A typical day in my life at UMass Amherst

7:00am – Rise and shine

My alarm is usually set for around 7:00 as my classes here can start as early as 8:30am. Attendance is recorded so there’s no sleeping through my alarm! I’ll shower, get ready for the day and head to one of the four different dining halls on campus for some food. 

7:45am – Breakfast

As if it isn’t mentioned to us enough, UMass dining is rated number 1 in the whole country, so unlike the catered halls I was used to in my first year in Manchester the food is actually enjoyable! There’s a lot of variety and so many options to choose from. Today I resisted the tempting chocolate banana bread and opted for fresh fruit with granola instead. 

8:30am – Classes

After breakfast, I head to my first class of the day which is around a 10-minute walk away. The college campus here is gigantic and can take up to 30 minutes to walk from end to end. Luckily all my buildings are grouped close together so it’s never too far to get to. I had four classes on this day back to back, so I didn’t finish till 2:15pm. I had a surprise pop quiz in one of my classes, meaning the professor decided randomly to give us a mini exam on concepts we had learnt in the previous few lectures. I’d never had one of these before, so it caught me by surprise (as I’m sure they’re intended to!). It has definitely taught me to stay on top of all the work and assignments I’m given and to be prepared for the unexpected. 

3:30pm – Studying

After picking up a quick lunch from the grab and go at one of the dining halls, I head to the library to make a start on all the homework, quizzes and projects I’ve been given. It’s non-stop work and assignments here! I think this is the earliest point I’ve ever been to the library during a semester – typically I only venture to the library in Manchester in the final few weeks of the semester in the approach to exams. One of the benefits of studying in the library is the incredible view! It’s the third tallest library in the world, with 28 floors making it a great spot to study at.

W. E. B. Du Bois Library

5:45pm – Yoga

After finishing some homework, I meet up with a friend and head to one of the free gym classes at the recreation centre on campus. This day I went to a yoga class, which is a good way to unwind after a long day of classes and take my mind off all my assignments. The sun was beginning to set during the class, which provided the most incredible view to look out on to!

7:00 – Dinner and chill

After grabbing dinner with friends, we decided to have a card night and watch a film. Despite the intense workload, I find there’s still the opportunity to enjoy spending time with friends and meeting new people. Finally, I head back to my dorm ready for the next day. 

Thank You and Goodbye UMASS!

By Doris Ngai, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

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This time last month, summer vacation officially began for me when most of my friends at Manchester are still revising for their end of May and early June exams. I went to Orlando Universal Studios and Disneyland with my significant other that I met during my semester abroad at Umass. I think the best things in life really do happen to us so unexpectedly.

Continue reading “Thank You and Goodbye UMASS!”

Hello UMass!

It’s been three weeks since I landed in the US and UMass is finally starting to feel like home. The weather has been amazing, even if a little too humid at times, but its been perfect for exploring the campus. There’s so much to talk about and it’s hard to know where to start but here goes!

For anyone travelling abroad on an exchange, here’s a few tips that might clear up any pre-departure questions and settle some nerves. These definitely helped me out over the first few days here.

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Welcome to campus!

Continue reading “Hello UMass!”

Oh my god study abroad is over!? And I have to write my second post just before I go sooo…

I definitely think studying abroad puts you in positions you just would never find yourself in in Manchester, which is also why you get to meet some of the great people that you definitely wouldn’t have found if you stayed at home.

When you study abroad you’ll develop confidence and independence because the getting here, doing it all as well as making an effort socially is all down to you in the end.

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What to Expect from UMass

HEYYYYY! 

So this again has been on my huge to do list forever and I had all these ideas of how I was going to post loads of blogs and videos etc but what I have learnt if anything from Study Abroad is that THERE IS NO TIME!!!

I’m gonna do a really quick fire round of what you need to know before going to UMASS and then include some of the great stuff I’ve been able to do whilst being here so that anyone coming her next year knows why it’s defo a good choice.

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Continue reading “What to Expect from UMass”

How it feels now

It has now been over 8 months since I came back from the USA. I must admit I was nervous once I touched down in the UK as I felt like I had come from another world. I had mixed reactions of coming back as I wasn’t ready to let go off the great times I experienced but at the same time I couldn’t wait to meet my family and friends.

I had an internship that began a week after landing, so I took the week to meet up with family and friends. I took time during the internship to study for my exams that I had to do as a first sit during August resit period as I had to miss the January exams since I was expected at UMass prior to the commencement of January exams. This meant that I had a very busy summer but it was worth it.

I remained in contact with friends in the UK whilst I was abroad and likewise, I remain in contact with friends I made in USA. We stay in touch through various social media. One of my friends came to visit me in the summer whilst another came in late November. I expect to host my roommate next summer. Needless to say, I made life-long friends at Umass.

After going through thorough assessments throughout the semester at Umass, I expected Manchester to be a bit relaxed but that was not the case as it was in first and second year. It comes to no surprise as it is final year. I experienced little difficulties in understanding the teachings as the gap in knowledge was bridged by courses that I took in America. These courses were carefully selected by my exchange adviser.

I have used my experience as an exchange to student to be a global mentor for three students from Korea, France and USA. Overall, the experience has changed me for the good. I have learnt about my limits and what makes me happy is that I did what I could in the USA and have no regrets. The only thing I want to do now, is to get on American Airlines!

Other side of the coin

You’ve heard this mantra so many times, but please allow me to say it one more time, ‘ All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Apart from studying, I managed to do a little bit of travelling. I will share some photos from the experience.

Toronto
Skyline: Downtown Toronto as seen from Lake Ontario

Ottawa
Okay I get it! One of the Famous five who fought for Women rights in Canada in the 19th Century. They are remembered outside parliament buildings in Ottawa

 

Boston
Illuminated: One of Boston’s recognisable landmarks – Custom House Tower

White House
Powerful: Pretending to be a secret service personnel outside White House

 

Roadtrip
Break: Our vehicle demanded a rest in Georgia as it took six of us  on a Spring break road-trip from Massachusetts to Florida (1400 miles)

Seattle
Pointy: The space Needle in Seattle

NYC
Bright: Flash light too strong for some of us as we head to the top of the Empire State Building

Niagara
Mighty: Close up of Niagara falls from the Canadian side

I do have several photos from other cities too but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I have a feeling you are next in line!

From my part, North America, Thank you!

The not so similar life

It has been a couple of months now since I set foot on campus. I’ve been amazed by the difference in how UoM (University of Manchester) and UMass Amherst (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) are run. I have to say that one blogpost may not be able to portray my understanding and feeling but I will have a go.

First and foremost, I will avoid mentioning UMass Amherst Dining as I believe no blogger or blog post can do it justice. No wonder it has been rated in the top two for several years running. If you are in Manchester and wondering why the big deal about food, it may be helpful to know that most American Universities have their students living on campus so making food available within campus is their duty, unlike UoM where most students live off campus. I will start by stating the differences in academics.

ACADEMICS

You are starting a marathon and you hear ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ That’s how it feels from the first day through to the end. Homework and graded quizzes every week, midterms for every subject, essays and finals. There are no gaps between final exams. You finish your course today then you could either have your exams the next day or the week after the weekend. Unlike at UoM where you’ve got at least four weeks between end of class and start of exams (Christmas break and January exam & Easter break and May/June exams).

 

UoM (3 Semesters) UMass Amherst (1 semester)
Essays 4 4
Graded Quizzes 0 16
Exams/Finals 15 4
Midterm tests/exams 1 6
Presentations 2 0
Homework 2 22
Extra credit assignments 0 4

 

At UMass Amherst, a nutritionist student can take a Political Science class regardless of major or minor, a Physics student can take an English class. At UoM, an Economic students taking a Biology class will receive an email from her programme administrator with a short content ‘Please see me!’. The reason UMass students can and UoM students can’t could be because the latter spend three years at University while the former four years, therefore having an extra year to diversify your learning. I will leave it to you to suggest whether this is beneficial or not.

The Learning Resource Centre is run by students including the receptionist. Students are paid above the minimum wage to assist other students. This is additional to Teaching Assistants’ and Professors’ office hours. They are located on the 10th floor of the world’s tallest academic library – Du Bois Library.

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Du Bois Library in the background

 

LIFE AROUND CAMPUS

Unlike UoM, UMass Amherst is the heart and soul of the city. One resident of Amherst said to me that when the semester ends, Amherst becomes a ghost town. I must admit that UMass Amherst does a lot to make their students feel at home since it is situated in arguably a remote area far away from a main city or shopping complex. Speaking of shopping complexes, the University does take advantage of students as they overprice their products at the University’s Store. The store is probably 15 times larger than UoM’s and sells products from nails cutters to MacBooks.

Events are regularly held in order to help keep the students at ease since there isn’t a lot going on other than the regular flat and fraternity parties on Friday nights nd weekend.  This semester there were performances from Tinashe, Fetty Wap, Jason Derulo among others.

Student employment is quite impressive. Through an email, the UMass’ Human resource department wrote to me that 9884 students (Graduates and undergraduates) work for the university in capacities such as dining hall attendants, security personnel at halls and receptionists at the University’s hotel. UMASS student firefighters help the local fire department. Another interesting fact is that UMASS students drive the local buses that take students around university and town. My roommate drives one of these buses and says that other than being a good paying job it is enjoyable too.

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One of the buses driven by students

Sport participation is something like I’ve never seen before. As a result of sport participation,  students frequently end up not undertaking some of their assessments. However, their assessments are rescheduled since sport participation qualifies to be a valid mitigating circumstance. Lacrosse is by far the most popular sport. The free gym which is made available by the University helps keep the athletes and other students fit.

It was quite a busy semester but it has now come to an end. Needless to say that I’ve definitely experienced a different perspective of life.

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I remembered the sky is blue just as I was leaving

MANCHESTER to MASSACHUSETTS

Arriving abroad: the first few days of my placement.

 

Tewodros (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

While handing in my application for the Exchange Program in December 2014, I was wondering why we should have to apply so early considering that I’ve only just arrived at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in January 2016.

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Welcome to UMass!

Continue reading “MANCHESTER to MASSACHUSETTS”

A Brief Discussion on Classes at Amherst, Christmas and the Canada Road Trip

By James Eyke (University of Massachussetts Amherst, USA)

Whilst exam period back at home is a month long period of stress and near constant work, the same cannot be said for over here.

The classes I took were much smaller than lectures, one in fact had only six people in it, allowing for a more one-to-one learning experience. This is very helpful in my subject area, Chemistry, because it is relatively hard and allows me to easily get clarification on an area of confusion.

Throughout the term we were given two midterm exams, multiple problem sets and homework, keeping us on our toes and up to date the whole time. This was helpful as back at home it is all too easy to leave exam revision until the last minute.

The exams themselves took place in classrooms in our standard seats, and two out of the three allowed open notes and to a certain extent, online recourses. At one point during a midterm, the professor actually left the class during the exam for five minutes. This is a far cry from the exceptionally strict exam code in the UK and leads to a much more relaxed atmosphere.

My final exams took place over the period of a week and were before we broke up for the Christmas holidays, not the UK standard of January. Once they were done, we had a month off to either go home to England and have Christmas with our families or stay in North America.

We decided to stay in the freezing temperature of North America. It was an interesting time, we had a month off and all but ten days of it was spent in the now empty and desolate UMass campus. Christmas day was a surreal experience. As we had no cooking equipment we had a Christmas dinner of hotdogs and pizza in one of our suite’s common areas. This made us a bit sad. Fortunately it was all worth it though because it allowed us to go to Canada.

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Christmas Dinner

– Canada –

We rented a car from a local rental station and left Amherst the morning of the 30th of December. The first stop was Montreal, which was a total of 285 miles away. The drive took a good six hours but it was still light when we got there. After checking into our hotel, the fantastic Hotel des Arts, we headed off into town to see the sights. It was at this point we realized how unbelievably cold Canada is, especially when the wind is up. But wrapped in our thermals, we managed to see some very interesting old buildings. The second day involved more sightseeing and of course, celebrating New Year’s.

After a few days we left Montreal and drove to the capital, Ottawa. Ottawa was even colder than Montreal and much smaller. Our hotel was the kind of shady motel you’d expect to see in a film, but it was reasonably comfortable. It was here that we faced our first winter snow storm following by freezing rain. On the morning we were due to leave we found the car surrounded by a good six inches of snow and encased in ice. After a good hour of snow shoveling and ice-scraping we managed to get out of the car park and onto the road. The only task that remained was a 300 mile drive on a snowy motorway through the Canadian wilderness.

Fortunately, we made it to our next stop, Toronto, in one piece. We had seen many many cars crashed/stuck in ditches on the drive so we were very thankful to be safe. Toronto was a good city, definitely the most American out of the Canadian cities so far. Sights included the CN Tower, which unfortunately was extortionately expensive to climb, so we didn’t. After a few days in Toronto we left and headed to what would be the high point of our trip, Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls lies on the border between the States and Canada, and when we went it was cold beyond belief. The temperature was -16 degrees on the day we were there, but with windchill it was reported to be -30 to -35 degrees. Cold aside, it was utterly beautiful and amazing to watch. After a good few photos were taken, we got back to the car and headed for the border. The last night of our trip was spent in a Hilton hotel in the city of Buffalo, which was fantastic. The relaxing night prepared us for the 400 mile drive the next day, which was completed without a hitch.

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 Our wonderful vehicle and Niagara Falls

All in all, the holiday was brilliant and made me almost glad I had missed Christmas at home and stayed abroad. Interestingly, while we were away Amherst had reached a colder temperature than we had experienced on the whole of the Canada trip, so maybe heading north wasn’t as foolish as everyone had said it was.

Academic Experience and First Semester at UMass Amherst

By Lucas Smith (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

With second semester starting imminently, I am now half way through my placement here at the University of Massachusetts. This semester has gone very fast, as I expected it to. Still, I think I have managed to cram in as many activities and experiences as possible. Already it has become a year that I will never forget.

Moving into my second semester here I will now be more accustomed to the academic aspect of my placement. While we were all told in our pre-departure meetings about how teaching vastly varies across the globe and from institution to institution, the reality really only hits home when you experience classes first hand. In my experience the classes are much smaller than what I was accustomed to in Manchester. My largest class consisted of roughly thirty students. Smaller classes result in more freedom in terms of discussion and activities. It is expected that everyone contributes in class which I initially found a bit strange as it is so different to the PowerPoint lecture based teaching I was used to in England. However, as I settled in to this form of teaching I found it to be useful as ideas were analysed closer so a clearer understanding of concepts could be grasped by the students. Aside from how the classes are taught, the work load and distribution also differs greatly from what I encountered in my previous two years at Manchester. Firstly, I would say that the work load is substantially more in the States, however the work seems to be less difficult. This, I believe, has aided my time management skills and work ethic this semester as I have been much busier than I usually would be. While academically I still prefer the system I am used to in England, it has been interesting and enjoyable to experience different styles of teaching and assessment. All in all, I feel the process of studying abroad has made me more rounded by building on skills such as time management.

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However, there is much more to study abroad than just the academics. This semester has been amazingly fun. The campus is so large that there are always activities and sports events going on. Earlier this semester we had the Homecoming (American) football game which was an amazing spectacle for a foreign student such as myself. Thus far, my experience of viewing University sport had consisted of watching Varsity Rugby in Manchester in the rainy and cold conditions synonymous with our city; it was fair to say my mind was blown. Not only are they a much larger deal here, but they are also free for students and make a great day out.

Due to Amherst’s location in the North East of the USA, it has been fairly easy to get off campus and see what the region has to offer.  So far I have been lucky enough to visit New York twice, Boston for Thanksgiving and go on a nine day road trip round Eastern Canada. The highlight so far has been travelling over winter break. Me and two other friends who opted to stick out the winter on campus rented a car after Christmas and headed north to Montreal for New Year’s. We spent a few days exploring the city and doing our best to remember our collective GCSE French. The city was such a contrast to the small town of Amherst where we had been for the term. From Montreal we then travelled east to the nation’s capital, Ottawa. After a short, snowy stop, it was onto Toronto which was the closest to a conventional US city. We managed to brave the coldest temperatures we had ever felt to see the amazing sites each place had to offer before returning home via Niagara Falls. All in all, my first semester was truly amazing and now I cannot wait to get started with my second!

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Keep reading for updates!

Reflections on Study Abroad on my return to Manchester

By Hamish Russell (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

It’s been six months since I landed back at Heathrow, and almost four since I started back at the University of Manchester after my semester abroad. Getting back into everyday life with family and friends was easy, but adjusting back to the university work in Manchester was actually quite difficult. Having been working at a very different pace while in the US, the workload that I’ve been hit with so far in third (and final) year has been tricky to adapt to. As well as that, it’s been almost strange not always planning a trip to somewhere new, as if that’s the norm for a student.

One thing I have enjoyed since I’ve been back is helping current study abroad students. It’s been quite fulfilling being able to guide people through their preparations for their own study abroad exchanges, giving them information and details that were very helpful to me, and were perhaps not given to me before I embarked on my trip.

Returning to Manchester has also impressed upon me the importance and significance of studying abroad. Every time I talk to someone about university, or opportunities for after leaving university, I am always asked about my time abroad. I won’t have brought it up specifically, but it’s on my CV and seems to be something that catches peoples’ eyes. As well as making my time at university that bit more special, studying abroad has already begun to have a positive impact on my future.