By Annabel Savage (Stony Brook, The State University of New York, USA)
I’ve been at Stony Brook for almost a month now, and yet is seems like just yesterday that I arrived to an empty room and was questioning quite what I had let myself in for. Since then I’ve barely had a moment to stop and think (and write the blog!)
Before I left I was warned that I would stick out with my accent, but I didn’t quite appreciate how much so, we speak the same language don’t we?! Everywhere I go people pick up on it, and I regularly get asked to say ‘something English’. I’ve also been asked if I know the Royal Family or Harry Potter… England’s not that small!
As well as settling in here at Stony Brook I’ve also been lucky enough to do some travelling already. We had a 5-day weekend after our first week of classes, so a group of us international students went to Washington D.C. for the weekend. It surreal to walk The Mall and see so many historic monuments all in the same place. We also visited parts of the Smithsonian, although we would need a week there to do the place justice! Fresh from our return from DC we rushed back out to go to the US Open. This was incredible as I’m a big tennis fan and went to Wimbledon this summer, so it was great to see the contrast between the two tournaments.
Dimitriov vs Monfils
Good morning Mr President
I’ve also spent a bit of time in the city itself, and hope to explore more in the coming weeks. There is so much to see and do but it’s only a bus ride from the uni campus straight into the centre so that shouldn’t be a problem. We went last weekend to visit the 9/11 Memorial in advance of the anniversary yesterday. It was incredibly moving to see what they have done with the site and the beautiful memorials they have created, which are such a contrast to the busy city surrounding the area. Here on campus students were offered the chance to put a small silver and red windmill into the ground in memory of those who lost their lives. It was nice to be able to be a part of the memorial, especially being this close to the city.
Stony Brook life itself is going great too, my classes are really interesting and the work is kicking in now, which is a great challenge, but there’s still time to support the Seawolves and although, for now, travelling will have to take a back seat, I’m already planning my next American adventure.
By Vanessa Maloney (University of Auckland, New Zealand).
Greetings from the land of the Kiwis! I’ts been a long time since I posted so I’m going to split this update into two parts. Here is part one…
Hills, Hobbits and hospitals…
My first month or so in Auckland after the semester started was up and down to say the least…
I settled into the routine of classes quite easily as all of my lecturers are really approachable and interesting and I definitely chose the right courses. It is very hard work doing four modules of mostly 3rd level courses, especially as a couple of my courses had postgraduate level students as well, but as long as you keep up with the reading each week it’s not too bad. I also realised quite early on that when you’re doing study abroad its really important to be organised with your work so that you can make the most of opportunities to travel and have exciting experiences.
As well as anthropology courses I decided to take a couple of Pacific Studies classes. I didn’t realise however that the department is mainly designed for ethnically Pacific Islander students and was very surprised to see that I was the only white girl in the class! I’m sure I at first looked like a lost puppy who had wondered into the wrong lecture hall. Fortunately though, the lecturer and my fellow classmates were very welcoming and actually really appreciated the fact that I wanted to learn about their culture. It is a strange and slightly uncomfortable situation when I am sat in a tutorial having to discuss with my Samoan classmates the British colonisation of Samoa. I feel like I have learnt more in this module than in any other simply because it’s so mind broadening being put in a room with twenty people who have a completely different view of the world from you. It was quite surreal becoming the novelty English girl; the strange and exotic outsider in a class full of people who had their own frame of reference. I would recommend anybody who is studying abroad to really make an effort to step outside of their comfort zone and take the kinds of courses which you can’t take at home.
Unfortunately, just as I felt I had settled into classes I managed to have a nasty fall and break my arm/shoulder. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult having to go through my first broken bone ever when I’m on the other side of the world from my friends and family. Fortunately I had some good friends in my halls who really looked after me in terms of cooking, washing dishes and opening jars etc.. (Thanks Jack and Deirbhile!). Also, the New Zealand medical system is pretty reliable and because it was an accident it was covered by the government so I didn’t even have to use my insurance. Having a British passport also allowed me to get discounted painkillers which was useful. All in all it was a pretty bad experience but after a few weeks I started to get back into the swing of things and tried to not let it ruin my study abroad experience.
A Kiwi friend of mine invited me on a much needed weekend away at her home in Matamata – a couple of hours south of Auckland. Matamata is famous for being the host of the Lord of the Rings film set of Hobbiton and it turns out that my friend worked there and was able to give us a tour. Even though I’m not a massive Lord of the Rings fan it was a really fun day out and produced a few classic shots of us standing in hobbit doorways… The visit was topped of with a bit of cider and ginger beer in the hobbit pub ‘The Green Dragon’!
From Matamata we also drove east to Mount Maunganui which is a beautiful coastal town with white sandy beaches and a small mountain overlooking it. The long walk to the top of the mountain was certainly worth the view!