Adjusting your attitude and approach to studying

It has now been exactly two months since I arrived at NC State on the 14th of August. We have had eight weeks of teaching, though very few of these weeks have consisted of a full week of teaching what with national holidays, Hurricane Florence and Fall Break! The midterms for all my classes have now been completed and so I wanted to reflect on the changes I have had to make to my daily schedule, study style and expectations of the classes.

Firstly, something that I had to adapt to was how my daily schedule here was going to be different to my daily schedule in Manchester. I wasn’t going to be able to cling onto the routine I had become accustomed to in my first two years back home, instead I was going to have to readjust my schedule to fit with the norms of college life in the US. Mainly what this meant was that I was going to have to get used to working much later! Students here tend to work late most nights of the week, which is something I prefer to avoid in Manchester. At home I tend to travel into uni for my first lecture and then stay until around 7pm, or later if I have work due, and then go home, eat and relax. I do all my work before I head home and so when I get home I know that I can relax, I rarely work at home or late at night.

However, in the US most people take a break from around 5pm until 8pm, during which they go to the gym, socialise and eat. Then they resume studying in the evening and work from 8pm until 12pm most evenings. This is something I had to really adapt to because I had tried so hard to get all my work done during the day in Manchester and leave eating dinner as the last activity of the day so that I could spend my evenings unwinding. However, I quickly had to move my average time for dinner earlier by about 2 hours from around 8 or 9pm at home to 6 or 7pm here. I then had to mentally readjust to the idea that the late evening was for work and the early evening was for socialising. This complete flip is something I feel that I have only just about got used to.

Secondly, I had to rethink my study style, in particular my attitude towards the weekly homework assignments I am set here. At NCSU, like in Manchester, I am set weekly problem sheets for my physics classes, however the big difference is that at NCSU the weekly problem sheets are graded. Since the assignments are so similar, it took me a while to shift my attitude and start taking the homework problems more seriously. My attitude had to shift from just trying my best and then revising anything I didn’t understand in the tutorial, to aiming to get everything right. Part of this shift in attitude was realising that I needed much more time to complete the homework properly and then giving myself this time. I feel like this is something that is very common across all disciplines; the need to adapt to the fact that everything that is set as homework is linked to a grade. Even reading, which you may feel you can get away with not doing for seminars at home, you have be vigilant with here since there is often a small quiz based on the reading, which counts as part of your grade. Everything is important because everything counts and because of that people tend to work consistently throughout the week.

However, it is not all bad! Whilst I do feel that you have to stay on top of your work and work most evenings, I think that if you work into the late evening during the weekdays you don’t have to work that much on the weekends. I haven’t felt as though I have had to work too much during the weekend. I sometimes spend Sundays working but I have also already had four weekends away and it hasn’t hindered me too much! Second positive is that studying is a much more social activity here than it is in Manchester, at least in my experience. Therefore, whilst you might be studying later rather than hanging out with friends at the pub during the week, you are probably going to the library with friends, so you aren’t spending the evening alone. This also helps with the fact that all the homework is graded – people love to study together so you can work with them to complete your homework as long as the final write-up is yours.

Finally, the third thing I had to change was my expectations of the classes. They are much more informal, and it is true that the Professor has much more control over the course logistics and content. In one of my classes, we were set to have an exam and some of the students in my class asked if it could be changed because they had another exam the day after and he just agreed to move it to the week after! The classes are much more interactive which creates a more informal atmosphere, similar to that of an A-level class rather than a uni lecture theatre. My exam expectations were also something that had to be changed – they are very very different to Manchester exams, mostly due the informality of them. This is partly because there are so many exams, which makes them a lot more familiar, and partly because they are taken in the classroom without any invigilators or long announcements. However, they are still important because they typically count as 20-25% of your grade, but the frequency of them means that people typically only revise in the few days leading up to the exam.

Cross Road Blues

I knew it would be deflating to say the least when I came home from my semester in the States, but I honestly felt a bit lost. During the semester, I always had the reassurance that I’d be coming back to something – family, friends and life in Manchester. But the excitement of being back in the UK started to be replaced by the sadness of missing my new friends and an exciting life across the pond.

So, I tried to change my outlook over the Summer. Here’s my three main pieces of advice for adjusting to life back at home when it seems really tough:

1. Plan for the future

One of the best reasons for making friends across the world is that you always have a reason to visit somewhere new or exciting. Similarly, you could introduce the glory of Greggs’ sausage rolls to a foreign friend, or become their personal tour guide. The possibilities are endless, and it gives you a reason to spice up your calendar.

I also used my summer to mentally prepare myself for the final year of my degree. Now that I’ve tried a completely different learning style, I can appreciate what works for me in terms of studying. For example, I found studying more often, in smaller work sessions, really improves my memory of difficult materials. Think about getting the most out of your degree in Manchester.

2. Read everything!

Spending three weeks road tripping left absolutely no free time for reading. When I got home, however, I got back into the habit of reading everything around me. Book series are a great way to get lost in another world, whilst newspapers help you connect better to the real world around you. Instead of spending hours mindlessly scrolling through exotic Instagram accounts, try picking up a book and seeing what you can learn from it.

3. Be the support you seek from others

Finally, reaching out to people who care about you is the most important advice I could give. I can still relive memories with friends I made at NC State online, but I also now have time to catch up with home friends and family in person. Make sure that you spend time learning about any life changes your friends and relatives may have gone through while you’ve been away. Everyone needs support at some point or another, so being there for each other makes it easier to talk about any issues or struggles.

 

With the start of uni rapidly approaching, I’m excited (and admittedly terrified) to see what my final year brings. But I also feel re-energised and inspired to bring elements of my American experience to my degree. No one will ever have the same study abroad experience as someone else, it is entirely individual and unique and it doesn’t suit everyone. But I’d encourage anyone interested to just throw yourself into it and see what opportunities jump back.

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On campus living: what its like sharing a room.

By Sally Lord, North Carolina State University.

I have now been at NC State for just over a week and so I thought I’d share with you some of the things I have learnt about living on campus!

I am living in Alexander Residence Hall which is part of the Global Village. It is a fantastic place to live as it is so central, on the one side is the gym and the other the student union and the welcoming atmosphere of all the residents has made the beginning of my semester a great one! I am loving living on campus in a shared room, my roommate is lovely and the environment of living on a corridor with about 50 other people is exciting and great for meeting new people!

However, before I arrived there was one thing that seemed daunting and a bit strange to me, the rooms were shared! I know that sharing a room is the norm here in the US but I had never had to share a room before, let alone with a stranger. The thought of having a roommate seemed very personal, unmanageable and there was always the question, ‘what if we don’t get on?’ So naturally I was nervous at the thought of sharing a room, but as it turns out there is little to be worried about! My two biggest worries about sharing a room actually turned out to be nothing at all.

Worry 1: I will have no personal space.

Having a roommate is far less invasive than you would imagine! Firstly, you don’t actually spend that much time in your room, or at least I haven’t so far, you are busy going to classes, having food and socialising. Secondly, even when you are in your room it is quite likely your roommate won’t be because you’ll probably have different schedules, do different extracurricular activities and have some different friends. Therefore, there is plenty of time in between to spend chilling in your own space if you want to.

Worry 2: We won’t get on.

This is natural worry for most people but I think a lot of work actually goes into pairing roommates. For Alexander Hall we had to fill out a preferences questionnaire and people were paired based on their responses to the questionnaire. Obviously not everyone is going to end up living with someone who matched all their answers but you at least know that your roommate will share some similarities with you, which is definitely reassuring. They will be more like you than you think! And even if you aren’t alike, there are lots of other people on your corridor whose rooms you can hang out in and in each residence hall there is usually a big social space which you can relax in.

So as it turns out having a roommate is not as scary as it seems and it is likely that you will end up loving your shared room, Another cool thing that I learned was that you have a lot of freedom over how your room is customised. You can move the furniture around, move your bed up and down and personalise your space much more than you can at home!

Finally, I just thought I would as mention some of the other really cool benefits of living at NC State:

  1. FREE LAUNDRY!!! In Alexander Hall you can do your washing for free which seems like such a blessing after having to pay a lot to do washing in our hall at home
  2. FREE gym, pool, sauna and exercise classes . This is such a great perk, everything within the Carmichael gym complex is free for students to use and the facilities are extensive. Another bonus is that it is just across the road from Alexander Hall.
  3. For $5 you can use all the buses in the Raleigh and Triangle area for free, which means you wont need to spend any money on transportation whilst you are here.
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The front of Alexander Hall, complete with a Lime Bike. Lime Bikes are dotted all over campus and are like the Mobikes of Manchester.
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The inside of Alexander hall, complete with furnishings which can be easily purchased from Target.

 

Silhouettes

North Carolina’s famous blue sky is now accompanied by the promise of a very warm summer, with Finals week heating up both in terms of the weather and pressure. I cannot fault the efforts of NC State, however, in keeping the atmosphere across campus as relatively stress free as possible. This week I’ve had free ice cream, unlimited access to colouring pages and a full day of waterslides and pizza. Reliving the dreams of my five-year-old former self has been a great way to enjoy my last few days here and I’ve never felt so calm during exam season before. It definitely makes revising seem a lot less daunting than back in Manchester.

No one is mentioning it just yet, but the goodbyes are looming ahead of us. I have been extremely fortunate to have lived with such a diverse and loving group of friends for the past few months. A compass would implode if it had to track all the destinations we are headed to after this semester, but there is always the promise of future meet ups and, of course, a thriving Facebook group chat…

It’s also hard to accept that everything is becoming ‘the last’ of its kind. The last sports event, the last Sunday brunch at Case dining hall, the last time all of us will be living under one roof. But documenting the big, and even small, moments of happiness during the semester remind you how much has been accomplished in such a small period of time.

I recorded videos, took pictures and typed notes throughout the weeks and ended up with a 35-minute video which I screened to my friends. I highly recommend this if you want to re-live the highlights of your study abroad experience. Show friends and family back home what you got up to, rather than reciting your own version of the Queen’s Speech at the dinner table.

As soon as the term ends, I am jetting off to New York with my international friends for what will be the start of an all-American road trip. The journey won’t end in the USA because we will be travelling to Europe together afterwards for a little while, but then I will be right back at the start. I can’t predict how I will react when life at home falls into routine once again. I will probably not be used to having my own bedroom, the grand reintroduction of Maltesers into my life will most likely hurt my teeth soon after and I’ll have to prepare for my final year in Manchester.

But I have the comfort and reassurance of knowing that when I go back, I will be the best version of myself. I’ve learnt so much about my academic strengths (and weaknesses) which will hopefully benefit my studies next year. Living and learning with so many different characters has granted me a sureness of self which I hadn’t realised I lacked, and my sense of adventure has been fuelled enough to last me a lifetime.

Thank you to the University of Manchester and NC State.

Thank you to my family and friends back home.

Thank you Student Finance (I’m sorry, we’ve had some scary moments there).

Thank you to my Alexander family – Peace, love and memes from above, always.

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Till It Happens To You

There is an inescapable bubble that absorbs you when you study abroad. Everything is exciting, everything is new – new friends, new classes, new experiences. You quickly adapt to living at three times the speed of real time, where a week goes by in a day and a month is over before you’ve had time to process yesterday’s reading for class. But I’d implore any potential ‘go abroad’ student to just, if only briefly, think back to that very distant lecture in Manchester that was ominously titled ‘It Won’t Happen to Me’. I admit, it escaped my memory as soon as my suitcase fell off the baggage claim in RDU airport. However, it’s really important to know what your options are if you receive news from back home that temporarily bursts the study abroad bubble.

Last month, I received a text at 3am that reminded me that life at home is not left in a state of perfect paralysis as soon as you leave the country. The death of a loved one hits very hard, regardless of your geographical proximity to them. Being told that I could not statistically make the journey back for the funeral was very painful and frustrating and for the first time since arriving in the States, I felt quite deserted.

Trying to process this news whilst preparing for my first midterm exam that very same day was another challenge in itself. I chose to sit the exam, I had already prepared for it and didn’t want it looming ahead in an already hectic university schedule. But I also decided it might be worth contacting the Study Abroad Office back in Manchester. It did feel slightly awkward and somewhat useless (what could anyone do about the situation?) but it actually provided me with protection for my academic standing both at NC State and UOM. It seems an odd thing to consider during such a period of shock, however it helped to alleviate the stress of working and provided me with some mental space to grieve.

With this in mind, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to consider your mental health, especially as a student. Thankfully my family and friends at home are all available for me to contact whenever I need to. I am also lucky to have superb friends over here in the States who I’m extremely grateful to for looking after me. Going abroad can be stressful, things can go wrong and sometimes we just can’t be where we want to be. But being out of my comfort zone has prepared me in many more ways than I imagined. Having global support has bridged the distance between here and home, and I am now aware of having a strong support network wherever I may be in the world.

This blog post is addressed to any student who ever finds themselves getting THAT phone call or text. To anyone who is caught in a national or local emergency, or who is struggling, for a short period or every single day, with mental or physical health. It is so important to have open communication between you and your academic institution. Any stress-inducing situation that hinders your academic capabilities is not just your burden to bear. There are mitigating circumstances, there is support and advice available to you, and you are absolutely not alone.

Half The World Away

By Shifra Power (North Carolina State University, USA)

Whilst everyone else was making New Years Eve plans, I was cruising through an 8 hour 55 minute flight from London Heathrow to Raleigh-Durham International airport. Although the official move in date wasn’t until the 3rd January, my dad and I decided to head out to Raleigh on the 30th December to check out my new home for the next term. I was grateful to fly out with someone familiar to settle in for the first few days, especially when an emergency purchase for a new winter coat was needed (cheers Dad).

On that note, a fair warning to future travellers – don’t assume that the average weather temperatures will be loyal every year. I don’t think I was able to feel my toes for the first three days I was in Raleigh. With record low temperatures hitting the United States this January, I could easily convince myself that I am studying in the Arctic circle.

Nevertheless, my first impression of Raleigh has been superb. Despite the cold, the sun has not stopped shining so far and the warm welcome from North Carolinians has been unrivalled. As I arrived before most of the students, there were lots of opportunities to explore the surrounding area before it got too busy. The city is beautiful to walk around with various historical sites marked out along the streets. The actual downtown area was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but it is quite a nice change from the manic madness of Manchester city centre. Having the time to stroll around meant I was able to spot little details around the city that might otherwise go unnoticed. I thoroughly recommend heading into Downtown Raleigh on New Year’s Eve to witness the ‘famous’ Acorn Drop. Think New York City’s ‘Times Square Big Ball Drop’, but more wholesome. The streets are filled with food stalls, rides and a pop-up wedding chapel (complete with a plastic tiara and veil).

 

 

I also managed to accidentally become a food critic. Sampling Southern cuisine became a prime objective before the start of the academic term, with my quest for the finest fried chicken well underway. Thus far, I would highly recommend The Pit Barbecue Restaurant as a mid-range/good quality place to try a range of popular BBQ dishes celebrated in the Southern states. For an infamous American breakfast, the Flying Biscuit Café in Cameron Village (just a 10 minute walk away from NC State main campus) was another great find.

 

 

After a few days of gathering dorm-room essentials and navigating my way across NC State’s vast and beautiful campus, I eventually moved in to Alexander Hall (the Global Village). I had spoken to my roommate on Facebook for a few weeks leading up to move in day, which made meeting each other significantly less nerve-wracking and a lot easier. Who knew two strangers could bond so quickly over a chicken costume and a box of Cadbury Heroes? Being in halls that are half international, half American has definitely contributed to how much I’ve loved my time here so far. Everyone wants to socialise with each other, go for group meals between classes and organise trips for long weekends.

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I’ve only just started classes so I haven’t formulated the main differences between teaching styles in the UK compared to the USA. But considering that I am studying Star Wars in my Film module, I have no reason to complain just yet…

Until next time,

Shifra

Leaving the US

After almost 6 months studying at NC State, leaving America feels difficult to process. It seems like I only got settled to all of the differences a couple of months ago – and with Spring Break, mid-terms, finals and making travel plans, time really does go by fast. Especially now that I’m sitting in the airport ahead of a 26 hour journey home!

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Eastern Travels

With finals nearing their end, I thought it would be a good time to post an update with some affordable travelling you can do during term time. The two trips I took toward the end of April cost less than $100 each for a full weekend away and meant I was able to visit Asheville, Boone and Mount Mitchell in North Carolina and fit in a trip to Atlanta, Georgia.

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Spring Break in Puerto Rico

Jake Bell, English Literature & American Studies, North Carolina State University, USA

Its safe to say that even before coming to study in America, spring break was something I was looking forward to. The week off in March (at NC State, this is Friday 3rd to Monday 13th) is a week in which everyone living on-campus must vacate halls. We decided to spend Saturday to Monday in Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory in the Caribbean.

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North Carolina State: First Impressions

Hi Manchester on the Road! I’m Jake, a second year student studying English Literature & American Studies. I’m spending my second semester studying English Literature and Political Science at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.

Now that I’ve been at NCSU for a while I thought it’d be a good idea to do a blog post on my first impressions of the university and the city.

The first thing to overcome was the flights – I looked around for the cheapest option but that meant flying from Newcastle to London, London to Miami, and Miami to Raleigh – which took over 24 hours. I got to my dorm room at about 1am U.S. time and don’t think I’ve felt that tired before!

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8 THINGS YOU ONLY LEARN FROM STUDYING IN THE US

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By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

1. You always seem to have some kind of test – whether it is a midterm or pop-up quiz, these are so frequent that after the first few tests you stop being surprised when your professor issues you with a test.

2. You have to submit papers via hard copy – for those of us who are used to staying up all night before an essay is due and submitting it online with only minutes to spare, this is quite a hassle.

3. Attendance contributes to your final grade – most professors take attendance every class to monitor students attendance and usually if students miss more than a certain number of classes, it is deducted off your attendance mark… How fun…

4. Students don’t have seminars – so this means that you will usually have a day (or if you are lucky enough a few days) off each week to sleep all day. But even though seminars don’t exist, professors ensure students don’t fall asleep in their classes by making sure participation in classes contribute to your final grade… Awesome!

5. Students get unimaginable amounts of free things – those of you who thought freshers’ week was the biggest freebie event, you were wrong! American ‘colleges’ give out tonnes of free goodies – pizza, cakes, water bottles, t-shirts – on a (nearly) weekly basis… #Winning

6. Sports is a huge thing – everyone in some way can relate to sports, whether it is watching it, such as football (not what real football is, but a sport similar to rugby), or going to the gym. The gym is amazing, with a swimming pool, basketball courts and places where you can rent out equipment… for free! I never thought I would hear myself say it but, I LOVE THE GYM!

7. Students don’t interact in classes – this is pretty odd because for most of us it is a usual thing to talk to people in lectures.

8. People tend to recognise your accent – this is especially true if you have a British accent. When you speak in class some students look at you as if you grew another head. People notice the accent so much that it becomes strange if someone doesn’t notice your accent.

JAMAICA JAMAICA

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By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

So I went to Jamaica for spring break and the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane was the heat. Everyone working at the airport were super chilled and friendly. After the tedious task of getting through immigration and customs, I was picked up by my airport transfer. I would recommend this method of getting to your hotel as taxis are known for taking people to the wrong places. It took about an hour and a half to get to Negril from the airport, but the journey was relaxed and the driver was very talkative so that made it seem quicker than it was.

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Upon reaching the hotel, Eddie’s Tigress 2, I dumped my luggage and got ready to explore. Of course by exploring, I mean head to the beach. The beach was a proper beach… I was so excited; as those of you from the UK know, when you go to the beach there are usually just stones to sit on and dirty water to look at, but as I said before, this was an actual beach!

I decided to do the most touristy activity and sunbathe on the deck chairs. This was fun, but I am black so I couldn’t do this all day as I would probably end up burnt.

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Going out in Negril was interesting. The best nights were on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday a few of the girls and I went to Bourbon Beach seeking good music and a great atmosphere – and I can say we weren’t disappointed. Although the dance floor was empty when we arrived, it didn’t take us too long to start the party. The tunes that were played by the DJ varied between mainstream pop – Beyoncé etc. and dancehall – Beenie Man etc. On Thursday night, all of us went to Jungle. Someone staying at our hotel stated that they planned their holiday around this night, so I had high expectations and upon my arrival to Jungle, I totally understood why. Again, they played mainstream music and dancehall, but what I really loved was there was different atmosphere to the beach. It was a serious club – a ‘party-hard-or-go-home’ type of club.

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Overall it reminded me a lot of Nigeria. Jamaica was amazing… The food was great – rice and peas with chicken and salad was a dish that I indulged myself in on several occasions. I cannot forget about the Ting too, a drink that makes grapefruit taste so sweet! The locals were so friendly – when walking past strangers on the street, they would offer greetings to us and, in times of confusion, assistance in finding places. I particularly loved that everyone was stress-free and relaxed, it is really a place for ‘no worries’, and that was definitely what I had by the end of the holiday.