First Visit to NYC

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

The first weekend at Stony Brook arrived and me and a group of friends decided we were going to take the earliest opportunity we had to go in to New York City. So far, all I’d seen of the city was a brief view of the skyline from the runway at JFK before being taxied out to Stony Brook, so I was understandably very excited. There is a coach service that runs from the campus directly into the centre of the city so we turned up bright and early to wait for this. By the looks of it, almost all of the other 200 exchange students had had the same idea. I was expecting a Megabus style experience, but this wasn’t the case at all and 90 minutes of luxury later (leather seats, air-con and free snacks), we arrived in NYC.

Having seen a few of Europe’s major cities I wasn’t expecting to be as overwhelmed as I was by the size of everything. After a few minutes of standing around staring at everything, the plan we formulated on the bus came into action. First stop, Central Park. After a slightly longer than anticipated walk, we arrived and were greeted by various groups. Guided tours in different languages, a running team, a yoga session and a gaggle of old women on segways were all within a stone’s throw of the entrance. We managed to wander about halfway across the Park before hunger got the better of us and we decided to move on. Next stop, Times Square. During the walk between Central Park and Times Square, we came across a myriad of street vendors selling souvenirs, music, art and food. I’d seen this in other cities before, but never to the extent on show here. Eventually, we reached Times Square and immediately made the most of the photo opportunities. We had to be careful, though, to avoid the people dressed up as characters ranging from Minnie Mouse to Iron Man who are apparently known for jumping in to ruin your photo and then demanding a tip for doing so.

Times Square

After a few more minutes of standing around staring at everything, we decided to head to the SkyLine. This a relatively new addition to NYC that consists of a boardwalk raised about 30ft in to the air on platforms so you can walk through the city with a view from above the roads. I was surprised by how much more we could see even with an elevation so tiny in comparison to the skyscrapers surrounding us. We could see down to the Freedom Tower at the south end of the city at one side and over to the river on the other. It was also strange to be in the middle of such a bustling, vibrant city without having to worry about being run over by a taxi. The final major landmark we managed to visit that day was Grand Central Station.

Grand Central

With over one-hundred tracks, this is by far the most impressive station I’ve ever seen. There seemed to be more tourists there just to view the station than people actually using it for travel. The marble floors and huge arches made it look more like a palace than a train station. I can certainly see why so many scenes for films are shot there.  Evening came and we decided to head back to Times Square to eat in the Hard Rock Café. Here, we met a waiter who claimed to be able to remember the order for every table he had ever served and promised if we came back in the future he would know exactly what we all wanted (I am planning to test him on this at some point). This Hard Rock café, like most of the things I’d seen that day, was similar to ones I’d seen in other cities, only twice the size. Beers and burgers were consumed and eventually home time came. A two hour bus journey later and we were back on campus on Stony Brook. There were plenty of attractions we didn’t manage to fit in and so much more for us to see that we’ll no doubt be back in the city again very soon.

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!

Helen