It’s been a while since I last thought about moving to the States. I was 17 when I decided to become an exchange student in a Canadian high school, and since then, I thought my experience abroad was over. But now, once again, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel, to discover a new culture, and to get to know myself a bit better. Isn’t this extraordinary?
In eight days I’ll be on the plane. Destination? Phoenix. No turning back. Me, my luggage, and all my expectations and fears. What if I won’t like my housemates? What if I won’t like the courses? But c’mon, think about all the opportunities you’ll have, all the friends you’ll make. You’ve always watched High School Musical, and you’ve always been dreaming of those lockers, the cheerleaders, the football team! There is more to gain than to lose!
Going abroad is one of those experiences that simply form your person. it teaches you to expect the unexpected! Every day is a different story, and you just have to trust the journey and try out all you can, with no judgment. Eventually, you’ll find out that it’s all you’ve always been waiting for! That for how tough it can get, you’ll always get up and get back in the game stronger, because it’s your game and no one can win it but you.
I am officially back in Manchester, and back into my studies back at uni here. I thought I’d write a little blog about how it feels to be back studying in Manchester, when i’ve not been back here for quite some time!
In many ways, it feels like I never left Manchester. Memories of my time spent in Arizona almost feel like some kind of distant dream, like something that never actually happened. It’s hard to believe that a few months ago my average week looked like sunbathing by my dorms pool, preparing for a weekend away in a cool city, and of course a few classes in between all of that stuff. Now, I’m back in the North of England, where rainy days are commonplace, and there isn’t an outdoor pool in sight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. I adore the city of Manchester, and I always have. My friends are here, my family are only a short drive away and England is simply just home, where everything makes sense and is familiar again.
However, it is hard to adjust back to life in Manchester, and life in a British university, after spending time in an American institution. The academic work in Manchester is a whole different ball game to the American way of doing things, and it is a little daunting to have to adjust to the level of reading I have here once again! Gone are my days of small intimate classes where we discuss and learn together, and everyone waits for my input just to hear my accent. I’m back into my lecture theatres of 200 people, where I frantically type on my laptop to take in all of the information that my highly-esteemed lectures throw at me. Then there’s the dissertation, the giant research project that i’m expected to embark upon soon. It’s certainly a process, to adjust back to life here again.
Irrespective of all of that however, I wouldn’t change the experiences I had abroad for anything. I learnt so much about myself, and about a new culture whilst I was away that I feel like my whole life is different now. I am now that slightly annoying friend that brings up America every chance I get, or somehow finds a way to weave it back into the conversation. Every little part of life reminds me of being in the US, and all of the experiences that I had there. I think those 6 months in Arizona will be formative for the rest of my life.
Being back in Manchester isn’t all doom and gloom in reality. I’m catching up with friends, getting back into my societies and church, and exploring this vibrant city again with a whole new appreciation for it. I had my third and final (yikes) freshers week, and made the most of that with amazing friends. Plus, I am loving my new modules this term, and am being taught by some of my favourite professors at Manchester. Ultimately, life is different, but life is good. If you’re considering studying abroad, I’d encourage you to just do it. It will be an incredible experience, it will change your life, and you won’t regret it.
This is me signing off here for the final time, thanks for joining me on this journey, I have loved documenting my experience through this blog.
For my third study abroad blog I thought it would be appropriate to consider the highs and lows of my experiences. What better place to reflect on them, than where I am right now. As I write this, I’m cruising at a steady 650mph, 11,000 ft in the air over Canada. I’m half way into my 12 hour journey home from Phoenix, and headed back to my favourite Northern city of Manchester. As I sit here in my cramped economy seat, I have plenty of time to reflect on the past 5 months in Arizona, and come to terms with the fact that it has come to an end. What an experience it has been! There’s certainly been highs, and there’s certainly been lows, not forgetting the countless in-betweens. Some of these experiences have been unique to me and my situation, and others are likely applicable for many others who have embarked on a study abroad period. Whether you’ve been on a study abroad period or not, or whether you’re about to embark on one, this should be helpful to you! So here it is: the highs and lows of studying abroad (or rather, MY highs and lows of studying abroad).
Let’s start with the highs, as there are plenty more of those than there are lows!
Experiencing a New Culture: As cliché as this sounds it really is true. I never expected that the US would have such a different culture to the UK, and in many ways it is similar. But, in others it really is not! (If you’re interested in the differences specifically, have a read of my other blog https://manchesterontheroad.com/2018/04/02/20-cultural-differences-uk-vs-us/). Experiencing a new culture first hand forces you to challenge your presuppositions head-on, and really engage with the motives and reasons for people’s beliefs and practices that may seem foreign to you. One of my absolute favourite parts of studying abroad was having really meaningful conversations with people, and asking why some things are the way that they are.
Travel: When studying abroad, it’s likely that half of the time you won’t be ‘studying’ at all. Having several months of access to a part of the world which you may not normally be so close to is such a unique experience. Especially for me being so far away from home, I wanted to pack in as much travel as my uni timetable and budget would allow. I loved that when I was beginning to feel a little fed up with the monotony of class, I could think about my upcoming weekend trip and have a cheeky browse of TripAdvisor for things to do in the city that I was travelling to.
A Banging Instagram: Off the back of the travelling perks comes the banging Instagram feed. My photos over the last 5 months have been significantly better, and more interesting than ever before! Whether it’s a national park, museum or beach, you’re guaranteed some enviable pics for the gram (‘@gabiprice_’ if you’re interested).
Increasing Travel Experience: Again linking to the travel associated with studying abroad, the more frequent level of travel helps to increase your travel savviness and skills. I feel far more equipped to find a bargain flight or Airbnb now, than I did before studying abroad, and am also far more confident at planning travel to an undiscovered place without the help of my parents!
Learning From a New Perspective: I know I previously said that half your time won’t be studying, but that was perhaps slightly exaggerated. You will of course STUDY, when you are studying abroad. College classes in the US were far different from home for me, and this provided the unique chance to learn from a different perspective. For example, I learned the art of the multiple-choice test (surprisingly, it’s not pure guesswork). Although I may not have loved that method of testing, it definitely increased my skills and broadened my academic horizons!
Learning About Yourself: Again I know this may sound a little cringe or cliché, but for me it really was the truth. I learnt so much by being away from a comfortable environment for 5 months, and essentially being ‘on my own’ without family or long-established friends. Being far from home forces you to challenge what you’re comfortable with, and genuinely challenges the ways that you think and act. For example, an ‘epiphany’ I had about myself whilst abroad was that I don’t think I’m cut out for 9-5 life. Call me lazy, or a classical millennial, but it’s the truth. I realised that I don’t want to live my life waiting for the weekend. I want adventure and challenge, and something that enables me to explore the world and make a difference in it.
Finding ‘Your People’ Across the Globe: This encompasses all of the other ‘highs’ that I have mentioned, and my experiences abroad would not have been the same without the people that I met. I was repeatedly told before I came abroad that I would find ‘family’ in Arizona, and I didn’t really know if that would be the case. I thought that I would definitely make some good friends, some people to spend time with whilst I was there, but I could have never imagined the deep friendships that I would make. I’m tearing up thinking about the people I have had to leave behind as I write this! I met some incredible people in Arizona, people from both the US and other places around the world. You will find ‘your people’ when abroad, and when you do you’ll leave a little bit of your heart behind with them. To all of the people reading this who I met in Arizona, you know who you are and I miss you already. (please come and visit me soon!).
Despite the abundance of ‘highs’ the ‘lows’ still exist, and that is just a part of life and a part of studying abroad.
Missing ‘Your People’ at Home: In order to go ‘abroad’, you of course have to leave where you live. In leaving where you live, this often means leaving behind the people that live there too. I never imagined a period of my life where I wouldn’t see my mum for over 5 months, but it happened! Leaving behind friends and family will always be hard, and whether they can visit or not doesn’t change the fact that you don’t see them as often as you normally would. It’s hard, but it’s doable, and it makes you all the more grateful and excited to see them again when you return. (I cannot wait to see so many of you who will be reading this!).
FOMO: Alongside leaving your friends and family behind, you’re leaving behind your normal life, and the things that you would usually be around for. Whether it’s genuinely exciting occasions such as weddings or birthdays, or whether it’s something as simple as being a little jealous that your flatmates are going to your favourite club without you, it’ll happen. You’ll learn to deal with it by posting fun Instagrams of what they’re missing out on.
Running Low on Money: It doesn’t have to be a crazy expensive experience to study abroad, but if you’re travelling a fair bit, and generally just investing in fun experiences, it’ll probably set you back a bit more than a normal semester at uni would. Although this may be a worry for some people, my attitude is very much ‘enjoy it while you can’, this is a unique experience in your life which you probably won’t have again. Make the most of it!
Not Being at Home for ‘that’ News: Last week I received some pretty sad news from home, my wonderful Grandad has passed away, and I wasn’t there to say goodbye. This hurts, and there is no easy way to deal with it. For me, I was blessed to have supportive people around me in Arizona, and to know that I was coming home very soon to be with my family. That won’t be the case for everyone who experiences ‘that’ news, and it’s hard. However, I know for me and for many others who have experienced loss whilst away from home, it shouldn’t stop you from going. My grandparents were very clear that I should enjoy my time abroad, and make the most of it regardless of if anything happened. I hope I was able to do that, and honour my Grandad the way that he would have wanted.
Leaving ‘Your ‘Abroad’ People’: As I already mentioned, the hardest part of this whole experience was having to say goodbye to the friends that I have made. I’ve cried about it, and I’ve wished it wasn’t the reality of this situation. But it is. It is definitely a low, but it’s okay! The world is vast, but nowhere is too far away to go back to. I know that I will see those people again, and I know that this 12 hour flight won’t stop us from meeting again someday.
So to sum it up, do I regret studying abroad because of the lows? Absolutely not. The highs far outweigh the lows, and the reality of life is that you will have lows wherever you are. Studying abroad is an insanely unique experience which is like no other. You will laugh, you will cry, and will miss home. But you’ll love it, and you’ll meet incredible people around the world that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. You will broaden your horizons, and you will leave a little piece of you behind wherever you go. I could not be more thankful to have had this opportunity. To all of the people that made this experience, I just want to say thank you. Those from YoungLife ASU, my fellow foreign exchange students, my classmates, my roommates and everyone else that I met along the way, thank you from the bottom of my heart. YOU made this experience for me.
Until next time, this is me signing off! I’ll be back for another blog once I’m settled back in at home. Until then, find me on Instagram for pretty photos @gabiprice_ or message me on social media if you know me personally and want to chat about any of this.
The number one question I’ve been asked since living in the US for the past four months from both Americans over here and Brits back home, has overwhelmingly been “so, what are the differences over there then?”. My response is always “where do I begin?!”. It’s become somewhat of a running joke between myself and my fellow Brits on exchange over here, the sheer confusion on where to start when trying to explain how different the two places really are. The fact of the matter is, the cultural differences are endless! So I’m going to attempt to shed a little light on the matter, and maybe it’ll answer some of the burning questions that you may have about life in Arizona, or life in England.
Before I begin however, I will point out that these are only my experiences of the US. They are also experiences of a particular state, Arizona. The USA is vast and extremely diverse so some of these generalisations may not apply to other states! These differences are not to be taken too seriously, and are not intended to offend anyone at all. My intention is simply to have a resource to present when someone next asks me that question! In no particular order, let’s begin…
Tipping: it’s a bit of cliché one to start with, but its relevant all the same. Many people are aware of the higher rates of tipping in the US in restaurants, averaging at 18-20% of the total bill as the expected norm. However, something which Brits may not be aware of is the tipping in other areas. The most random things I’ve been expected to tip for so far are: a hair-cut, a nose piercing, and a bus tour (which I’d already paid $90 for- ouch). In the UK we only tend to tip for restaurant service, and there is no expected amount. Most people just chuck a few quid down regardless of the bill.
Skateboards/Pennyboards/Longboards: I’m not sure if this is an American college phenomenon or just a purely ASU trend (the uni which I attend), but half the population seems to ride one of these items to class. In Manchester, we get the bus and then we walk. A few brave souls cycle. At ASU thousands of students fly around on some variation of skateboard, bike or even ‘one-wheel’ (look it up). I initially thought I would be ploughed down one day on my way to class, but the ‘sun devils’ are more capable riders than I’d previously assumed.
Toilet Doors: I’m really not sure why this is the case, but it’s something I’ve noticed in several other states too, so I don’t think it’s purely an Arizona issue. The public bathrooms have a gap in the door of each cubicle, almost wide enough to see inside the cubicle! I’m not sure the reasoning of this, but it is what it is I suppose.
Compliments From Strangers: This is something I really love. Sometimes when you’re walking down the street, a girl will say “I love your outfit!” as you walk past. I found this really surprising at first, and thought people were being sarcastic. They aren’t, they’re just a lot more forward and willing to compliment a stranger. I’m planning on taking this one back home with me, I’m all about compliments!
The Obsession with the ‘British Accent’: I’d heard a lot about this before I arrived, but I don’t think I was truly prepared for the extent of it. I decided for fun to count how many times I was excitably asked “Do you have an accent?!” on an average day. It was four times. FOUR. Americans love the British accent. I’m not really sure why, especially mine which isn’t so great (an east-midlander/northern-y mix). But it makes for a lot of fun regardless. My favourite occurrence so far has been when I stood up to do a presentation in class, and a boy in the row in front of me grinned from ear to ear from the second I spoke until I finished 5 minutes later. It was hilarious, and I’m laughing to myself writing this.
Dry Campus: This is related to number 6 and the drinking culture. The ASU campus is a ‘dry’ campus, meaning that no alcohol is prohibited anywhere on campus, including residential halls/dorms. This rule applies to everyone, 21’s and over included. This was very different coming from a uni which has bars within residence halls, and across campus between lecture theatres!
Campus Fashion: This one of course varies from college to college, but one thing I have noticed is the overwhelming amount of American students that wear some kind of ASU related apparel. It is legitimate every day wear, an ASU t-shirt, hoody, hat, you name it they’re wearing it. This was weird to me at first, as in the UK no one ever wears anything with the uni’s name on aside from the odd jumper or sports-team jacket. Here they have entire shops dedicated to college apparel and every local shop sells a knock-off version of it too! I admire their love of their college!
Mexican Food: Due to Arizona’s proximity to Mexico and the fact that it shares a border, there is no end of insanely wonderful Mexican food on offer in Arizona! It is by far the best food I’ve eaten since being in the US! I wish it was a more popular cuisine in the UK.
Refills in Restaurants: If you’re eating out, and you’re drinking something which isn’t individually bottled such as coke, lemonade, or water, expect free refills! Not only do you get free refills in most places on those kinds of beverages, they often bring you them before you ask. An attentive touch which I really enjoy in the Arizona heat!
HEAT: I’m well aware that this is an Arizona specific one, and that the US has its fair share of freezing states like the UK, however the heat here is too great to miss off the list. Arizona is statistically the hottest state in the US, and I have to say I’m enjoying it so far. I hasn’t dropped below around 15c since I’ve been here (early January), and it’s averaging a lovely 30c during the day at the moment! A far cry from rainy old Manchester!
Free Speech Laws: Free speech laws in the US are a little more ‘free’ than they are in the UK. This has meant that anyone who wants to can come and speak on/around the campus about whatever they like, can. They can do this whenever they feel like it. It’s resulted in some interesting speakers to say the least (ask me about it if you’re intrigued!).
Working: In the UK, I’d say that most uni students don’t work a significant number of hours during the semester. A lot of my friends don’t work at all whilst in uni, preferring to focus their attention solely on studies and working during holiday time instead. Those that do work I’d say only work around 15 hours a week max. The US is a different story! Many students here seem to work 30+ hours a week whilst in school, as well as taking part in unpaid internships! It seems a little crazy to me, but I really admire their ability to juggle everything!
“Fin-stagram”: The Americans will 100% know what this one refers to. I imagine the Brits will be as confused as I was at first, so let me fill you in. A ‘finstagram’ is a ‘fun-Instagram’. It’s a separate Instagram account that people run for themselves, and keep on private for their closest friends to see. It’s essentially a feed of crazy/ funny photos and videos which you’d like to share, but not with quite everyone. A fun concept which I intend to bring home with me!
Roommates: A commonly known thing, is that in the US a lot of students share a bedroom in college. It cuts costs and gives you a constant companion. I was pretty scared to do it at first, but it’s totally fine! A foreign concept to us Brits who love our personal space, I know. But, I promise it’s totally okay!
Attending College In-State: In the US it’s very common to attend a college within your home state. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that in-state tuition is far cheaper than out of state tuition in most cases, so it makes sense financially! The other thing though, is that it’s not at all the same as staying in your city or region for uni in the UK. States here are FAR bigger than any region in England. To give you an idea, I recently discovered that the entirety of the UK (not just England) is smaller in square miles than the state of Arizona. Let that sink in. This state is bigger than the whole of the United Kingdom. You can still go pretty far away from home for college in-state!
Class Times: In general, I find Americans to be a lot more work-orientated than us Brits. This results in far more working hours of the day, and included in this is college class times. The earliest classes here at ASU begin at 7.30am, and the latest finish at 9/10pm! A far cry from the 9am-5pm schedule that British uni’s tend to follow. I must say though, I couldn’t see myself taking a class that early or late, and being able to function effectively!
Driving: Driving in Arizona is pretty essential to everyday life, which is quite the contrast from life in a city like Manchester. In Tempe where I live, it’s pretty difficult to do anything major without being able to drive. Public transport is not a huge priority here, so it makes life a little bit more difficult not having a car (good thing I have kind friends to taxi me around). The other interesting thing is that it’s legal to ride in the bed of a truck in Arizona, so you often see a group of boys sat in the back on the roads. I did it the other day and it wasn’t quite as terrifying as I’d expected!
Police/Guns: I know this one is probably something that comes to mind when thinking of differences between the UK and the US, and I’m not going to go into detail about the wider issue of guns here. However, specifically with police I think Americans are always surprised to hear that British police don’t tend to carry guns unless for a special reason, and I admit I’d never really seen one up close until I moved here. The shock of my life was when I found out our campus police carried them everywhere, and when I saw an officer at a college basketball game with about 5 guns strapped to his body!
Passports: Our final difference! I was surprised to learn that only approximately 35% of all Americans currently hold a passport! In the UK over 83% are estimated to have one. I didn’t realise until I arrived just quite how large the US is, so I don’t blame people for not being in a huge rush to leave, as there is plenty to explore here. I think I’d taken for granted how easy it is for us Brits to hop across to mainland Europe whenever we feel like, a visit to Paris here and a trip to Barca there! We definitely are blessed in that department!
Well there you have it! 20 of the possible hundreds of differences that I could think of between Arizona and England. I hope they shed a little light on some questions that you may have had, and maybe gave some insight into the life of a Brit in a foreign land. Again, if you find any of these to be inaccurate do let me know, I love discussing cultural differences with people! If you know me personally, feel free to drop me a message with any questions or other things that you may want to discuss. If not, feel free to follow me Instagram @gabiprice_ for more study abroad fun, and pretty photos from my excursions!
Hello all! This is officially my first blog post. I’m two weeks into my international exchange experience. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and I’m just now beginning to catch up with my life outside of here, and have the chance to reflect and take it all in. Where to begin with what has happened so far?!
There is a reason Arizona State University (ASU) students call themselves sun devils, and I realized it as soon as I landed at the end of my 11 hour flight from Heathrow to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport; the heat. I have been here now for just over a month and the weather never ceases to amaze me. Bright sunshine and clear skies encourage you to make the most of everyday, which is handy as my time so far has been packed with new experiences and meeting new people. The first two weeks of my year abroad at (ASU) was spent on holiday with my parents, they came with me and we traveled around Arizona visiting places such as Flagstaff, Sedona and Tucson. Sedona, was by far my favorite with its iconic red sandstone formations. I said goodbye to my parents and moved into my new housing on Tuesday the 8th of August, and at the time the halls were still virtually empty. The move in date for most domestic students was the following Saturday, which included my three other suitemates. The three days before that were spent at international orientation, where I got to know fellow international students and was introduced to ASU’s Tempe campus and facilities.