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!

Wellesley

By Nadia Younis (Wellesley College, USA)

It’s so crazy to think that half of my semester abroad is done already! The past two months have been so hectic, that I’ve only just had the chance to post now. IMG_20150126_183350So, where to begin?? I guess I can’t go more than just a few sentences without telling you all how cold it is here in Wellesley. I arrived to a snow covered campus and within just few days of my arrival, there were snowstorms and record-breaking weather. Aside from the fact that campus did actually look awesome covered in snow, I hated the weather. I felt like I was trapped in my room most of the time, as buses often refused to run. The weather is only now starting to improve (but it did snow just two days ago!).

IMG_20150126_183500Something else that took a little getting used to, which will be useful to know for those of you planning to come to study in the States, is the concept of a roommate. I got a little lucky with my room allocation in that I was assigned to a suite. Being in a suite basically means that my room is inside the room of another student’s, so I basically have to go through my roommate’s room every time I want to leave or enter my room. It might seem strange to you having to spend so much time with another person at first, at least it did to me, but soon you will find it normal and will probably even become good friends with your roommate.

My main reason for choosing Wellesley in the first place was to have the opportunity of studying in an institution completely different to Manchester, and different is exactly what I got. I will talk about the academic differences in a later post, which I guess is the major difference. But other things, aside from the fact that Wellesley is an all girl’s uni, like for example the distance from campus to the city centre is worth mentioning. The bus into Boston takes 50 minutes and only comes once every hour. This is a massive contrast to the Magic Bus that comes literally every 30 seconds. Boston is an amazing city though, and it is definitely worth making the effort to go. As well as having so many places to visit, it is home to Harvard University and also MIT, which means that there is always something interesting going on.

Colombian party at Harvard University
Colombian party at Harvard University

Trip to Eastern Canada – Top 5 places I visited

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, USA)

After completing my studies at Wellesley, I knew a break was much-needed so decided to go on a trip to Canada. I had never been to Canada before and was feeling slightly apprehensive having heard lot about the cold weather they often get. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The weather was lovely and I quickly fell in love with country and its natural beauty. During my travels, I visited Montréal, Niagara and Toronto. Here is a list of my top five places that I saw while there.

5. Mount Royal – While climbing up to the top of Mount Royal was very tiring due to the expected hot and sunny weather, the view when I got there more than made up for it! At the first stopping point, you can get a fantastic panoramic of the city of Montréal. If you continue up to the top, you are able to see the Mount Royal Cross. A cross has been positioned there since 1643, when the founder of the city vowed to place one there when praying to the Virgin Mary to stop a flood of the city. At night, the cross is lit white and can be seen across the city. It is an amazing sight.

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4. St. Lawrence Market – I love food, so when I stumbled across this food market in Toronto, I was over the moon. The range of cuisines on offer was huge and the building itself was beautiful. The National Geographic magazine named it the world’s best food market, and I’m not surprised at all. I treated myself to a cheese and ham crepe and a slice of chocolate cake, both of which were delicious.

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3. Notre-Dame Basilica – Situated in the historic district of old Montréal, this church is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. The inside was wonderfully colourful. The ceiling is a deep blue and decorated with golden stars, with the rest of the structure coloured with reds, purples, silvers and golds.The stained glass windows show scenes of religious history within Montréal and are as magnificent as the rest of the architecture. Fun fact: Celine Dion got married there in 1994!

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2. Niagara whirlpool – I am not going to say the Niagara Falls are not one of the great wonders of the world, as that is clearly the case. However, I must admit that I enjoyed exploring areas surrounding the Falls more, probably as they were not as popular, and therefore not as crowded. I was recommended by the owner of the hostel I was staying at to take a hike and go to the Niagara whirlpool. The hike was a little longer than I expected, but the sight when I got there was lovely. I don’t think I have ever felt calmer in my life!    

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1. Toronto Islands – The Toronto Islands are a small group of islands situated offshore from the city of Toronto in Lake Ontario, connected to the city by a ferry service. When I got on to the islands, I decided to hire a bike to allow me to explore the area quicker and more easily than by foot. To my surprise, the bikes didn’t have brakes and you had to peddle backwards in to order to stop. Luckily this didn’t cause any major problems! I really enjoyed my time on the islands which are home to their own community with around 300 houses, as well as daycare centres, a school and a church. The area was very peaceful and while travelling around you often found spots that gave you fantastic views of Toronto and Lake Ontario itself.

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I would really recommend travelling as much as you can while away. I found it difficult to go away at weekends while at Wellesley, due to the workload, so made up for it when I finished. After visiting Canada, I went back to the US to see more of the East Coast. I spent two weeks exploring Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York and it was one of the times in my life!

Tour of Campus

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA).

One of my favourite things about studying at Wellesley was the campus. It is truly beautiful and the polar opposite of the one in Manchester. The college is situated in Wellesley, a small town around 12 miles from Boston. As it is out of the city, it has a lot of space. The campus covers 500 acres and from an observatory to a cinema, a lake to an art museum, it has everything you could want!

So I thought I would write about some of my favourite places on campus. 

Tour of Wellesley College

 

Marathon Monday

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA).

Last week, I had one of my favourite days while being at Wellesley;Marathon Monday. This tradition occurs every year on the day of the Boston Marathon. Wellesley College is famous for its Scream Tunnel, where students line the section of the course that passes next to the college grounds to cheer on the runners. Many runners who had take part in the marathon say that running past Wellesley is the best part of the day. As Wellesley is at roughly the halfway point of the route, the cheers from the students really did seem help to boost the runner’s spirit and encourage them to continue to the end.

Wellesley Sign

Even before the marathon had officially begun, the campus was full of people. There were many different television crews as well as an official documentary team. Following the terrible events of last year, the people of Boston seemed determined to show that they could overcome the tragedy. The week before the marathon there been a memorial for those who have lost their lives due to the bombings, and the marathon itself seemed to be more a celebration of the Boston spirit.

Crowd

The first people who went past were the elite runners. They seem very focused and determined and did not really seem to pay attention to us which is totally understandable considering they were competing against each other. But then the other runners came and the excitement began. The mood was electric. Everyone was cheering and it was great!  Another Wellesley tradition is to try and get runners to kiss you as they go past. Students make signs saying “kiss me I’m <insert adjective here>”. Of course had to go for ‘kiss me I’m British’ and it worked very well! I got quite a lot of kisses as well as a few of the runners wanting to take selfies with me just because I was from the UK!

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Students at the college also made signs before the event to cheer on people they knew who were taking part in the marathon. I managed to spot one with a Union Jack on which I was very pleased to see!

UK Sign

The Boston Marathon attracts over 30,000 runners so we were shouting for a very long time! After I had cheered until I thought I’d lost my voice, my friend Melanie and I went to Munger Meadow, an area on campus that had been set up with lots of food and many activities from a Bucking Bronco to a photo booth. They also had a band playing which was lovely and really added to the fun feel of the event. Luckily, and a huge change for the majority of my time here, it was a great day weather-wise. The sun was out but it was not too hot, a relief I’m sure for those taking part.

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Marathon Monday was a truly great day. Many Wellesley students say it is their favourite tradition while at the college and I can definitely see why. I was so impressed by the determination of the people of Boston to overcome the events of last year and celebrate what is a truly great city.

 

The World of Wellesley

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA).

One thing I had noticed since coming to Wellesley is the number of events going on around the college. From soap making to concerts, culture shows to dance classes, there always seems something to do or see. I don’t know if this is because Wellesley is a campus based school, and therefore students here want to have things to do without having to travel anywhere, or if it is more due to the enthusiasm of the people here to take part in different activities. Either way, I have tried to get involved in as many as possible and have had a great time doing so.

I have been to too many events to talk about them all so I am just going to mention a couple I have been to recently that I really enjoyed. Last week, I went to a session organised by the Japanese Club on how to make your own bento box. The activity was run by Debra Samuels, a food writer and cooking instructor based in the Boston area. She spoke to us at the start of the session about how she had fallen in love with Japan and Japanese culture when she went to study there for 6 months. It was great to hear about the positive effect studying abroad had had on her, while being in a similar position. She also spoke about the key features of Japanese cooking, as well as a comparison between a typical packed lunch for an American and Japanese child. Unsurprising, size was a key difference!

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Next it was our turn. We were given our ingredients, pre-made by Debra, as well as a temporary bento box of our own and got started putting together our boxes. It was great fun and tasted even better.

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Debra also brought her collection of bento boxes. Some were very pretty, while others were just a bit odd!

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I love watching films and going to the cinema so the fact that Wellesley has its own cinema makes me very happy. The film society put on showings every Friday and Saturday night. Each week has a theme and two films are selected that fit in to that topic. However one of my favourite screenings was arranged by the Davis, the museum on campus. They are currently showing New Gravity, an exhibition by artist Tony Matell. To coincide with this exhibition, the museum arranged for Tony to pick 4 films that had influenced his work to be screened over the semester. The first one chosen was 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film I had never seen before but had always wanted to. Therefore I was very excited to be able to see it for the first time in a proper cinema. What made the experience even more interesting was that Tony spoke before the film about how it had impacted him and his work which was a fascinating insight into the life of an artist.

Another interesting event was the visit by former mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino. Menino, who stood down from his position in January after serving for 21 years, making him the longest serving mayor for the city. It was clear from the reaction by the students and professors in the room that Menino was very well respected in the Boston community. The large number of people who turned out to see him also reflected this. During the speech, Menino spoke about his time in office. He also focused on the importance of young people, particularly girls, getting involved in politics, a point that clearly went down well here.

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That’s all I have time for now. I will try and write again soon and tell you even more about my adventures across the pond!

Greetings from a cold and snowy Boston!

By Olivia Stevens (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA).

I have been in America for the past few hours now. The main thing that hit me was the cold. It is freezing here! Luckily my family had helped me prepare by buying me lots of thermal top and tights for Christmas. I do think I will need to invest in some proper snow boots soon though, as spring isn’t meant to come for another few months.

Last night was a nerve wracking experience as lots of the flights to the New England area were being cancelled due to the snowstorms there. My mum and I were frantically checking the airline website to check that my flight was not affected. Fortunately it was still going and I set off without a hitch. I was a bit nervous about flying alone as I’ve never done it before but it was fine. One unfortunate thing was that the screen in the seat in front of me was broken so I wasn’t able to watch any of the films. This meant I had to spend a large part of the journey reading the in-flight magazines. Not the most entertaining things in the world! But I did get a £30 voucher to use on the in-flight shop as compensation so it wasn’t too bad. Before the flight I was worried I may be hungry as the reputation of aeroplane food is not the greatest, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everything was very tasty. During the flight, I also spoke to the passenger sitting next to me, who was a student in Boston. He said that he loved studying there which made me even more excited to arrive.

Airport

Packing was a fun experience. I wasn’t too worried about fitting everything in my case, as it was huge, but was sure I was going to be over the 23kg weight limit and would have to pay the extra charge. When I arrived at the check in, I found I was over the maximum but nowhere near the amount I thought I would be. The man at the desk recommended that I try and move some things into my hand luggage, which I did at a struggle. I was still 0.5kg over but he took pity on me and let me get away with it. I was so relieved!

Tonight I am staying in a hostel in downtown Boston as I can’t move in to my accommodation at Wellesley till tomorrow. They have different activities on every night and tonight’s is sushi making which I am very excited to try later on. I am really looking forward to finally getting to Wellesley after months and months of stress, planning everything. I am also slightly nervous too. I felt like I was really settled in Manchester and it is going  to be hard leaving everyone I know and starting all over again. I am also curious what it will be like to have a roommate. I have never had to share a room with someone for such a long time, especially when I barely know them. Despite these worries, I’m sure I will have a fantastic time and am very keen for tomorrow to begin!