So for those of you who didn’t know, I am currently studying abroad at Montclair State University in New Jersey, USA! I have been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time and now that my first month of being here is coming to a close, I thought that I would write a short post about my experience so far and how I got here.
I can assure you, while none of it was too difficult, the paperwork took a longggg time to get finished. Whether it’s waiting for a signature on a form or a visa appointment at an embassy, you are going to need a lot of patience. But don’t worry too much, it always gets done eventually and I found that it is definitely worth the struggle. One tip that someone gave me which actually helped speed up my visa process was to try to book your visa appointment in the evening. At this time of day cancellations are put into the system, making more appointments available so you won’t have to wait 5 weeks to get a slot!
Another struggle pre-arrival was deciding what to pack. Airlines nowadays heavily restrict how much luggage you can take on a flight and you especially want to avoid those pricey extra charges! So I found that it was best to pack just the essentials for all seasons. Pack at least one warm coat and jeans, as well as shorts and light shirts, and something to wear for nice occasions. I also found it useful to bring any appliances that you might need and can fit in your luggage, such as a hairdryer, chargers, and extensions leads. This saves you from spending money on these items abroad when usually, you will be unable to bring them back with you. Finally, make sure to pack something to remind you of home. I brought a bunch of my favourite photos, as well as a knitted teddy bear that my mum made for me over the summer. This really helps if you get a little bit homesick!
Now, personally I am used to the flight into America, it’s a journey that I have made many times now. However, I was not prepared for the security process at the airport. I did not think through the fact that I would be arriving at the same time as many other exchange students going to the same place! Due to this I ended up waiting in line at border control for about 4 hours, much to the inconvenience of my friends who were waiting to pick me up outside. But once I got to the desk, the process was super fast and simple, the officer took my fingerprints, asked me some questions, and I was through with no problems.
Now for the interesting part. Studying abroad in a different country has turned out to be rather a strange experience! When you first arrive, you feel as though you are on holiday, especially with all the warm weather and sightseeing that you do. However, once starting classes you realise that you are not on holiday but still at school, even though it doesn’t really feel like it! It may take you a little while to settle in and focus on your classes because of everything else going on in your world, but you will find your way around in little to no time.
As I mentioned earlier, I am studying at Montclair State University in New Jersey. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the school before I arrived as I could only find so much information about the school online. Now that I am here, I have fallen in love with the campus and the area. I spent a lot of the beginning of my time here exploring the campus and finding the various locations and hotspots to hang out. One of my personal favourite places to hit up every day are any of the many Dunkin’ Donuts stores located across the campus (feeding my ever-growing addiction to iced coffee). But not only that, there are so many cool places on campus, such as the 24/7 Red Hawk Diner which sells great pancakes and even better milkshakes (although the machine is almost always broken), and the mesmerizing overlook of the NYC skyline hidden behind the media and communication building. The campus is bigger than anywhere I’ve experienced in England and all of the buildings are beautiful, it has become a place that I really enjoy to be.
Now, classes are classes, what can I really say. I still have to go to them every day and even though my grades for this semester technically don’t count towards my degree, I still worry about them. But for the most part I enjoy my classes here, they are interactive and interesting, especially as I was able to choose some extra curricular classes that I wouldn’t have been able to take if I stayed in England. I am currently learning American Sign Language, for example, and this is a class that I really enjoy. But one thing I would warn is that there is a lot more busy work and testing in classes here than in England. I have one class in particular that uses quizzes to take attendance, very different to the simple note-taking lectures and seminars I was used to at home.
Finally, the weekends are the best part about studying abroad. You have the time to do whatever you want, and here it is so easy to just hop a $10 bus into New York city for the day. Personally, I have spent every weekend visiting my old friends from Connecticut either in the city, at their schools, or in our old home town. I have had the best time and being at Montclair State has given me the opportunity to make new friends here as well as reconnect with my old friends and explore everything that the tri-state area has to offer. Plus, New York will never run out of things to see and places to go, the city is one of my favourite places and getting to explore it on my own or with friends is the best and most liberating feeling.
So far studying abroad has been an amazing experience and there is so much more I want to do while I’m here. I plan on writing two more posts about my stay here and everything that I get up to! Make sure to sign up for emails if you want to hear more about my journey in New Jersey!