First, Second and Third Impressions

By Hanan L’Estrange-Snowden (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA).

So I have been here for a little while now, almost 2 months in fact! And I have done so much! I’ve been to Washington, Atlanta, the beach, watched American football, baseball, basketball, even soccer games, visited state fairs, written midterms, submitted papers, even taken the odd pop quiz, moved house, gained a room mate and eaten way too much food!

I have to say I finally feel like I have settled in. When I first arrived, I really felt as if I wouldn’t fit it in but now I really don’t want to leave. I’m even annoyed that I  pre-booked my flight home at Christmas, instead of going traveling over the holidays.

However, going back to the very beginning. I’m not too proud to admit that I was pretty homesick right at the very beginning, but hopefully waiting to post something will show everyone that you move past that feeling really quickly when you get swept up in the excitement of it all.

I arrived at Raleigh airport and was met by a lovely girl from UNC Ease (the international exchange support group) who took me to my new dorm in an area called Ram Village.

My old room in Ram Village: one private bedroom in a suite of 4 rooms with a kitchen and bathroom

The room really was lovely, and it was nice to have a private space, plus my suite had a real kitchen (well as real as any kitchen without a kettle and a toaster). However, Ram Village is at the very south of the campus and I think this may have been one of the reasons I felt slightly lonely at first. I arrived on the Saturday before term started on Tuesday, with a plan to get slightly orientated and settled in before work started. I had made loose plans to meet my mentor on either Sunday or Monday but otherwise I knew no-one. Unfortunately there was no Internet when I arrived, and without a working mobile phone I had no way of contacting the few people I had met over the Internet. The suite style rooms made it very difficult to meet people because when you knocked on people’s doors it was difficult for them to hear you. I tried living down in Ram Village for almost a month before moving to Cobb, which is right in the centre of campus.

This room seems a little more cramped but much more homely with two of us in it.
This room seems a little more cramped but much more homely with two of us in it.

I now have a lovely room mate who is also an exchange student. It is really nice to be paired with someone who is having a similar experience to yourself because there is always someone to talk to!

Cobb is nice, in dorm style as opposed to the suite style in Rams.
Cobb is nice, in dorm style as opposed to the suite style in Rams.

So I haven’t just spent my time moving halls, I’ve also really got stuck into campus life, and campus life at UNC means sport and team spirit. As a very unsporty person I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed it. The crowd is always rowdy!

Go Tarheels: Team spirit often means painting yourself blue and buying the T-shirt.
Go Tarheels: Team spirit often means painting yourself blue and buying the T-shirt.

Chapel Hill is   a small town, with a lot of charm, and everyone/everything seems very focused on the University. Whenever there is a game the shop fronts are decked in blue and quite often there is a blackboard in the window saying the score. On Halloween an entire street was shut down so that students (and the odd local) could wander around looking at everyone else’s costumes!

Of course there is more to being in the US than just hanging around in Chapel Hill, although it is a lovely place. By complete accident I have actually managed to arrange my timetable very well, and I have every other Friday free to have a long weekend away!

I’m very lucky because I’m over 21 which makes renting cars very easy, (public transport in North Carolina is not great). This means that we can just hope in a car and head off for a few days. When I first arrived I thought everything seemed so far away but since our 8.5 hour drive to Atlanta anything seems possible!

Anyway I’m signing off now but I will leave you with some pictures of in and around campus to give you a sense of what I have been doing!

The infamous bell tower that rings every 15 mins!
The infamous bell tower that rings every 15 mins!
The outside of Cobb, my new home!
The outside of Cobb, my new home!
Stone Mountain is in a beautiful nature reserve near Atlanta
Stone Mountain is in a beautiful nature reserve near Atlanta
Just the White House...
Just the White House…
And finally... getting into the team spirit
And finally… getting into the team spirit!

Overflowing suitcase…

By Hanan L’Estrange-Snowden (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA).

So right now I’m supposed to be packing, but the process of over-filling my suitcase has made me reflect on the coming year and I thought that this would be a good time to start my blog. To be honest, everything feels quite surreal right now. I have spent so long planning and preparing that it doesn’t feel like it is actually going to happen tomorrow.

The last few weeks I have been trying to ignore the tiny part of me that keeps reminding me that a year is a long time to be away. Even Christmas seems far away right now. However, now it is the night before, I only feel excited and disconcertingly calm.

I suppose it is because everything is ready I just need to pack and go. My accommodation has been paid for, health insurance organised and I have picked my dollars. Even my arrival is as planned as it can be. There is an international group at UNC called E.A.S.E. who have offered to pick us up from the airport when we arrive which is really helpful as Chapel Hill is about half an hour away from the airport. E.A.S.E. has also organised a bedding, bath and ‘cellphone’ package which should be waiting for me when I arrive. This is really good because it means I won’t have to rush out and buy things on the first day and I have a little more space in my suitcase for more important things. I mean how do you pack for an entire year?

Anyway, I have to get back to my packing! I’ll write again from the US!

Too much stuff?
Too much stuff?