Returning to Manchester

By Annabel Savage (Stony Brook, The State University of New York, USA)

It’s strange to think that I’ve been back in the UK for as long as I was in America and the time has gone so quickly since my return. In a way my whole semester abroad feels like a distant memory, but sometimes it feels like just yesterday.

The adjustment back into Manchester life took a little longer than I had expected, although socially I felt like I slipped straight back in, the workload and teaching style I had been so used to here in first year came as a shock to the system. I feel I have forgotten slightly how to revise for one cumulative final exam, instead of the midterms to which I had become accustomed. Nonetheless, it’s now like I’ve never left, except I have so many incredible memories and friends from all over the globe.

If you’re reading this in doubt as to whether you’re going to miss out in Manchester – don’t worry! There are definitely conversations I can’t join in, but the semester flew by, and all of a sudden I am back to the same old routine and adventurous weekends involve a trip into Piccadilly as opposed to New York!

The only thing now that I’m struggling with is keeping up with my international friends dotted all over the globe, as with my class schedule and time differences it’s tricky to coordinate Skype. Thankfully social media makes it easy enough to keep in touch! I can’t believe it’s really all over but I’m making plans to see my friends, sofa hopping around Europe this summer and have some American friends coming to visit this summer too, so Stony Brook is definitely not just a distant memory!

Arrival in New York

By Joe Vis (Stony Brook, The State University of New York, USA)

After all the planning, forms, emails, goodbyes and last-minute packing, the time had finally come to set off for Stony Brook. Unfortunately that time was also 3am. Leg one of the journey was a drive from Liverpool down to Heathrow Terminal 5 accompanied by both parents. One seeming ever more nervous about her eldest jetting off to the other side of the world and one seeming ever more annoyed at having to be up at 3am. The drive went smoothly but unfortunately it was about the only thing that did that day. Immediately after saying goodbye and getting through security I was informed that my flight would be delayed by about 45 minutes due to the doors on the plane not locking properly (I didn’t think this was as minor an issue as the announcer seemed to make out). The 45 minutes passed and the doors were fixed but another announcement revealed that now the toilets were broken so we would have to wait for another hour while they were fixed. Eventually I got on the plane, and after waiting another 40 minutes for a space on the runway, leg two of the journey was under way; Heathrow to JFK. 8 hours, 2 films and some dodgy plane food later I got my first glimpse of the New York City skyline as we touched down on American soil and was suitably impressed.

Landing at JFK

The delays in London meant there was now a huge queue at customs so we weren’t even allowed off the plane for a while and then, when we were, had a 2 hour wait. All of this meant I was 4 hours late for my shuttle ride out to Stony Brook but luckily, didn’t have too long to wait for the next one. This was when I met my first genuine New Yorker, the taxi driver. He was extremely nice and friendly to me and the other passengers but hurled verbal abuse and repeatedly blared his horn at every car, pedestrian and animal that got in his way. All of this whilst arguing with his wife on the phone and eating a hot dog. Finally, 22 hours after setting off I had reached Stony Brook. I had time to very briefly meet some of my flat mates (Yunichi from Japan, Ben and Dave from Hong Kong and Luis from Spain) before I collapsed into bed.


The following morning I met up with Annabel, the other Manchester student at Stony Brook, to find somewhere for breakfast and explore the campus a bit. The first thing I realised was that I was woefully underprepared for the heat. Even early on it was at least 25˚c, which may not sound outrageous, but for someone who is gingerly inclined and used to rainy Manchester, it was a bit of a shock. After last year’s polar vortex I’d made sure to pack enough warm clothes for winter without giving too much thought to what the weather would be doing when I first arrived.

The campus itself is huge and the heat combined with the unfamiliar trees and terracotta buildings make it look almost mediterranean. This isn’t the only way it is very different to Manchester. The food outlets on site offer countless options from all over the world and the sports facilities are much better than I’ve seen anywhere in the UK. They include a 9,000 seater stadium for the (American) football team, whose opening game I am going to see next week.

EW La Valle Stadium


Next up was the orientation meeting for all the international students. For the next six hours we were introduced to the staff we had only known via email for the past few months and told just about everything we needed to know for the coming semester. There were about 200 foreign students with big groups from Korea and Brazil, a few from the rest of Asia, Australia and a few European countries as well as four English (including me and Annabel). During this time I befriended some Aussies and some Germans and have already made plans to visit the city with them this weekend and to be as stereotypically touristy as possible, which will no doubt be covered in my next blog.


Time flies when you’re having fun

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.

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.

9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial
City Girl
City Girl








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.

Arrival at Stony Brook

By Annabel Savage (Stony Brook University, New York).

Welcome to...
Welcome to…

It’s strange to think that only a year ago I was getting ready to start at Manchester, and here I am now, sitting in my new room at Stony Brook University, Long Island, preparing to start a new life here. Back in January when I first found out I’d been accepted here, it felt like a million miles away, but tomorrow classes start and the true college experience begins.

The last few weeks prior to my departure had been hectic trying to see everyone before I left, so I didn’t have too much time to think about what being away from home for 4 months would actually be like. Although I had some moments where I was really nervous,  now I’ve arrived I’m super excited to start my new life here.

Getting to Stony Brook from the city was really easy, just a train ride on the Long Island Rail Road, and only a short walk from the station. However, with a 32kg suitcase (I got slightly carried away with my packing!) and after a long flight from London, the journey was pretty tiring! Arriving to an empty room, exhausted, I started to question what I’d let myself in for. Since then I’ve kitted out my room, stuck up photos from home and met some other international students at our orientation and it’s already starting to feel much more like home.

SBU Campus
SBU Campus

Unlike Manchester, SBU is a campus university with over 1000 acres. This itself is overwhelming, I feel like I’ll definitely be getting lost on the way to class the first few times. The campus is beautiful though, and at 30 odd degrees so far I just feel like I’m on holiday!

One of the things that is immediately obvious when arriving at Stony Brook is how patriotic everyone is about SBU and the Seawolves. Everyone has Stony Brook kit and wears it around campus, almost like a uniform! So, of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon! The Seawolf is the University mascot, and everywhere is blasted with seawolves – I’m not sure if we even have a mascot at Manchester, but here it’s pretty hard to miss!

My new Stony Brook kit!

Now I’m just getting ready for the start of class, I’ve got some jam-packed days (8.30am-8.30pm with a few breaks in-between) and four-day weekends, so it will be interesting to see how the first week goes – I’ll keep you updated!



Sadly, you have to go home some day…

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University,  New York, USA).

So, in a flash I went from this…

NY Christmas

To this…

Rainy Manchester

Need I say any more on how it feels to have come to the end of my study abroad adventure?

The crystal blue skies above Bryant Park ice skating rink are a long distant memory as I sit here writing this in Manchester with the rain and wind battering my window.. It is great to be back with my friends and to be able to see my family after such a long time, however there will always be a part of me that wishes I was back in NY! I have well and truly caught the travelling bug, however the concept of travelling to Newcastle of Glasgow for the weekend is no match for my past trips of popping to Boston or Philadelphia or Montreal in my spare time! I am now constantly on the look out for more opportunities that may arise for me to fly off to some other far away destination for yet another adventure!

There are so many things I learnt whilst studying abroad and I experienced so many things I will never forget. I could reel off advice on “how to make the most of your study abroad” however the main thing I can say is.. Apply, and go and enjoy yourself!! Your life will take turns you never imagined and you are guaranteed to meet people you will never forget. Rainy Manchester will always be there for you when you return – don’t let anything deter you from the best time of your life with the chance of studying abroad!

Why studying in the USA is FABULOUS

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

Now my final exams are over, it is time to summarise my academic experience here in NY. This post won’t be full of fancy travelling pictures but if you are considering studying in the USA, this is an important read. It will surely persuade you that studying in the USA is a very, very good choice to make…

Exams finish in December – and this means no revision for January exams over the Christmas holidays!! There may seem a lot of exams in the USA throughout the semester – mid term and final exams seem to span the whole time – however I am now able to fly home and have a Christmas where I can truly relax without the thought of exams in the back of my head! This is a true luxury! It also means I have revision-free time at home to get a big head start on my dissertation that most people complete after January exams throughout the next semester.

Exams are frequent throughout the semester in the USA, but the majority of them aren’t cumulative! This means that there may be two midterm exams for each subject throughout the semester and one final exam for each, but most of these exams may only cover around 9 lectures each, even the final exam! In the UK our exams are at the end of the semester, cover ALL the lecture series, and count for around 90% of our whole unit grade. In the US each exam may count 25-30% and covers only a few lectures. This is another luxury of the US education system that I will miss! The final exams were a breeze in comparison to end of semester exams in the UK!

Extra credit everywhere!! I originally found this hard to believe, but in one of my subjects there was opportunity to gain 10 extra credits for the class. This is 10 extra marks you simply add on to your end total mark. For extra credit the Professor may set quizzes etc, and if you take the small amount of time out of your week each week to do these, the results are worth it! For example I did all the extra credit assignments in one of my classes, and this means I now have over 100% in the course.. Hard to believe when we work our socks off for over 70% in a class in the UK!

If you’re there over the summer period- you walk to lectures in the sun, and leave the lecture in the sun! If there is one thing to bring up the mood as you’re walking to your lectures, being able to wear summer clothes and walk in the heat is one of them! You may think that the sun would put you off doing work as you don’t want to be sat inside missing the heat, however it made me work faster and more efficiently so that I could go out and enjoy the sun! I am not looking forward to the gloomy rain of Manchester that awaits me back home, where I will replace my summer clothes with a rain coat and wellies..

If you study a science, the regulations on laboratory work are very different to in the UK.. Without delving too far into details, the USA are more relaxed on their animal testing regulations in University. This definitely provided me an insight to this field of work that I wouldn’t necessarily have gained staying studying in the UK.

Next to no classes run on a Friday!! I had a three day weekend all semester, and this is a common theme throughout Universities in the USA. I was able to travel much further afield and visit more places on the weekends thanks to my dreamy timetable that gave me Fridays and all of Monday morning and afternoon off!!

If these points alone aren’t enough to persuade you to want to study abroad in the USA, then I don’t know what will!

Thanksgiving in NY

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

Many times during my time studying abroad, people have invited me to their homes and have treated me like a close friend of years. My time in the USA has opened my eyes to the kindness of people who are not necessarily close to you, and the ease at which they accept you into their homes and do everything they can to help you feel comfortable and settled whilst living away from home in a different country.

One family in particular accepted me into their home this Thanksgiving. I was fortunate enough to spend the 5 day holiday at one of my lovely American friend Kate’s house in Wantagh, NY. Everybody talked about the Thanksgiving break as a time to relax and spend time with family and friends, much similar to Christmas time however without the presents and decorations! It turned out to be the most relaxing and enjoyable time spending the days eating, drinking, chatting and relaxing the time away.

I think it is important I provide a low down on thanksgiving day itself, for it was the day when I ate so much that I had to physically lie down because my body couldn’t handle the amount of food I had eaten..

Here are a few pictures of Kate’s house, the Thanksgiving table setting, and a snippet of the food that was simply amazing..

Thanksgiving, Wantagh NY

Kate’s gorgeous house in Wantagh on a cold and crisp sunny day.

Table Setting

The fall/autumn table decorations on the thanksgiving dinner table.


Raising a glass to the thanksgiving holiday and the start of a fabulous day. On the left is my friend Kate, whose house we were invited to, and to my right are my two friends who are also students studying abroad at Stony Brook University from Australia and Japan.


Kate’s parents catered for 18 people on Thanksgiving, the turkey was huge! I didn’t manage to get a picture before it was carved though.. Each person there was absolutely lovely and made me feel welcome from the moment I met them all.


And now for the food.. This is the main dish, served after lots of appetisers which were so tasty I ate far too many and so the main meal was a struggle. But, of course, I managed to eat it all because it was so yummy.. You can see on the photo carved turkey, mashed potato, vegetable casserole, cranberry sauce, corn, stuffing, and finally my two favourite things – the bread roll was sweet and called a biscuit (a bizzare concept to those who consider a biscuit to be a rich-tea or a hobnob) and mashed sweet potato with marshmallows melted on top. Now, that sounds bizarre but it was delicious, I suggest you try it!! For dessert there was apple pie, cheesecake and pumpkin pie.. I had never eaten pumpkin pie before, however I can now confidently say I have eaten enough slices of it to account for two whole pies. So, that’s a success in my eyes!

During dinner Kate’s younger cousin had an idea that we were all to take turns in saying what we were grateful for this Thanksgiving. This was a lovely touch to the day where people thanked their friends and family, I thanked the kindness and generosity of Kate’s family for inviting me to experience my first Thanksgiving, and then there were the ones who made a joke and said they were thankful for Game of Thrones..

All in all the day was amazing and one I will never forget! I hope to return to the US in the future over the Thanksgiving holiday, however next time I will try not to eat as much to the point where I can no longer function..

Stony Brook University, NY. My home away from home.

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

It has been around two months since I originally posted a blog update about my trip abroad to the USA, and ever since I have been meaning to sit down and update it. The truth is that I haven’t had more than an hour to myself with nothing happening and no work to do since the moment I arrived – just the way I want it to be! It has meant that I haven’t kept up with my blog as much as I had hoped, but without further ado here it is.

Arrival at Stony Brook University

Study abroad exchange students arrived four days earlier than the majority of the full time students, so we had a lot of time to settle in and complete orientation before everybody else arrived and lectures started. The one thing that I was surprised by is that there was no Freshers Week (or Welcome Week as Manchester likes to call it!) – we were left to our own devices to introduce ourselves properly to the campus. This wasn’t a problem at all as I had already made a good group of friends who are also studying abroad here, and luckily I was put in an apartment with two girls from Japan and Australia also studying abroad!

Stony Brook University is set in a bubble-like campus, which is a complete contrast to the University of Manchester which is spread throughout the city center. As much as I miss being able to walk to the shops after lectures and having everything five minutes within my reach, it is a beautiful campus and the surrounding area is absolutely lovely. Walking to lectures through the wooded campus, with the trees now turning a mix of red, oranges and greens, is a pleasant experience in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Oxford Road.

Fall 2013 SBU Campus

There have been two noticable differences between life in Manchester and life in Stony Brook – the first being during the months of August and September here, every single day was hot and sunny! Walking to lectures in a summer dress under the bright blue sky every day definitely lifts the spirits – the wet and windy Manchester can’t compare! The second big difference is the constant stream of exams that comes with the US education system. As it turns out I have around one exam per week, as the “mid-terms” have turned out to be not so mid term. This may sound a complete nightmare, however it has it’s pros. For instance, for the majority of my subjects the final exam isn’t cumulative. This means that, for example, if a subject has two mid term exams and one final exam, each exam will test you on only 1/3 of the lecture series. This is a huge difference to the UK system where exams are at the end of the semester and test you on everything covered during all the lectures. It may be a life of constant revision, but exams are much less stressful this way.

Soon, I will write a blog entry on the differences between the US and UK education systems – and what I have learnt from experiencing them both!

With regards to travelling and exploring the area that I am living in, it is safe to say that I am certainly making the most of my three day weekends (yes- I have no classes on a Friday!). This month alone I am travelling to Philadelphia, New York City, Montreal, Monroe NY, and have been invited to experience a real American thanksgiving with one of my lovely flat mates!

So far since being at Stony Brook University I have traveled around the majority of Long Island to the furthest point East and back, visited Cape Cod Massachusetts, Boston, Providence Rhode Island, and have had a couple of weekends in New York City itself. Alongside these trips away I have been kayaking and sailing in and around Stony Brook, white water rafting in Pennsylvania, sky diving from 13,500 ft in Calverton, NY, and took a trip over on the ferry to Fire Island. Studying abroad gives you a motive to travel, you certainly catch the travelling bug. I work hard during the week so that on the weekends I am free to explore, and I have made so many great friends here who are as keen to travel as I am.

Below are some pictures from my time here – enjoy!

Stony Brook Village - Fellow Exchange Students

This is taken in Stony Brook village with some other students studying abroad during the first couple of weeks of being here.

Times Square, NYRockefellar Center NY Skyline NY Brooklyn Bridge Bryant Park, NY

These are a few snaps from my weekends in the city, it is just 1 hr 30 on the train from campus, and the train station is a 10 minute walk away from my accommodation. The city will never loose its charm!

Sailing Trip Sailing Trip  Long Island Me and Mum

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These are a few snaps from my experiences on the water!

Homecoming Game 935967_10151912781562110_1539718420_n

These were taken at the homecoming game – the biggest event on the academic calender! Everybody dresses in red, the school colour, and goes along to support the team and the marching band!

That’s all for now, but I will write again soon, I promise!


Two Nights in New York

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

I currently have a couple of hours to spare before I take the train from New York Penn Station to Stony Brook University, so I thought it is prime time to write an update on my journey here to NY and my two nights staying in Times Square itself!

I arrived into New York’s JFK airport Monday lunch time, and I had to travel an hour on the train and subway to the center of New York.. I could have taken a cab, but being a student again means I must save money where I can! The journey was rather painful because my suitcase, which came in at just under the 23kg mark, is not the most agile of cases to travel with! Luckily I made some Irish friends on the plane who were taking the same journey as me to Times Square so I wasn’t travelling alone. This proved to be very useful as when me and my suitcase got stuck (I mean completely stuck – it was horrendous) in a turnstile when entering the Subway and I had to be rescued by three men (no joke), I could laugh it off instead of dying of embarrassment as I held up hundreds of NY lunch time travelers..

When I finally arrived at 42nd Street Subway, I left the building to be greeted by the bright lights and bustling crowds of Times Square, but tiredness and desire to let go of my suitcase meant I headed straight for my hotel after bidding goodbye to my Irish friends.

Here is a picture of the amazing view of the Empire State Building from the bedroom window!

View from the room!
Room with a view!

That Monday evening I wandered around the typical tourist sights in and around Times Square, however admittedly this isn’t really my cup of tea. It is nearly impossible to walk on the pavements as they are packed with tourists taking hundreds of photos, people are constantly trying to sell you mini Statues of Liberty and every other imaginable gimic, and sadly there are a few dodgy characters around who aren’t afraid to come up and talk to you, which unfortunately ruins the initial NY magic for me. However, aside from the overcrowded tourist destinations, it is very east to find some lovely areas of Manhattan. There are plenty of small parks dotted around which are lit up with fairy lights in the evenings, lots of beautiful old architecture which stands out against the shiny new sky scrapers, and of course, there are plenty of amazing shops! Sadly though I have had to refrain from buying much as I don’t think my suitcase can hold any more! The shops think of literally everything – they even provide outdoor seating areas for the husbands who are tired from shopping!

For the men who can't cope with any more shopping..
For the men who can’t cope with any more shopping..

Despite the not-so-pleasant trip around Times Square the day before, the day after on Tuesday I took a trip over to New Jersey, which has the most beautiful sights, immaculate buildings, and a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty herself! I took a short ride on the subway to get there, and took the ferry back over to Manhattan. This is the view that you are greeted with as soon as you leave the subway exit – one of my favourite so far.

image (4)

I am soon to leave the hotel and meet Edgar, another University of Manchester student who will be studying at Stony Brook University, at the train station where we will travel to the University together. The excitement is beginning to build at settling in to my new home! It is now time to close up my suitcase again and start the next leg of my journey!

I will be in touch again shortly!


Stony Brook University, NY- 3 Days To Go..

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

If you haven’t yet had chance to read the mini description on my profile, I will give you a quick summary of who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going..

I’m Helen, and am entering my second year of studying Pharmacology. I am studying abroad for one semester at Stony Brook University which is situated on Long Island, in New York, and currently have only 3 days left in the UK before I take my flight to the Big Apple!

My suitcase is currently lying open on the floor, empty, aside from my cats asleep in it who seem to have taken a liking to its interior.. I have the typical “to pack” list, however the thought of actually filling the suitcase and choosing which handbags, which dresses, which shoes, which scarfs, which jackets etc etc to take, is a slightly daunting task! I’m not normally one to travel light – I would take the whole content of my wardrobe and bedroom if I could..

Looking back on the whole process of applying for the study abroad exchange, it has been quite lengthy! Being accepted onto the exchange program and then planning my journey to and from the USA, applying for my student VISA, choosing courses to study whilst abroad, tackling many timetable clashes, and navigating a new student portal were just some of the tasks that took much time and patience to complete!

The thought of planning to move abroad to study was, admittedly, very daunting at the beginning. However it must be said that the staff at the University of Manchester’s study abroad unit and those at Stony Brook University couldn’t have been more helpful! I have honestly never come across a bunch of people so efficient at replying to emails and so willing to help with any problem you may come across. The opportunity to travel and study abroad is too good to miss, especially when there is such a good support network with you the whole way.

I fly from Manchester airport early Monday morning, and after 8 hours of sitting on a plane watching films and eating sweets (It’s a hard life..) I will spend two nights in a hotel in NY Times Square, before taking the Long Island Rail Road to Stony Brook University on the Wednesday! I look forward to sharing my travelling tales with you!