After 9 months in the States, I have begun the big post-study abroad reflection. The U.S is an ultra capitalist society and highly focused on growth and prosperity – it’s not exactly known for being environmentally conscious… In this blog post I want to offer some tough lessons that I’ve learned during my time in the U.S and offer some comfort to other environmentalists study abroad.
My post-study travels include a variety of places in the U.S. but one headliner is definitely San Francisco. I write this blog post having just got off an overnight bus from San Fran to L.A so all reflection are fresh and honest.
The inner workings of fraternities are often left as somewhat of a mystery for exchange students. Their obscurity and emphasis on secrecy means that infamous stereotypes usually surround any conversation about frats and, by extension, the guys that are members/brothers within them. This blog should give you some insight into what they’re actually about and encourage you (if you’re a guy) to join one because it has made my year infinitely better – girls can join sororities, but you will have to ask someone else about them.
Well, it has been a while since my last study abroad blog, a lot has happened, the main one being that I am no longer abroad. Now, I am contemplating my time on Rocky Top, Tennessee, underneath the grey skies of Manchester.
In America, I visited 5 cities in total. To try and tell you how different the culture is over there, I decided to review each city for 7 seperate categories. It’s a simple idea. Maybe the rankings might inspire you to take a trip to the Southeast of the USA.
Each city will be ranked for: Food, music, safety, bars, price, stuff to do and architecture.
Congratulations on securing your placement on a study abroad scheme – the excitement and adventure starts here and will not stop for a longggg time! In the whirlwind of preparation it can be hard to think about your environmental impact. I’ve collected 5 easy things that you can do before you leave to help reduce the environmental impact of your study abroad experience. Most of these also save you money or time…
Now this might just be some anecdotal evidence, and if this is the case you might want to disregard this blog, but it seems as though us Brits (unfortunately??) love a bit of a moan about just about anything and everything.
Two of my Spanish friends picked up on this behaviour of mine quite quickly, and fellow British exchange students have also noted that others have highlighted this too. I mean sure, no one does pubs like us, football, roast dinners, getting sloshed (42s, Factory and 256 seem particularly relevant for Manchester students here), Cadbury’s chocolate, our self-deprecating sense of humour, tea… I could go on and on.
However, there are actually some things (in fact, quite a lot) that I prefer about my experience in Arizona and subsequently the USA.
Well this entry is a little late, but if you’re reading it in 2025 it’s on time! I have been here in Knoxville, Tennessee for a about a month and a half now. Obviously, it has gone way too quickly, of course I have learnt a lot, but I don’t aim to dwell on the lessons learnt as it’s not as interesting to say ‘remember to do your work to keep your GPA high’ as it is to spread gossip.
I think it is safe to say this year has been ✨interesting✨ in terms of applying for a year abroad and also going on one. This post is an application advice one, so if you’re looking for an ASU specific post, then see my next blog.
I noticed that there was remarkably little guidance provided (without asking) about how to pick what university you want to apply to and especially what is expected in your IPO personal statement/top three university choices.
Picking your University(ies)
I wish life was like Disney, going where your heart desires for your dreams to come true… however it isn’t! Whilst academic performances aren’t overly mentioned by the IPO, it is pretty apparent that your academic performances at Manchester form a LARGE part of the decision-making process, so if you’re a first year reading this: work hard and get good grades. If you’re a second/third year student reading this: I hope you worked hard and have good grades if you’re looking at the TOP TOP choices. Canadian universities are particularly over-applied for, as is the University of California so make sure your academic scores are high enough to make it worth applying. I’d also arrange a meeting with your Academic Exchange Advisor to specifically talk through where to study based on your grades – they do matter.
Now, probably like me, the last personal statement you wrote got you into the University of Manchester – so it must be useful for getting you into your dream foreign uni, right? Well I’m not so sure here… I certainly clipped and used some parts of my UCAS statement but unfortunately this was no shortcut, I personally had to write another statement for this process. Firstly, looking at the marking criteria is key in formulating your personal statement and I really used both of these tables as the underlying basis for mine.
I started with a brainstorming process, looking at each of these categories and just formulating a massive list of whatever came to my mind that could be relevant here – some ideas I included were: sports, societies at Manchester, previous work (and work experience), previous responsibilities (e.g in my case being part of a JCR), academic and career plans and how these directly/indirectly relate to your year abroad and hobbies!
From this list, I then ciphered most of my brainstorming into and under five headings: academic, personal, cultural, employability/future plans and ambassadorial qualities. Obviously, some of my examples were able to fit under multiple headings, but this part of the process makes sure you are addressing all the required categories to maximise your marks! I also kept the rest of my list to hand (not all ideas fit) as you can still link them in later on.
With this categorised list I wrote my statement using my UCAS personal statement as a rough reminder of how to write in this style but mainly just letting the pen flow (or fingers type!). As a rough structure I followed this:
Intro Academic Personal/future plans/cultural/country specific (or continent if relevant, I only applied for US universities) mixed together over three paragraphs Ambassadorial qualities Concluding sentence
This is a very brief explanation of what I did but it might help out those who are struggling to find a starting point in their application.
Top Three Universities
This was tricker to write for me because I really felt the need to make myself seem as though I was essentially designed for each of these universities. Here’s some tips for what I researched and wrote about:
The area itself, like the town/city a uni is based in and what there is to see/do The sporting prowess and options at the uni Links between courses offered and you Things offered to you that are not available in Manchester Clubs and societies you might join
NB. It is okay (I think, I got into my first choice so we can assume so) to mention the same thing in each separate university box, for example skiing, rugby and politics were all consistent themes in each of my pieces.
Kind of self-explanatory, all I will say is that ASU is objectively probably the most expensive option in the USA, so you don’t need to look too far if ASU is your choice.
Finally, as I’m studying at ASU, I probably ought to include something ASU-y so have the iconic photo of a palm walk.
If you have any questions about applying or ASU specifically I’ll try my best to answer, find me on instagram @benjaminhspencer or contact my Manchester email which has the prefix of benjamin.spencer 🙂