Academic differences in the USA (because it’s not called “study” abroad for nothing)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So now that I’m officially half-way through my exchange and no longer in the midst of the panic and stress of final exams I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and talk about the actual “study” part of studying abroad. Continue reading “Academic differences in the USA (because it’s not called “study” abroad for nothing)”

Thanksgiving Travels (or the real reason I went on study abroad in the first place)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So here it is. After 13 weeks, 8 midterms, 9 lab reports and countless homeworks and surprise quizzes we finally got a week off. Thanksgiving break; the first decent length of time I’ve had to escape Illinois and actually see some of the country I’ve been living in for the past three months. As any of you who are friends with me on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat will know I definitely made the most of the (much needed) time off as me and a couple of other fellow Brits set off on an East coast adventure I like to call “One Week, Four Cities”.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Travels (or the real reason I went on study abroad in the first place)”

Arrival reflections (how temporary housing turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to me)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

Actually that’s not totally true but I’ll get to that later…

Continue reading “Arrival reflections (how temporary housing turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to me)”

Leaving Illinois and Road Tripping The West Coast!

By Aye-Oritse Ikomi (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So it’s been a whole year since I posted my first blog and my year abroad is over! It’s so sad to think that this experience has ended, but it definitely ended on a high!

Leaving Illinois was pretty heartbreaking, especially as I was one of the first to go, but exams and essays made me pretty happy the semester (if not the study abroad experience) was over! The last few weeks were a frenzy of fitting in everything that I had intended to do over the year (and not got round to); they were definitely my busiest and best weeks of the whole year! I will never forget the friends I made this year – all my Illinois locals were incredible and I cannot wait to go back and visit all the people I met! Hopefully sometime during the next year whilst they’re all still around at U of I!

I left Illinois for Texas to visit some of my family, then from Houston flew to San Diego to meet some Manchester friends for our American Road Trip!! The thing that strikes me the most about America is how different every state is to one another: California was like a completely different country to Illinois! It was NOT as hot as we expected! Take a jumper!! But the views are gorgeous and we did get a few really hot weeks! Especially Vegas – 40 degrees!

We rented a car in San Diego and planned our trip up the coast to end in Vancouver stopping in: Newport, LA (twice), Vegas, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle! We hosteled, moteled, couch surfed and camped our way up the West Coast and ended staying in a friend’s house in Vancouver (definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been).

This was by far the most disastrous but most fun trips I’ve ever taken! We ran into so many difficulties (like running out of petrol in the middle of the Arizona desert on the way back from the Grand Canyon) and staying in some terrifying motels (I wouldn’t recommend them), but everything ended okay and we were practically hysterically laughing for the whole four weeks!

I’ve been thinking about the year and have a list of highlights:

  1. NEW ORLEANS! GO! It’s the best place in the U.S!
  2. The Grand Canyon, which was breathtaking!
  3. Seattle – such a young dynamic city!
  4. Vancouver – home to the most beautiful hikes and amazingly cheap sushi!
  5. Spring Break in Florida – like nothing I’ve ever experienced before
  6. Thanksgiving! We need this holiday in England
  7. Halloween!
  8. St Patrick’s Day!

So I ended my year abroad a year older, with a whole bunch of school spirit and having visited 17 states! I will definitely be back in the U.S. to see the other 33!! Here are some photos from the road trip!!

IMG_0441 IMG_0514

IMG_0311 IMG_0347 IMG_0352 IMG_0395 IMG_0416 IMG_0444 IMG_0447 IMG_0462 IMG_0502 IMG_0546

Reflections on my time abroad

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, USA)

I can not believe it has been a year since I finished my time at Wellesley. It has flown by faster than I would ever have imagined. Before I had even started at Manchester I knew I wanted to study abroad. In fact, the huge range of places on offer was a large factor in my decision to come here. Having gone through the experience, and having time to reflect on it more, I can safely say that studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It may sound clichéd but it is so true!

Getting on a plane and going to a new country to live for six months where you don’t know the area or anyone else there is a pretty brave thing to do. Doing it has hugely increased my self-confidence and ability to adapt to new situations. I feel much more prepared to face the real word after graduation because of my time abroad. The opportunity to go travelling in Canada after my time at Wellesley had finished was also a brilliant experience and an excellent ending to my North American adventure!

Learning subjects in a different environment can also really change your perception of them. That is what happened to me. While I had studied Economics at Manchester, doing the subject at Wellesley really brought the subject to life for me. At Wellesley I was in a class of twenty-five, which was a huge change from the massive lectures of Manchester, where having over 300 students is not unusual. This change was great for me as it allowed me to really engage with the subject which helped me to cement that this is the area of study I want to pursue more in the future.

That doesn’t mean that everything about going away is good. It is hard to leave behind your friends and family for such a long period of time. However in this day and age, it is so easy to stay in contact with people, even if you are literally on the opposite side of the world! Also, when you finally do see them again, you will have so many amazing stories to tell them that the time you have spent apart will seem like nothing.

I was lucky enough to become a Global Guidance Ambassador when I returned back to Manchester and work with the International Programmes Office to help other students with their studying abroad processes. It has been a great job, though often it makes you want to go back and start the whole process again! In fact, I am planning on doing so and have started to look at Masters courses in Canada; something I would never have thought of doing before going away. Studying abroad has expanded my horizons beyond the shores of the UK and given me an international outlook on life, another thing I am grateful for.

I would recommend studying abroad to anyone and wherever you end up, you are sure to have a life-changing time. You will meet amazing people, study fascinating topics and discover wonderful new places. I certainly did!

Post-semester travelling

Updating y’all on my finals, travels, and internship.

By Stephen Fulham (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)

I’m writing this sat in the departures lounge of Raleigh-Durham airport, waiting on my delayed flight. I’m not going home just yet, I’m just headed to Chicago this weekend, and still have another couple of weeks left in the US.

I realise that I haven’t blogged since April so thought I’d update y’all (I’m acclimatising, sorry) on the last few months. In this time I’ve completed finals, celebrated my birthday, gone travelling for a few weeks, and started an internship.

The last month or so of the semester at UNC really flew by. Actually, to be fair, the whole semester did. Spring/early summer in Chapel Hill is something special. Campus blooms, the sun shines, and the quads fill with students. Granted, humidity also hits 65-80% which can be a bit much at times.

11070610_10152825136236546_3665156403646532629_n

My final assessments included papers (essays), group debates, and finals (traditional exams); I even found time to submit some work for extra credit in one class. Unlike courses in Manchester, my UNC classes only had a maximum of twenty or so students. Each class was taught exclusively by one person, some by professors and some by graduate students. UNC are quite strict on grading so I had all of my results back within ten days of taking my finals. This is obviously a lot quicker than the several months which it takes at Manchester to get marks returned. I did okay, but have to wait for my Academic Advisor at Manchester to convert the grades before I can know really how happy I am with them.

Two days after my finals were done, I took an overnight bus from North Carolina to New York City. A group of us stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – which was awesome, if exceptionally hipster and so, so different from where I’d stayed in Midtown (Manhattan) over Spring Break – for a few days. It was only my second time in NYC but it is probably already cemented as one of my absolute favourite cities (definitely better than London too!).

From there, Tristan (a Scottish exchange student I met through UNC rugby, with whom I roomed in Charleston) and I headed to San Francisco (via Texas) mostly because of a flight for less than $100 each which is absurdly cheap. There we met up with Arrun, also on exchange at UNC from Manchester, for the California leg of our travels. One afternoon we took the Bart (metro) up to Berkeley, a college town almost as quintessential as Chapel Hill. The students there were still doing finals so campus wasn’t as busy as it might’ve been had classes been going on. Despite being biased towards Chapel Hill, I thought the campus pretty much matched UNC’s in terms of being scenic. It had a very Mediterranean feel, with white walls and orange tiles on a lot of the university buildings – probably linked to the Spanish and Mexican influences on California. It was pretty amazing to see Alcatraz (where we actually met an ex-prisoner!) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, before travelling to LA on another overnight bus. It rained while we were there, to our dismay and some locals’ joy (California was then experiencing a severe drought). Seeing Hollywood Boulevard, mere steps from our Airbnb, as well as the Hollywood sign and panoramic views of the City of Angels was awesome, but the weather and our lack of a car meant we didn’t see LA at her finest.

11226884_452353158263254_329700176_n

After that we took the Amtrak (America’s cheap but pretty sparse train network) to San Diego. I wore myself out playing beach volleyball alone against the two other guys and then fell asleep for less than an hour on the sand. I woke up, my pale Irish complexion burnt (the lines are still there even now) thanks to a lack of sun cream. Being just a half hour drive from Mexico, the Mexican food in San Diego was unreal. $2 octopus tacos were a definite highlight. Had we been a week or so earlier our visas would’ve allowed us to go into Mexico for the day. I should also note that avocados in California are light-years better than anything I’ve had in the UK, or even anywhere else in the US. The taste of a guacamole dip at a little Mexican ‘mom ‘n’ pop’ (family-run) restaurant will live with me for the rest of my life. That sounds excessive; it isn’t. And neither were the number of Anchorman references during this stop on our tour.

Up next was New Orleans: brimming with jazz, dancing, and incredible food. Think jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp and/or catfish po-boys, crayfish, and alligator to name just a few. This was, I think, the most fun city I have ever been to. Other than walking around the French Quarter, there aren’t huge amounts of touristy things to see in NoLa, but the atmosphere is definitely worth soaking up. That said, Café du Monde is kind of mandatory. It began as a French colonial outpost and café, and has continued serving coffee and beignets (warm, sugar coated doughnuts) after the Americans bought the Louisiana Territories from France. I have to say, the café au lait was nothing special (Tristan, who is much more into coffee than I am, wasn’t impressed either) but the beignets were pretty memorable.

Then it was on to Chicago for a long Memorial Day weekend. We stayed with my friend Dori, who was on exchange at Manchester from the University of Illinois during my first year. It was great to see her and finally experience Chi-City (so stylised by Kanye West) which I had heard from many to be on a par with, or even better than, New York City. The food there probably about ties (Chicago hot dogs, deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches versus deli meats, fresh bagels, street meat, dollar slices of thin pizza).

Chicago is on Lake Michigan (which is bigger in area than Wales!), and one can walk straight out of downtown to the beach which is pretty damn cool. The city centre is full of beautiful parks. The SkyDeck is worth checking out, although I have to admit I was a little terrified when in the glass room which sticks out of the hundred-storey-plus Willis Tower. Dori gave us a great tour of the city, and we went to a Chicago Cubs game on Memorial Day itself. While it seems not dissimilar to rounders, the atmosphere at the game makes it so much more. Peanuts, beers, and forty thousand plus natives cheering at Wrigley Field made my first experience of America’s favourite pastime extra special.

11313728_364047933793705_266564747_n

After that, I stayed in the DMV (locals’ name for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) for five or so days with my friend Anna. In DC itself one can pretty much walk between all of the major attractions, just like in central London. Granted, this became a bit more of a challenge given the heat wave which had hit DC while I was in town. The Capitol, White House, National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Museums, and Arlington are all very close together. Anna taught me how to pick apart (I’m still not entirely sure of the correct verb here) crabs with my hands which provided a bit of a workout, which maybe almost balanced out the huge table-covering portion we ordered before heading to the Orioles game (Baltimore’s major league baseball team). We drove to Delaware to go to a NASCAR race. Neither of us had been to one before and, knowing that I’d be living in the South for a semester, it’d been on my USA bucket list since before I came, even if I’d forgotten about it for most of the semester. The trucks (yes, trucks, a lower budget version of F1 which still has a huge TV audience) roared around the mile-long track a couple of hundred times while we were there. We then went down to Ocean City, MD, (apparently the equivalent of Myrtle Beach, SC, where I stayed for a few days over Spring Break) just to try their crab-stuffed pretzels. They were worth it, I can’t lie.

11333336_892596004138126_1289109024_n

Then it was back to Chapel Hill for a night before moving to Raleigh (the capital of North Carolina). My internship is in Rep. David E. Price (D-NC04)’s district office, where I’m doing things similar to the stuff I’ve done in the UK before. Rep. Price sits in the US House of Representatives (their House of Commons equivalent) for parts of North Carolina including most of the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham) and a number of other counties. I’m now living in student apartments, sharing a kitchen and living space with three other guys who are also doing internships involving government. Two weeks there have already flown by. There are beach volleyball courts in the dorm complex so I’ve taken that up again, despite a flock of geese which seem to follow me around a fair bit. Next weekend I’m going to Wilmington, on North Carolina’s beach, for a beach volleyball tournament so that should be fun too.

As ever, hit me up with any questions at stephen.fulham@student.manchester.ac.uk

8 THINGS YOU ONLY LEARN FROM STUDYING IN THE US

American flag flying in the wind

By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

1. You always seem to have some kind of test – whether it is a midterm or pop-up quiz, these are so frequent that after the first few tests you stop being surprised when your professor issues you with a test.

2. You have to submit papers via hard copy – for those of us who are used to staying up all night before an essay is due and submitting it online with only minutes to spare, this is quite a hassle.

3. Attendance contributes to your final grade – most professors take attendance every class to monitor students attendance and usually if students miss more than a certain number of classes, it is deducted off your attendance mark… How fun…

4. Students don’t have seminars – so this means that you will usually have a day (or if you are lucky enough a few days) off each week to sleep all day. But even though seminars don’t exist, professors ensure students don’t fall asleep in their classes by making sure participation in classes contribute to your final grade… Awesome!

5. Students get unimaginable amounts of free things – those of you who thought freshers’ week was the biggest freebie event, you were wrong! American ‘colleges’ give out tonnes of free goodies – pizza, cakes, water bottles, t-shirts – on a (nearly) weekly basis… #Winning

6. Sports is a huge thing – everyone in some way can relate to sports, whether it is watching it, such as football (not what real football is, but a sport similar to rugby), or going to the gym. The gym is amazing, with a swimming pool, basketball courts and places where you can rent out equipment… for free! I never thought I would hear myself say it but, I LOVE THE GYM!

7. Students don’t interact in classes – this is pretty odd because for most of us it is a usual thing to talk to people in lectures.

8. People tend to recognise your accent – this is especially true if you have a British accent. When you speak in class some students look at you as if you grew another head. People notice the accent so much that it becomes strange if someone doesn’t notice your accent.

My Experience Studying Abroad – A Year On

By Madeleine Taylor (University of Maryland, College Park, USA)

I honestly cannot believe that it has been almost a year since I left Maryland and College Park. My time studying abroad sometimes feels like it was all a dream, and when it doesn’t it certainly feels a lot more fleeting than it actually was. When I think about it in relation to my whole three years at Manchester, the six months I spent abroad seem like a minuscule slice of time. But somehow those six months have managed to represent some of the most prominent and enjoyable of my time at university.

At first settling back into Manchester was a little difficult, not only in terms of academics, but also in terms of simple things like remembering the bus numbers I could use (which was especially challenging as a new route had been added to the Magic Buses, which I soon found out the hard way). But after a few weeks everything returned to normal, which kind of scared me. With each passing day my experience abroad and the things it has impressed upon me seemed to be fading as Manchester became normal and familiar again. But of course nothing had faded, it had just fallen into the background as I returned to a previous norm. I find myself impacted by my experiences abroad almost every day whether that is chatting with my long-distance friends or having a different perspective on US news. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to play into the cliché of ‘it has fundamentally altered my world and changed me as a person’, but my time abroad has definitely had a positive impact on my everyday life and aspects of myself. For example, before I went abroad I was quite shy and not very confident within myself. While these two traits didn’t disappear completely, whilst abroad I definitely learnt to overcome some of the barriers of my shyness and am a much better person for it.

And now here I am, mere weeks away from graduating for good (gulp) and I couldn’t be more delighted about the choice I made to study abroad. I’ll be seeing my old roommate this summer (I am so excited), and two of my classmates are coming to visit so that I can return the favour and take them on a European adventure.

All the best to anyone embarking on study abroad in the future,

Maddy

Post Spring Break in Illinois

By Aye-Oritse Ikomi (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

The end of the Semester is fast approaching; I’ll be leaving Illinois in two weeks today and am heartbroken at the thought! I didn’t think I’d ever be so sad for a school year to end and the summer to start – this half of the semester has truly been one of the best experiences of my life!

It has been a busy few weeks, especially turning 21 (US style!), spring break, midterms, work (school and job) and trips to New Orleans and Washington DC, but it’s been really fulfilling… although I’m exhausted! We also went to Chicago for the St Patrick’s Day parade! They dye the river green which was very impressive!

The workload this semester has been slightly easier than last, perhaps I am just more used to the American system now. I’ve also completely settled in and seem to be meeting new friends every week. I’ve said it once and will say it again, Midwesterners are so friendly! 

For people preparing to come out here in August, you will be glad to know the snow has gone and it’s a consistent 22-28 degrees now, which is a great way to end the school year. Although two weeks ago there were some Tornado warnings, but we’re over that hump!

There has been a lot going on around the campus lately, what with the nice weather. Last week there were free camel rides on the quad, a free outdoor concert with B.O.B, the spring football game, “Mom’s weekend” and Joe Biden (the Vice President of the United States) came to campus to give a talk on sexual assault. So overall there has been a great atmosphere!

Here are some photos up from my trips to New Orleans, DC, St Patrick’s Day in Chicago and Spring Break in Panama City Beach Florida:

11046481_10152720341611381_4129303359147681965_n 11050298_10152720341551381_9075093125825382265_n

New Orleans

11078139_10155890607120355_6232297099444737393_n

Chicago’s green river!

11081010_10152779180421381_2205717538874901181_n 11102806_10152779181646381_2736189644995288240_n

PCB SPRING BREAK!

11156411_10152814206791381_2239266733834021243_n

DC!

I luckily end finals very early, so am taking the opportunity to visit my aunt who lives in Houston, Texas before heading to the West Coast to meet some Manchester friends for a road trip up California! I’m so excited, but at the same time hoping the next two weeks go really slowly!

You don’t quite realise how strange it is getting ready to leave people who have been your whole life for a year, and who honestly you may never see again… It’s a strange feeling that I hadn’t quite prepared myself for. However, I truly think I have made some friends for life here and will definitely be back in Illinois in the future!!

-Aye

JAMAICA JAMAICA

IMG_3088

By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

So I went to Jamaica for spring break and the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane was the heat. Everyone working at the airport were super chilled and friendly. After the tedious task of getting through immigration and customs, I was picked up by my airport transfer. I would recommend this method of getting to your hotel as taxis are known for taking people to the wrong places. It took about an hour and a half to get to Negril from the airport, but the journey was relaxed and the driver was very talkative so that made it seem quicker than it was.

IMG_2917

Upon reaching the hotel, Eddie’s Tigress 2, I dumped my luggage and got ready to explore. Of course by exploring, I mean head to the beach. The beach was a proper beach… I was so excited; as those of you from the UK know, when you go to the beach there are usually just stones to sit on and dirty water to look at, but as I said before, this was an actual beach!

I decided to do the most touristy activity and sunbathe on the deck chairs. This was fun, but I am black so I couldn’t do this all day as I would probably end up burnt.

IMG_2972

Going out in Negril was interesting. The best nights were on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday a few of the girls and I went to Bourbon Beach seeking good music and a great atmosphere – and I can say we weren’t disappointed. Although the dance floor was empty when we arrived, it didn’t take us too long to start the party. The tunes that were played by the DJ varied between mainstream pop – Beyoncé etc. and dancehall – Beenie Man etc. On Thursday night, all of us went to Jungle. Someone staying at our hotel stated that they planned their holiday around this night, so I had high expectations and upon my arrival to Jungle, I totally understood why. Again, they played mainstream music and dancehall, but what I really loved was there was different atmosphere to the beach. It was a serious club – a ‘party-hard-or-go-home’ type of club.

IMG_3107

Overall it reminded me a lot of Nigeria. Jamaica was amazing… The food was great – rice and peas with chicken and salad was a dish that I indulged myself in on several occasions. I cannot forget about the Ting too, a drink that makes grapefruit taste so sweet! The locals were so friendly – when walking past strangers on the street, they would offer greetings to us and, in times of confusion, assistance in finding places. I particularly loved that everyone was stress-free and relaxed, it is really a place for ‘no worries’, and that was definitely what I had by the end of the holiday.

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!

Above-Ground at Miramar

By Sam Thoburn (University of California, San Diego, USA)

I write every day, but not very often on this blog. So for that, my many, many readers, I apologise.

The Spring Quarter out here began three weeks ago, and among my new classes is one in travel writing. Since San Diego is a recruitment and command centre for both the American Navy and Air Force, I thought it would be interesting to look into that military history a little. To that end, I have been (and will be) visiting the city’s military cemeteries and writing about them. Here is the first piece I wrote, to be read in the knowledge that Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, just announced that he is deadly serious about reducing water usage across the state:

Above-Ground at Miramar

For such a level place, with so few trees, there is a great deal of birdsong. Is the song that of the Coastal California Gnatcatcher? The informational board installed in front of a fenced-off area of scrub would lead me to believe so: it tells the tale of vernal pools in San Diego County, a kind of seasonal wetland of which 97% are gone, leaving only those at this Miramar Air Force base as habitats for such endangered species as the San Diego Fairy Shrimp and the 4-inch-long Coastal California Gnatcatcher.

That unique fauna sets Miramar apart from other military cemeteries. But just like any of its kind, Miramar has the obligatory marble-white gravestones laid out in rows so perfect that they form straight lines from almost any angle.

Each gravestone bears these rows of information about the dead, engraved very deeply and arranged with as much precision as the stones themselves: name, rank, military branch, wars in which they fought (most commonly, still, Korea and Vietnam), dates of birth and death and sometimes a short tribute from the surviving family. On top of all those, in the uppermost portion of the stone, there is usually a religious symbol from a template; most often, it is some variant of a Christian cross, while the odd one bears the Star of David, and others carry ambiguous symbols like that of a silhouetted man blowing into a bugle or the sideways eight meaning infinity. The range of possible images must be limited to nine or ten, with one chosen from that small collection, which I suppose a family member must pick out. On the opposite side of some of the stones there are memorials for the non-serving military spouse. There is less ceremony to these—no religious symbols – and in fact they are easy to miss if you are not looking for them.

There are the usual graveside adornments – flags and flowers most commonly. Every flower is brightly coloured and alive, which seemed like a strange lack of tarnish for a cemetery until I read on a noticeboard, posted along one edge of the main graveyard plot, that “All floral items will be removed as soon as they become faded and/or unsightly”. Flowers bloom there all year round then, and the grass stays green as well. Every other facility in California must turn off its sprinklers if it is to conserve ever-precious water, but it would be a brave man who ordered the grass of national cemeteries to be left to the whims of the year-round sun. I will know that all hope of salvation from the drought is lost when there is parched grass at Miramar.

The artifice of green grass is clear enough when you move from the eastern to the western side of the entrance gate. This national cemetery only opened in 2010, and though thousands are already interred there, the ground is not nearly full. One or two plots of ground have been prepared on this western side to await those who will pass on in the coming years, but the space is not yet completely developed. Past a certain point, the road that leads around the plots is unpaved, becoming a track through the dirty yellow dust of wild scrubland. I walked over it slowly, heeding as best I could the warning sign by the low administration building (“BEWARE OF RATTLESNAKES”), and wondered how long it would be before this, too, would be sacred memorial ground and true mourners would stand there instead of me.