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Preparing to Go Home

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow. Preparing to go home is crazy. For one, it’s coming up on the end of term, so you have all the last minute work from school. You also have to make sure that you collect all your things, if you’ve lent anyone anything, or left things at a friend’s house. Along with all that, you have to check your travel arrangements, make sure you have your travel papers, and everything arranged for getting home as well.

I think the most that I changed was in what I appreciate about home. There are a lot of things that are amazing about England and that I will miss, but at the same time, there are a lot things and conveniences of home that I really missed. What I most look forward to is my CAR. I want my car soooo bad. I am so ready to be able to move independently and not have to rely on public transportation.

I think the hardest thing for me, was having to say good bye to all my new friends. I made some really good friends when I was abroad and it was hard to say good bye to them for what is going to at least be a very long time. Not only that, but I know I will miss England in a way similar to how I missed home when I first got there.

Overall, it is such an amazing place. I love the history that is around every corner. Not only is it historic, but that history and tradition is cherished and preserved. I loved England, and I think one of my new bucket list items is to go back again. After spending 4 months there, there is still so much to see.

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Home Again

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The first thing that happened when I saw my family is lots of hugs, and a few tears. Coming home wasn’t as hard for me, because my parents actually came over to England a couple weeks before I came home so we could have a family vacation. I cried when I saw my boyfriend too.

It was so very nice to be able to DRIVE. I love my car so much and I realize how much I consider it a part of my independence. My friends who didn’t go were jealous and asked me lots of questions. It was a lot like when I got to England and they all asked me questions about guns and politics. And the pictures. Oh my gosh, the demands for pictures were crazy. Everyone wanted to see the pictures from my time over there. I actually think that school over here requires more effort for me, because there are several assignments, plus tests, and reading.

England was so amazing, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a significant length of time there. I learned so much and I made some really good friends in the process. Studying abroad will definitely always remain a memorable highlight of my schooling experience. Everything that made me who I am, from being a first generation university student to my incredible family, helped me to have the courage to explore outside my comfort zone in another country. I will always be grateful to the programs and people who helped me be able to participate in such an amazing program and an amazing experience.

But it’s still really good to be home.

 

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Advice

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

Advice, such a wonderful concept, but there is always something left out, something that may be important to you but not to someone else.

Packing: pack light, I guarantee that you will see something you have to have and buy more clothes here (especially if you’re a girl who likes to shop). I brought 5 or 6 shirts with me, I have doubled that.

Shoes. Do NOT bring 50 million pairs of shoes. Bring shoes that are comfortable for walking in, because you will be doing a lot of walking. Also, make sure you have at least one pair that is water proof or you are going to have wet feet a lot. If you LIKE to hike and plan to do so here, then it’s good to bring hiking boots. I’ve barely worn mine even though they were recommended on the packing list. Hiking always seems to be optional, so the footwear is also optional.

Another one (which may or may not be weird) but if you are particular about your personal hygiene products, like deodorant, bring it. They have many things to offer here but they are NOT the same as what is available in the US.

Bring a raincoat. With a hood. Umbrellas are great, but I gave up carrying mine after the wind turned it inside out a couple times. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight. If you worry about your hair, believe me, everyone else will be just as windblown as you.

 

Shopping – be prepared to go to more than one store. They do have Asda, which is like Walmart, but with not quite as much variety. Other than that, groceries, medicine, and clothing/linens are not generally sold in the same place. Also, different stores have different varieties depending on how picky you are. However, the variety of stores are usually located geographically near each other, probable because they don’t threaten each other’s sales. Either way, shop around for the best deals and ask the locals for tips. Usually, the other college students can tell you the best places to shop for particular things for cheap.

 

Academics

I’m fairly independent to begin with, so I haven’t struggled as much as some others with the course load here. As a short-term student (only 1 semester, and Autumn term) all of my lecturers provided me with a longer or another essay for my course assessment. Be prepared to write.

Also, pace yourself. Don’t procrastinate until the last minute for your essays. The only other real homework I have received for my classes is reading and being prepared to discuss and critique the material assigned. Start the research part of your papers early or the amount of reading to find papers with usable material is evil. And if you do leave it, you have no one to blame but yourself for the workload. That research reading is what everyone else means when they tell you that you’re expected to research and read on your own.

Classes: whatever you do, do NOT miss seminars. Not all of your classes will take attendance and sometimes you want to go to lecture when you’re sick. But no matter how bad you feel, it isn’t worth missing seminar. Seminar is where you get to APPLY what you’re learning. The seminars are usually much smaller and allow you to interact more with the material.

 

I think the most important bit of advice, especially for those of you who are close to your family and friends, is to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You get to study in another country. Stay in touch with your family and talk to them as much as you need to keep homesickness as bay, but also immerse yourself. Canterbury, England in general, has so much to offer and explore. Take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given. Do your schoolwork, but explore when you can. You never know what friends you’ll make and what amazing places you’ll see until you try.

Like visiting the White Cliffs of Dover with the friends I made here…

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Goals

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

One thing I think everyone who studies abroad shares is goals, from personal to professional. Mine were a bit of both, if I’m honest. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this, that I could leave my family, my friends, my country, my whole life behind and study somewhere else. Considering that I’m doing that, here, now, and well over half way done, I think I’ve at least accomplished that goal.

But my personal ability to not only survive, but thrive in an unfamiliar environment wasn’t what originally drove me to seek out study abroad. I wanted to build my resume. I wanted to add my exposure to another culture, another political climate, and another society to my list of assets. Coming here has allowed me to see how the students of one of our allied nations see things. How they look at psychology and criminal justice and how they look at the interplay between the two. I have gained a perspective from my exposure that, while being unique to me, also includes what I have been exposed to. I hope that I can draw on both my experience and my ability to succeed here in the future, in the course of my duties.

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Family and Friends

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Back home, my family and friends still have each other and life goes on as usual. The only difference for them is that I’m a long way from home. My parents, boyfriend, gran, and one of my aunts have taken it the hardest. I text my parents through an app and Skype, message my boyfriend through another app, and keep my gran and aunt updated with frequent pictures and posts on Facebook. I miss them all terribly. I text my parents every day or two and message with my boyfriend daily. I also have a weekly appointment to talk with my parents on Skype, and we usually talk for an hour or two, just talking and spending time with each other. At first it was really hard, seeing them made me really sad and homesick the first few weeks, but as I settled in here and made friends and started having a life here at school, it got easier to talk with them back home. I still miss them all terribly, but having ties here makes being away from them easier.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the homesickness. Most days it isn’t too bad, but sometimes it just suddenly hits really hard. One of the things I’ve found that helps is staying busy. I’m in 3 societies (clubs), I read a lot, and I hang out with my housemates. The more involved you are in life on campus, the easier it is to fend off being so homesick. When I do get really homesick, though, I talk to someone from home. Either by messaging them and sending pictures back and forth or Skyping. Just knowing that someone from home is paying attention to you and getting that reminder that they’re ok and you are too helps. Another thing that helps is to remember that the feeling will pass and in a few months you’ll be back home with everyone and everything you love.

 

Some helpful apps: What’s app (both parties have to have the app, uses data on both sides to text/message), GroupMe (you can text people, the app uses data and assigns you a random number from the same area as whoever you’re texting so you need to identify yourself the first time. If both people have the app it works better), Skype (video chats and messaging), Facebook Messenger. All of these apps are free and there are many more out there.

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Other Students Studying Abroad

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

There is such variety in the people who study abroad. You have students who are abroad for an entire program/degree, for a year, for a term, or for a few weeks. I’ve met people here of all but the last. And, just like at home, there are a wide variety of incomes included as well. Almost all of my housemates are, like me, on a rather tight budget. It’s like any other university back home, most of us are accustomed to living on the rather tight budget of a student, with a few thrown in who don’t really have to worry about that.

But, despite budgets, everyone finds room to fund going out. Below is a picture of my housemates, a couple friends, and myself before we went out for a Caving Society (club) social, which was essentially a roving party through town. A lot of the societies (clubs) throw themed socials where everyone in the society and their friends can get together and just hang out and have fun. Most of the pubs have a really causal atmosphere and reasonably priced food and drinks, perfect for students.

And we made most of the costumes from over sized t-shirts, towels, sheets, and finger paint – classic budget costumes and lots of fun to make together.

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New School System

Time October 1st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I’m most of the way through my first week of classes now, I’ve attended lectures for 3 out of 4. It’s very different here, there is a lot less class time with mainly weekly reading and a single larger paper due at the end of term. It’s actually a lot lighter work load than I’m accustomed to in the US. It’s also a lot more self-motivated study, your lecturer will guide you to some extent, but you’re expected to direct your own studies and be prepared for the seminar portion of the class where you interact with smaller groups of students to converse more in depth about topics.

It’s also a lot different for me because I’m a short-term student. Normally, they give you a review session at the end of Spring term because they do all their examinations at the end of spring term to the beginning of summer term. As a short-term student, I’m only here for a semester, so instead of taking the exam for the classes, I just have longer or multiple essays for the class. It’s a little scary knowing that my grade is only based off of one or two assignments, but at the same time, that lower number allows me to focus more on preparing really well constructed papers.

Another major difference is textbooks. In the US, I always struggled to find the funds to pay for my textbooks at the beginning of term, and because so many assignments and information on tests came from those textbooks, you have to buy them. Well, over here, I only have to buy one textbook, and it’s only a little of $50, rather than the $100-$200 I normally pay for my textbooks back home.


 

Last week was a welcome week hosted by the school. One of the free events they offered for the new international students was a trip to Leeds Castle – and it was a real castle, not just a title. It’s really amazing that the school is as active in involving international students as IFSA-Butler is.

 

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Pre-Departure

Time September 9th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Getting ready for such an incredible adventure is difficult. There’s the planning: what to pack and what should be left behind, making sure all the electronics you want to take are compatible with the UK power system – plus making sure you have plug-in adapters and voltage converters for the electronics that aren’t compatible. There is also all the paperwork and pre-departure literature to go over, making sure that everything is turned in to your home university, to IFSA-Butler, and to your host university, and attending any necessary meetings with your advisers and coordinators.

It’s hectic, but exhilarating. All the preparations remind you daily that you’re getting ready to start this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. With those constant reminders, you also start to feel the impending separation from your family and friends.

My home university of Saint Martin’s in Washington is an hour drive away from my parents and less than that for most of my friends and many other members of my family. I see my parents almost every weekend, and knowing that I’m not going to see them in person for the next 3 months is a little daunting. There are ways to compensate though. My parents and I have set up Skype accounts on our computers and, once I get a feeling for my schedule in England, we’re going to set up a time to talk frequently with video chat. I’ve also gotten a texting app that will allow me to still text my family and friends regularly.

With all the news stories and movies (like Taken with Liam Neeson), my parents were apprehensive about me going overseas without someone to look after me. The materials that IFSA-Butler sent us helped tremendously to allay their fears. Knowing that there are lots of staff that check up on us regularly, both academically and physically, made them feel much more comfortable with my traveling.

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