Start of something new

Thulase Sivapooranan The University of Maryland, USA

Tuesday 20th of August 18:30

Moving-in Day

I was standing in front of numerous tall, looming crimson-bricked and white-pillared buildings, both my small hands occupied: one holding onto a suitcase the size of me and the other clutching my phone with a mere 5% charge. No one was around; I did not know where to go; I was hours late to check-in at my accommodation! Did it get worse? Yes. Booming claps of thunder echoed from above and a heavy downpour of rain followed.  There were booming bursts of thunder and it suddenly started to rain heavily. I never felt so isolated; I just wanted to cry with the clouds.

Eventually, I saw a figure in the distance, so I ran towards them, quite slowly (because I had to drag this heavy suitcase with me too).

“Hi ! I’m Tee, could you help me, please? I am an exchange student! I just landed! I don’t know where to get my keys from! Do you know where I can get them from?” I panted.

“Yes, sure! Don’t worry, I got you “said Josh calmly ( a junior home student  at The University of Maryland ), and  took hold of my oversized suitcase kindly.

He helped me move in, and then we went to the closest sushi restaurant to have dinner. We probably spent an hour at least, talking about Maryland, America, Manchester, our hobbies, ourselves. In that moment, I was overjoyed- I had an enigmatic smile painted on my face. I just made my first friend abroad, and I got a gut feeling that I was going to love it here.

Wednesday 21st of August 09:00

First day of Orientation

“Welcome to the University of Maryland! We are very happy to see you here. Our first session will start shortly, for the time being feel free to interact–“

I turned my head to see who was next to me and I smiled at them and introduced myself.  It finally got to me that I was not in Manchester anymore; I realised that I was back at square one. New campus. New people. New everything. But as the day went by, I felt more welcomed and less overwhelmed. The orientation sessions were very informative; the staff were very welcoming, and all the exchange students were just as excited and nervous as I was.

Thursday 22nd of August

Most of the orientation sessions were as expected, including: how the US healthcare system works, Academic integrity and a Washington DC trip with all the exchange students. But, the safety and security session …oh boy, it gave me the heebie jeebies! UMD’s police department came in to give us the talk, and half an hour in they gave us a short “active shooting training” session. RUN. HIDE. FIGHT was the motto. It became very clear to me that I was going to be living in a high gun to people ratio country for the next four months. I need to be vigilant.

Friday 22nd of August

Last day of Orientation and I learnt a lot about the American Culture and History of Maryland. It’s good to see how far Maryland has come from the very severe racial segregation which was not too long ago, to now one of the most diverse states. (UMD is one of the most multicultural universities in the US too!)

We ended the day with a massive BBQ dinner outside the basketball courts! The atmosphere was amazing- full on High School Musical vibes. Just as I thought I would have time in the weekend to catch up with my family and friends back at home… one of my new friends popped the question “should we go to New York this weekend, seeing as we don’t have class homework to worry about yet?” And the next thing I knew, at 11pm Friday evening, the four of us were on a coach to New York!! As born and raised in London and Manchester, it is safe to say that New York is something else! I will be sharing my experience via my vlog and Instagram posts!

It’s only been a week since I have moved to the States, and I have to say that I am loving it so far! If you’re planning on coming to America, here’s two things that I’ve learnt so far:

  1. Take advantage of your British accent, the Americans love it!
  2. Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow –make the most of your time here.

Study Abroad Preparation Timeline

I am the kind of person that ALWAYS have the feeling that I have forgotten something. Before leaving the house, I re-check that I have indeed switched off the stove for the seventh time. Before leaving for the holiday, I re-check that my passport is indeed in my luggage for the seventeenth time. I’m not kidding. Hence, it’s not surprising that before I head off to Maryland to start my study abroad, I kept thinking… did I forgot to do something? What do I have to do now? Did I miss a step? Am I going to be stranded because I forgot to do something?

If you are like me, have no fear, because I went to Maryland happily, spent a beautiful semester and came back as a normal exchange student. I was not stranded, I was not going hungry and I was not deported. The feeling is normal.

So in this post, I want to outline the steps that I took and the things that I sort out before I went to Maryland. Of course, your situation will be different. Not everyone is a chemical engineering student going to the University of Maryland, College Park. So I am not telling you directly that these are the steps you definitely have to do. I’m going to outline the general steps and tell you the approximate timeline, but you have to personalise this timeline for your own situation. If at this point you are screaming “but I don’t know what needs to be changed!!” Fear not, friends, the lovely Study Abroad staff in the Atrium have not disappeared and always ready to help. After all, I am posting this in mid-December, so for students who are going in the first semester or for a full year, you have PLENTY of time to prepare. For students who are going in the second semester, you should have these prepared by now. Anyhow, let’s just continue and worry about the minutiae details later.

Checklist of Basic Things to Sort Out Before Going Abroad

  1. Application
  2. Accommodation (Temporary/Permanent)
  3. Class Registration
  4. Visa (and other documents you might need)

Yes, just four. Does that calm you down? Some lucky people can even cut the list down – some people don’t need a visa (but PLEASE CHECK properly!) Basically, once you got these 4, you can enter the country legally, you have a place to sleep and you can study at your host university. There are other important items too, like immunization, health insurance, but those would be specific to your situation/country/university – and let’s classify those as documents for now. Okay, let’s make a proper timeline.

Timeline

(Please note that this is based on my experience and you would need to modify this to your own specific situation. Nevertheless, it contains useful information.)

Step 1: Application (June – March)

This includes both applications to the University of Manchester and University of Maryland. So I applied and finish all my Manchester paperwork in December. I was told that I am chosen to attend the University of Maryland, College Park in mid-March through MyPlacement system, and immediately had to pull myself together and finish another application to be sent to Maryland by April 1st. Yes. Thankfully the application to Maryland was almost identical to Manchester one, so it was not as time-consuming as the first one.

Step 2: Class Registration and Visa Application (and other Documents) (April – June)

Maryland officially admitted me on April 12th. Starting from April 14th, I started enrolling for classes. Note that when and how you enrol will be different for different courses/university or maybe even different students. My friends only needed to send an email to enrol in their classes and they got automatically enrolled. Did not happen to me. I could not finish enrolling for classes until I finally got to Maryland and met straight up with the Head of Undergraduate Admission for reasons that are still a mystery to me.

Visa application. Oh, the headache of visa applications. It’s just another thing to do. Thankfully both Manchester and Maryland are very helpful in giving advice on what to do and what not to do. I attended my US visa application mid-June, which you can read more on my blog here (yes, visit my blog! http://www.agondosari.com).

At this point, I also suggest that you start having immunizations if your university/country require one. Yes, the jab takes like 1 minute, but the waiting line can be quite long and to organise one last minute will just give you an unnecessary headache.

Step 3: Accommodation! (April – August?)

Congratulations! Well at this point my friends have completed their class registrations, unlike me, but I’d say that I had a special case and most students don’t have any complication regarding their class registration. So the last thing you need to do is to sort out where you are going to stay! Yippie! (Seriously, at this point you will feel the burden is finally lifted)

Depending on your university, you could probably start sorting out the accommodation straight after you got admitted. Honestly, I was being very late and completely forgotten that I have to apply for housing haha. Thankfully Maryland guarantees accommodation for exchange students, so I still got one haha.

You should also begin buying your flights, sorting health insurance and other things.

Congratulations! You made it! 😀

Chemical Engineering: Manchester and Maryland Perspectives

I have also written the post comparing UK and US education system in general in my personal blog, if you are interested. You can find it here: http://www.agondosari.com/index.php/2016/10/23/comparison-uk-vs-us-education-system/

I have finally reached my second month in the US. Sorry for not updating earlier! Life is HECTIC here, I feel like I’m taking 8 classes instead of 5. But hey, chemical engineers are supposed to survive in any environment. Here I want to talk about the differences about chemical engineering courses, specifically between University of Maryland, College Park and University of Manchester. Some comparisons will just between universities, but there will be some comparisons that are influenced by the whole US vs UK thing since the universities are located in 2 different continents across the Atlantic.

Continue reading “Chemical Engineering: Manchester and Maryland Perspectives”

Cycling: UMD College Park (Overview)

I made a decision to rent a bike on my first day of class in Maryland because I can’t stand walking 30 minutes to class in the middle of Maryland heat – and never looked back since. In this post, I’ll cover general information for people who are interested at cycling at UMD College Park. Continue reading “Cycling: UMD College Park (Overview)”

Initial Thoughts: Maryland

I noticed that I have the habit to compare new places with the place I am familiar with. This includes Manchester where I have been living for 3 years.

Maryland is so strikingly different from Manchester.

Continue reading “Initial Thoughts: Maryland”

Final Reflections

By Grace Clarke (Psychology, University of Maryland, United States)

As I come to the end of my time in Maryland, I can safely say that I can look back on my year with such fond memories and with a huge smile. Despite the natural ups and downs of the year, I am extremely sad to be saying goodbye to my friends and the place that I have been fortunate enough to call home for the past 9 months. Continue reading “Final Reflections”

The Difference Between Semesters

By Grace Clarke (Psychology, University of Maryland, United States)

After travelling the States for a month over winter break, and saying goodbye to a good portion of my friendship group (who were only here a semester), I have to say I was slightly apprehensive about my second semester at Maryland. Continue reading “The Difference Between Semesters”

Wrapping Up the First Semester: My Highlights

By Grace Clarke, Psychology, University of Maryland, United States

I want to start by saying that this semester has been a blast! I have met some amazing, crazy and inspiring people, many of whom I know I will be friends with for a very long time to come. Continue reading “Wrapping Up the First Semester: My Highlights”

Five Pieces of Advice for Future Students

By Grace Clarke, Psychology, University of Maryland, United States

I am going to keep my next couple of blogs fairly short, and as useful as I can to those of you who are thinking about applying to study abroad, or to those who have already applied and are waiting to hear about whether they are going (good luck!!). Continue reading “Five Pieces of Advice for Future Students”

My First Few Weeks in Maryland

Grace Clarke (University of Maryland – College Park, U.S.A)

My first night spent in the US was pretty luxurious. I had a hotel room to myself, ordered room service, and slept in a king sized bed. Then after arriving on campus, having to drag my overweight suitcases to my hall and up the stairs to my dorm, I was swiftly brought back down to reality. To add to this, the temperature was uncomfortably in the thirties, and the humidity was unbearable. Continue reading “My First Few Weeks in Maryland”