massive trip to Target was also organised during the first week to get all the ‘essential’ items we needed for the rest of the year. This resulted in the coach back being engulfed in shopping bags, duvets and pillows which wasn’t too bad until I had to carry it all to my room on the third floor!

Lake Johnson
Lake Johnson

Student events

There were so many student activities and events organised such as Packapalooza which was practically a street party, with food, clubs and societies the uni has to offer. This is where I realised the university American football team were more like celebrities than students, there was a forty minute queue (so should I say line) of students waiting excitedly for ten seconds for one on one time with the football team, to receive a signed poster. In the evening, there were performances from several artists, the final act being a rapper called Nappy Roots, which honestly was not the kind of music I was expecting in North Carolina. There was also an event called Rec Fest which had local student organisations and sports clubs as well as massive inflatable challenges set up in the sports field that looked like something out of the game show 50/50 – nothing is ever done on a small scale. The same is to be said for the huge university spirit, my first encounter of which was when visiting the NCSU student shop which would better be described as a mini department store. They had every item you could possibly imagine rocking the NCSU logo and I’m not exaggerating when I say everything. They had items from T-shirts and notebooks to hammers, high heels and a BBQ set. They even had brands such as Nike, Ralph Lauren and Adidas producing clothes with the NC State logo on, my plan is to own at least a quarter of the items before I go home next year.

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Packapalooza!
Packapalooza!
Katie taking on the challenge
Katie taking on the challenge
Trying on outfits at the Chinese Society stall
Trying on outfits at the Chinese Society stall

First American Football Game

The huge university spirit could not have been more prominent then at my first football game, every single student was dressed in the university colours of red and black yelling “Go Wolfpack!” Before the football game there was an event called “tailgating” outside the stadium, where all the students turn up 3 hours early to have a massive BBQ (which they call a cookout here) and some drinks. At least half the uni students  were there and in our group alone, from Alexander Hall, there were over a hundred people. We went into the stadium chanting and ready for our first game… it may have been more helpful if we knew the rules… and the direction we were scoring in, but we soon got the hang of it/ yelled chants when everyone else did, the main one being “move the chains, move the chains, move, move, move” if you know what that means in American football. At the start of the game there is a massive show with jets flying over the stadium, fire cannons, the band, flag girls as well as the dance and cheerleading teams (I repeat, nothing is done on a small scale)

NC State Football Stadium
NC State Football Stadium
NC State blackout football game vs E. Kentucky
NC State blackout football game vs E. Kentucky

Academics

Oh, and by the way, did I mention I was here to study! Seeing as this is a STUDY abroad program, I’ve been placed in graduate classes here with much smaller groups of about 20-30 students in a class. Thankfully, I’ve only been asked to stand up and introduce myself to the class once… and hopefully never again.  I have exams coming up in a couple of weeks, as exams are held over the duration of the term rather than after the holidays, making the holidays fun time and not revision time. However, this does mean that the work load is larger, so far I have been given work after almost every class with a deadline for submission only a couple of days to a week after it was assigned. This seems like a lot but it has meant that I have kept up with everything I have learnt in class and makes revising for the exams easier.

Even with the lager work load, which has been completely manageable so far, I have had the best time here and done so much that it actually feels like I’ve been here for a few months rather than just a few short weeks. I already have so much organised for the next couple of weeks as well as a trip to Chicago booked for fall break, who knows what I will have done by the end of my term here. Looking forward to keeping you updated on all my adventures, hopefully the next 3 months will be as good as my first 3 weeks.

Pre-departure to North Carolina

By Olivia Ehrnreich (North Carolina State University, USA)

11/08/15

North Carolina here I come! After applying for the study abroad program 10 months ago, I cannot believe after months of preparation and hours of Google mapping I will finally be seeing North Carolina for myself when I land in 5 hours time. The last month had been full of booking flights, visa appointments, seeing friends and family and the thing I put off most…packing. I kept asking “what do they wear in America?” “Do they go out?” as if I was travelling to another planet and not just 8 hours across the Atlantic. My inbox was always full of emails from NC State with forms I had to fill out and things to organize such as health insurance, immunizations, arrivals, etc. so it’s safe to say that I was kept very busy.

I arrived at the airport with my full family entourage and a suitcase usually used for a two week holiday jam packed with my ‘necessities’ for the year.  I crossed fingers as I was being checked in as my luggage was overweight by 0.9 kg, you’ll be glad to hear that all was fine (good old American Airlines) My parents found time for the mandatory embarrassing goodbye leaving photo as I went through security and I waved farewell at the gate and at least another 3 more times as I snaked around in the queue.

At the airport I met up with a group of girls from Manchester uni who would also be heading to North Carolina. After meeting them only once before it was comforting to be able to catch up and get to know more about the people I would be living with next year and who were probably experiencing the same nervous excitement that I was. It was nice to know I wouldn’t be left stranded alone at Rayleigh airport, or should this be the case, if I’ve remembered all the correct paperwork…
Only having a maximum of 4 hours sleep between us was not slowing us down as the adrenaline kicked in and four of us with beaming faces boarded the plane

North Carolina State University has set up an orientation week to help me get around the large campus before I start my classes the following week and are even taking us to Target to purchase any essential items we could not bring. I will be living in international halls where everyone is partnered with an American student to get the best of both meeting others from abroad and to experience the American culture and lifestyle. Luckily for me my accommodation is only a 5 minute walk from where most of my classes will be held and even better just a 2 minute walk from one of the many canteens. It will be strange sharing a room with another student but I look forward to meeting her and hopefully not driving her too crazy with my messiness.

I hope the next time I blog it will be to tell you all about the amazing new people and experiences I’ve had, but for now I’m going to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.