It’s an American thing!

I write this on the first day of ‘Parents Weekend’, having just walked into a library packed full of students’ parents! For one weekend only, parents are welcomed by their children onto campus and can take part in classes, visit the libraries and dorms, attend this weekend’s BC football game (tailgating as usual, but on a larger scale with other parents) and see how their child is getting on at the $$$$$$ a year institution the parentals and bank loans are financing !

I can’t see British students welcoming their parents into campus 4 weeks into term any time soon…

It’s an American thing..!

Since I last wrote, I have fully ridden the wave and landed into a swirling whirlpool of Boston College life; I would say ‘university life’ but BC is just more intense, more campus orientated, more busy… I’ve actually found a way to be busier in America than I was in the UK!

But I’m really enjoying it! I can’t believe it’s over 2 weeks since I last wrote- the time has just flown by. Two weekends ago I visited New York with the incredible Antara, and we gave a speech about ‘Bristol student life’ to American alumni (the reference to the Cori Tap cider got the largest laugh!) and enjoyed sharing stories of our student experience so far at BC…

Well, two weeks later and I now feel like I am truly a part of the BC community-despite the fact I will not be taking part in ‘Parents Weekend’! Instead I’m doing the classic New Englander trip apple picking, which I’m incredibly excited about!

Another experience I want to briefly share with you is going to the ‘restroom’. For some reason, all toilet doors have gaps in them between the door and frame. When washing your hands in the sink, you can see in the mirror the outline of the person on the toilet! At first I thought it was just that toilet, or that room of cubicles, or a BC thing; no, now I’ve realised it’s just an American thing!

The main difference in my routine since writing last is my on-campus job at Hillside; one of the on-campus dining halls. I’m absolutely loving working there! Discovering all the language differences in the heat of the kitchen is fun: my question asking about the whereabouts of ‘butter’ was repeated three times until I realised the difference and asked for ‘bu(tt)er’! I have conceded defeat overy the “toma(y)to”/ “tomato” debate, because it causes a lot of confusion and not worth the hassle when the queue is building up! I also worked out the hard way that ‘How are you doing?’ isn’t actually a question asking about my wellbeing or life story that day, but simply a greeting, another version of ‘Hey’. The first few times I tried to answer the question and open up a conversation (in less busy queue times) by responding ‘Oh I’m good thank, how are you doing?’ was met with a confused stare, a shake of the head and a bemused ‘oh, I’m ok…’.

I’m learning..! It’s an American thing!

Most fun shift the other day was with two ladies from the Dominican Republic working on online orders, opening up the hatch window to pass food through the hatch to the smart BC students skipping the queue and opting for the ‘Ready for pick-up’ option, probably to take to library to do their 5 assignments for the week. Those who smile through the hatch when giving us their name and order would gain a nod of approval once the hatch is closed, as we searched for their order behind the scenes! I really enjoy opening the door to find out who’s on the other side- like a fun game of ‘keeping house’ that you used to play in nursery!

I also made a bit of a fool of myself when I tried to show plenty of initiative by taking the forks, knives and napkins I’d been given to load up the stations ‘out front’, assuming my job would be to replenish a supply running low. Just as I opened up the dispensing machine for plastic forks (I KNOW, I’m working on it…EcoPledge here I come!), my fellow co-worker came running round and beckoning for me to come back into the kitchen, laughing away at my mistake! Instead my task was to wrap up all the plastic forks and knives (hurts me too..) into napkins for the online orders! I had just taken what she had given me and while she was still climbing the ladder, disappeared round the corner; she had just had a little game of hide and seek around the kitchen until she discovered me doing the wrong job!

I am also now Starbucks trained (don’t ask how much syrup goes in a Peppermint Mocha..!) and will be getting a shift in the bakery some point soon, as my boss discovered I enjoyed baking and said he could get me the opportunity to work there! I also made him some scones, after telling him all about the Devon-Cornwall rivalry when he asked about Devon (I’m spreading the scones love, literally- with cream first!) However, I am yet to find clotted cream- any tips, let me know! My boss is the loveliest man though, and is someone making me feel fully at home here.

I have been so busy I only saw my homestay mom this morning after a week of only hearing each other in separate rooms! Have seen the animals more; Pearl is fully recovered from her op and wearing a cone on her head, and is instead continuing to cause mayhem -although I’ve learnt to keep my sandwiches well away from the edge of the table now- and the cats are creepy as ever (I’m really not a cat fan!).

Had a weird sleepless night couple of nights back; firstly woke up sneezing because the rain had released a lot of pollen and I was suffering the effects, second time woke up because the cat was trying to get into my room, weirdly stretching its paw through the gap underneath and rattling against the door, and third time was Pearl collapsing (collapsing is the right word!) down the stairs: bless her, 6 month old puppies do not have control of their limbs…

Anyway, I think that’s an update of what I’ve been up to; basically a lot but enjoyable and fully getting involved. But don’t worry, I am a Bristol girl at heart, and I wear DUNGAREES!

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Riding the Wave

This week has been quite a long one…it’s been a week of two halves. And it has been all about riding the wave…(*spoiler alert* I don’t mean that I’ve been surfing; I’m not THAT Devon, yet…)

Tonight is the first night in over a week that I’ve been home before 9pm; it’s been pretty darn busy this week!

Began with Labor Day which was labour day, and that’s not supposed to be the purpose of the day- in fact it’s supposed to be an opposite, like a Bank Holiday -but after a weekend of auditions (can’t believe that was only a week ago!) I had so much work to do that when we reached Monday, I was unable to choose to do anything else. It was also sooooo hot that the only other activity I undertook was 5 cold showers in one day (when I say it was hot, I’m talking that sticky sweaty heat that makes you have to peel your bottom off the chair…) and managing to leave a biro in the washing machine and getting lovely black ink blotches over my first clothes wash..(yay me!)

Because it may only be second week of ‘school’ here but that didn’t stop one of my professors giving me a book to read and a 5 page assignment in for the second class of semester. That’s before you start on all the other readings for my other 4 classes.

So work stress certainly didn’t help my overall outlook, and I found myself feeling rather low the first half of the week. But I knew it was a wave that just needed to be ridden…

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The classic Bristol breakfast of avocado and poached egg on toast for a taste of familiarity!

Because it’s only natural that the excitement starts to wear off a little. I knew couldn’t keep going on the absolute euphoria that I’d been experiencing over the last two weeks.

So I found myself experiencing the ‘lonely in a crowd’ syndrome, wondering whether anyone really likes me enough to be close friends, feeling isolated in my homestay and in over 90 degrees heat, unable to sleep leading to the vicious cycle of feeling anxious about not getting enough sleep while knowing how much work I had to do the next day and that I needed to be sleeping, making me more unable to sleep…! It’s amazing the tricks the mind can play, and my mind loves playing those mind tricks of convincing me I am alone and that I think that I think I have more friends than I do…woah those layers; it’s like my own little Inception film…

But hold on a minute! I’ve only been here 2 and a half weeks. It took me at least 2 months to settle into university in first year, and another 2 months to feel really comfortable around my now closest friends. And it took me 2 years of being at Bristol to find all the amazing people I have to rely on in Bristol, those mates I could always message ‘you around for a chat?’ to, and those incredible gems of human beings who sent me off with a little Good Luck book filled with the most wonderful messages I read over this week to remind me of who I am (thank you to everyone who contributed!)

So CHILL OUT ABBIE! (And get your head down, get your essay in and then you can get sociable again without that library guilt…!)

And that’s what I did. Got my assignment in, actually really enjoyed the book I had to read for the essay all about expression of Italian Catholicism in Harlem New York, and after class went for dinner with a classmate I hadn’t spoken to outside of class before. And from there onwards, I’ve had the most wonderful weekend, meeting more lovely people and getting closer to those I know already.

And I absolutely love being a part of an international community. We had a little party of our own after the football game (I’m talking American football!), sharing different dance cultures and catching up after the first two weeks- and it was genuinely such a highlight of my time here so far.

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Wednesday evening we had a ‘Taste of Off-Campus’ event which was also a real pick-up mid-week before I went to the library to start and finish my assignment, although when my bag full of all the freebies, information sheets, an off-campus t-shirt and cupcakes that I’d lovingly saved to be eaten later in the library were swept away into a rubbish bag (and by rubbish I mean garbage because don’t get me started on recycling here..), I honestly almost burst into tears then and there…just about held it together!

Thursday evening I found a wonderful small group community and was lovely just to hone in on what’s important in life and why I’m here, and to be reminded that I’m never alone. And another opportunity to meet some more wonderful people I can get to know over the year here in Boston.

Friday was a ‘Night at the Museum’ evening at MacMullen museum which is part of Boston College or has a link to BC. A really powerful exhibition featuring works by Carrie Mae Weems commenting on racial injustice of America. AND wow, I knew the situation was shocking but it really hit home how much basic human rights are being institutionally and fundamentally ignored..and that makes me so incredibly angry and I need to find a way to channel this anger and DO SOMETHING. And today (Sunday) I watched a play called ‘The Niceties’ at the Huntingdon Theatre, one of the most naturalistic plays I’ve ever seen, an incredible script and acting that stirred up so much feeling and emotion in the pit of my stomach when watching it. (Look it up but I’m going to write a full blog account about what I’m learning in American regarding structural violence)

Saturday was ‘Game Day’ which is when the ‘pre-game’ (the standard word for ‘pres’ here) begins in the morning before the match starts at 1. So after a party the night before and a DMC* lasting till 4 in the morning, I found myself back at a party at 11am before the football game. Everyone tailgates outside, which is when people host BBQs and lots of parents come and set up their grills in the parking lot at BC. It creates a great atmosphere and on our way to the Stadium, we were offered some free food from a rival tailgate from Holy Cross, not that BC rivalries are all that important when you’re being offered free food…

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I loved the game itself! Carmina Burana is often played by the band, at which point BC do a unified swipe-clap (don’t really know how to explain it!) extending the arms out above the head to cheer the team on. There’s 54 players in an American football team, and I did not mind right behind them all on the front row of the stands! The shoulder pads fashion statement is quite a look..! I can’t say I’m fully versed on the rules of the game, but I stayed beyond half time, which is more than most students do. Although this game was an exhibition for BC, who thrashed Holy Cross 52-14. I wore my free BC t-shirt I picked up at Activities Fair last Friday with pride!

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After the game we went and got food at Cleveland Circle, passing the pub I can no longer go into, and then hopped around different student houses, all extremely big and grand and built for frat parties, before I bumped into an international student at the bus stop when walking home and ended up going to the other party 2 hrs early; which was where we had the Latin dance party!

Soo….busy week!

Why did I want to write so honestly here, and give a very basic rundown of the last week?

a) when people ask what I’ve been up to, I’ve realised I haven’t actually given that much info on what I’ve actually been doing, so here’s an overshare!

b) I want to reassure all those whose minds also like trick them into thinking they’re isolated to remember that the mind is a trickster and by telling people you feel isolated, you realise you’re not isolated at all, because you have people to tell…

c) a year abroad is going to be full of waves; we have a lot to think about! I’ll be sitting writing a blog and suddenly realise my bank transfer hasn’t gone through yet and I need to pay my medical insurance (!!!) which has me grappling for my to-do list (you know how I love lists..!) and writing the 12th item under the ‘Important Tasks’ header. But it’s learning how to ride those waves and share those stresses, accept the culture shock and find a way to enjoy the journey and the learning processes, that will make the year so much more rewarding

d) I am now 3 weeks in and that’s another milestone!

 

*DMC= direct meaningful conversation for my older/American/Chair of a certain Network readers ;’)

Expectations and Reality

With Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack playing in my head, and an image of myself as the carefree traveller, as beautiful as Lily James and as determined as Donna, I stepped off the plane, planting my feet in US soil for the very first time…

(Well -onto the carpeted aircraft tunnel surrounded by sterile airport white walls, but work with me here..!)

And I was so incredibly excited, and indeed still am! The newness of being in America has not worn off yet, and I’m still getting used to the singing of the cicadas at night, the intense New England climate (reaching 90 degrees this week), a few choice insects, drivers on the right-hand side of the road, the lack of streetlights and the differences in language I didn’t anticipate…all aspects of living in a new country that I’m finding so exciting!

Once I’d finally stepped out of the confines of the airport, having successfully located my luggage from the conveyor belts, I walked out into the Boston sunshine to meet my lovely housestay mom, who was starting to get rather concerned about where I was. She greeted me with a warm hug and a lot of relief, and her 6 month old Burmapoodle ‘Pearl’ greeted me with the boundless enthusiasm of a typical puppy, albeit as an oversized one of the Burmese mountain dog variety. We managed to squeeze my three bags into the car, I walked round to the drivers’ seat before realising my mistake, then proceeded to circle the car to the amusement of Sandra* as if inspecting my new carriage and safely climbed into the passenger’s’ seat, holding Pearl’s lead to prevent her from jumping out.

Bearing in mind I hadn’t slept more than 2 hrs in around 48hrs, I just about managed to hold a conversation as we drove round Boston, sweating under my multiple layers of clothing, still wearing my bum bag (aka “fanny pack”) in the car seat. We waved at a few neighbours as we passed them, me being introduced as the ‘guest from England’!

When we pulled up outside my new American home, I couldn’t believe my luck. It is the most beautiful house, with terraces all around the building, lots of greenery and a wild garden, and artwork painted by my American mom on the front deck. Inside, the dream just materialised as stepping inside into a cacophony of beautiful vibrant bright colours and patterns and original artwork and homely  photos everywhere..Mamma Mia couldn’t help but spring to mind!

Once I was introduced to the penultimate family members (the two cats), I was shown my room which is probably the most beautiful room I’ve owned, artwork and decorations around on the walls, floor and lampshades! I also found my ‘Welcome Abbie’ pack which contained a Boston magazine, a Red Sox t-shirt and ‘Boston Baked Beans’ (peanuts covered in a red sugar casing!).

There have been a few low points, from being in Bank of America for 3 hrs having not had dinner and feeling extremely jet lagged, to uploading medical forms onto the bc website and feeling as if I was completing an intense IQ test trying to work out what vaccinations I have and haven’t had! There was also the moment I realised I’d paid $2.56 for 3 apples at Star Market, and the time I stayed up for an hour waiting for the two damn cats to leave my room before I could go to bed, having realised I am a little allergic to them (problematic as they like me much more than I like them..!)

But when people ask ‘How’s it going?’, I can’t help but say that at the moment, things are A OK! I might have a 5 page assessment due for this Thursday, but I have also made some wonderful friends within the BC community and feel positive about meeting more as we go further into term.

The most challenging experience so far: doing an american accent in front of a room of Americans at a callback for Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. I must confess, that offended both my Sense and Sensibility..

 

*names have been changed (ooooohhhh!)

Come Fly With Me: Observations on a long haul aircraft

I got here! In the USA for the first time. Having not done a long haul flight since I was 10, I’d completely forgotten what it’s like. And some of the seemingly standard rituals of my fellow passengers did make me chuckle in my jet-lagged, ‘1hr of sleep in the last 36hrs’ state:

  1. The rush onto the aircraft is not for fear of not getting a seat (although you do hear horror stories of airlines overbooking) but rather driven by the fear of your cabin bag not getting a space in the overhead locker nearest you. This fear is only compounded by the fear that you could be told that your ‘cabin sized luggage’ you bought for the purpose of being ‘cabin-sized’, does not in fact meet the requirements of this particular air company, and is in fact within the 2.222% of airlines (unspecified on the packaging label) that the luggage company could not guarantee would accept your bag.
  2. The determination on the faces of those who somehow managed to pass through the boarding line without being asked to shamefully cram their blatantly too-big item of hand luggage into the ‘box of truth’ standing by the boarding gate, to squeeze their cabin luggage into the overhead locker while everyone else is trying to board the aircraft.airport check
  3. The dangerous overhead locker user (a.k.a. me) who swings their bag into the cabin space, almost knocking out the person in the closest proximity to them in the process. They are also the most forgetful traveller and obviously need to access their bag at least 3 times during the flight to pull out a pen, a book, a diary, a warmer jumper, and to return all said items before disembarking…each time the process only looks more dangerous…(sorry fellow passengers)
  4. There are only 2 types of travellers: those who listen to the safety features, and those who don’t.
  5. The bull-headishness of the travellers who do whatever they want on the flight, to the frustration of the attendants asking them multiple times to wear a seatbelt, put their window blind up, take off their headphones, put their seat into the upright position, put armrests down etc.flight map
  6. The pressure of knowing that whatever you choose to watch on your personal screen during the flight will be scrutinised by all those sitting behind you. You will be judged for your choice, just as you’re judging the older woman in front of you whose film contains many R-rated scenes…aircraft food
  7. The novelty of airport food, which always appears just at the right time when you’re starting to think about perhaps sleeping. The flight attendant comes down the aisle, handing out boxes of nutrition with unrivalled efficiency, asking only “beef or chicken” to which I replied with the only other option “vegetarian”. Once the tray of food is received, (consisting on Aer Lingus flights* of a little pasta salad pot, a lump of the dryest bread you will have ever tasted, butter, your main course, a chocolate mousse pot and a little plastic cup of water) it is like you’ve never eaten before. Movies are instantly paused (some mid scene of nudity-thank you for that lady in front of me) and you commence on consuming every morsel put on the tray. You look around you for clues on where to start and what order this tray should be approached, but there is none. Where to start?! There is only one rule; don’t drop anything.

*other flights are available

BONUS SCENES (for some special Abbie humour)**:

Observation from VISA queue

No-one understands Liberal Arts really. Fun conversation with US border control at Dublin Airport:

Official: What are you studying?

Me: (quaking at the thought of this being the end of my journey, beads of sweat running down my forehead as I try to speak through my mouth that’s suddenly completely dry) Liberal Arts

Official: How long are you studying for?

Me: (wide eyed with concern at being asked ANOTHER question as if I wasn’t considered acceptable after only the first questions) A year, as part of my year study abroad.

Official: Can I see your forms please?

Me: (trying to keep the internal panic hidden) Sure

I dive down into my suitcase to unpack my small cabin bag for the 25th time since 5am this morning, shoving the pants and socks to one side to reveal my important document folder. I pull it out, straining to remove it from underneath the rest of my underwear and laptop, and appear at the desk again, flourishing the folder triumphantly in haste, panting from the physical strain and stress.

Official: It says here you’re studying History and your VISA is only till 20 December.

Me: (feeling faint) Oh… (struggling to find the words and starting to babble) Well that’s because I take History as a major within my course, which means I take History at a Liberal Arts College so according to Boston I do History whereas at Bristol University- which is my home university where I am doing a year abroad from -I study Liberal Arts with History because I do History but study other subjects too to make it a Liberal Arts degree, if that makes sense..(inhales a deep breath to replenish the air lost)

Official: (wearily).. And why does your VISA say a term when you say you’re here for a year?

Me: (getting increasingly more stressed, sweat dripping from the forehead, feeling as if I’m under interrogation) That’s how Boston College sent it. I have to reapply while I’m studying to be able to extend to a year, even though I have every intention of completing a year exchange.

Official: (looking even more confused) Why did they send it like that then?

Me: (losing breath and feeling my temperature rising, in a tone of admittance) I don’t even know…

Official: (looking fully fed up by this conversation) Well have a good year. Have fun! (stamps the passport)

Me: (utterly relieved, in a determined way) Oh I will!

Skips out of the immigration section of the airport with my suitcase half open, underwear spilling out and my confusing papers clutched triumphantly in my hand.

**I didn’t say it was good…just ‘special’..but no puns included. All of the above is fact only, no exaggeration included, and these extra points aren’t at all an opportunity for sarcasm…at all.

A little travel tip:

Don’t ask Dublin Airport to make you a bowl of porridge.

They were clearly not expecting anyone to actually be mad enough to ask for porridge when there’s a big fry up on display and a ‘make your own breakfast’ offer. The kitchen went into a state of mass panic and 5 different cooks and servers reassured me it was coming throughout my 10 minute wait, saying ‘10 mins’, 5’mins’ and my personal favourite, a very worried looking ‘2mins and 5 seconds’ to which I responded “ah well by now it’s only 2 minutes!”

I managed to confuse everyone moving round the airport buffet by standing stationary at the conveyor belt system. I was joined in my wait by another human being mad enough to want porridge, who joked that all the microwaves were clearly on full power.

However, it was worth it! The porridge was delicious but even better was the beaming smile on the face of the “2 minute 5 seconds” lady, who this time emerged from the kitchen grinning from ear to ear as she emerged from the exhausted and stressed out kitchen (I think I saw someone actually mop their brow behind her) presenting the freshly cooked Irish oats porridge.

my life in 3 bags
My life packed up in 3 bags

Taking the plunge

Have you ever done something you thought you’d never be able to do? Dared to push yourself just that little bit further out of your comfort zone, trusting the laws of nature, yourself or those around you that it will all be ok? Taken that leap of faith and surrendered to the feeling of losing some control, feeling like you’re going further *in a booming voice* ‘than man has ever gone before’?

I’ve always been someone who’s delighted in pushing myself out of my comfort zones. Daring myself to be that little bit bolder and little bit more spontaneous is something I thrive off, getting a buzz out of being a bit different and extending trust of myself and others that little bit more.

last holiday jumpThe base-jumping scene from
my favourite film 'Last Holiday'
Queen Latifah plays Georgia who is 
determined to live every moment and seize
all the possibilities life offers

Worth a watch!

However, I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I don’t go on big rides at fairgrounds (although I have been on ‘The Big One’ in Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the aforementioned reasons of extending comfort zones rather than pleasure) and I was always the child on school-organised adventure days to back away from doing the final challenge because the previous tasks had already pushed me as far out of my comfort zone as I could go, and I was quite happy to call it a win there.

Recently, for my end of second decade birthday celebrations, I went coasteering! Scrambling over rocks is something I’ve spent childhood beach holidays doing, against all more recent safety advice to stay away from cliff faces (*wistfully* it was a different era..). I rediscovered some of that reckless abandon, albeit appropriately kitted out this time with a ‘flotation device’ on (it’s a lifejacket, call it a lifejacket!) and a full body wetsuit, complete with a warning against bumshuffling (another technical term). Jumping off rocks into pools of water is safety advice I have previously obeyed. This time, under the instructions of the group leaders, jumping was the name of the game!

But standing on the edge of the largest rock and highest jump of the session, there was a moment when I genuinely thought I wouldn’t be able to jump. Looking down I realised just how far up we’d climbed and just how far I had to fall, and I didn’t know if I could trust the group leader that, for me, it would be ok. Even though half the group had jumped and were all swimming around at the bottom in the cove of water, I knew it could be different for me.

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It’s the individual who makes the decision to take that leap (or in this case a step) of faith.

2 days away from my flight, I realise that my feelings on top of that rock before jumping are not all dissimilar to how I’m feeling about my year abroad. I have that real excitement, the satisfaction that I’ve come so far and achieved a lot to get to where I am now: with everything prepared and ready for me to go and discover the life awaiting me in Boston. I have the most amazing support crew willing me on and encouraging me to go and ‘have the best time’. But it comes down to me to make the final step, take the leap of faith and take the plunge.

It is nerve-wracking. In a way, I think that until I am on that coach waving goodbye to my mum, sister and gran in Devon tomorrow, it won’t truly hit me that actually, this is quite a step, exploring another boundary of those comfort zones.

And it’s ok to feel that fear. I think it would be strange if I didn’t, because it is a new country, new culture, new university… The fear that the journey could go wrong, the fear that I might not be able to find my housestay ‘mom’ at the other end, the fear that America just won’t suit me and I will feel lost and alone…fears all swirling round my stomach, churning in waves…

But remembering how far I’ve come to get to the place where this is my decision reassures me it’s the right step. I have survived a freshers week at university before, coming to a completely new place fresh out of school at 18. I have started conversations randomly that have led to friendships. I have travelled on my own before, and survived 32 hour coach journeys (thank you music tour..!) So actually, I can do this.

Things probably will go wrong- it would be strange if they didn’t. But they are all solvable by finding the people who will be able to help me solve them. There’s no shame in asking for help and going out to find the support that will keep me safe is hugely important.

Taking the plunge, a leap of faith, a step forward- it comes down to you. Knowing the time is right for you, knowing you’re ready- it’s your call.

The decision is yours; take courage in that.

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P.S. In the interests of ensuring that this blog isn’t adding to the idealistic views usually portrayed by media, although I loved coasteering, I did scream (loudly) on that jump, I think my bottom hit the sea floor a little, and I now have bruises all over my body. Where’s the Arnica?!

To all those also looking at taking new steps out of their comfort zones, whether by coming to university for the first time or starting a new job, returning to a place of study or work after summer or a year or more, renting a property for the first time, fellow travellers getting on planes, or whatever your own personal, individual leaps of faith may be, I wish you the very best of luck!

Take courage in knowing you’re being brave and that in overcoming your personal obstacles, you are adding another acre to your boundaries of life by pushing past yet another comfort zone.

And if today isn’t the day, that’s ok too. Sometimes it’s braver to make the call that something is a step too far. Trust your instincts.

The Final Countdown!

As I leaf over the SU’s charity calendar onto the aesthetic buttocks of the university’s Pool and Snooker Club, the poster boys of August, it hits me that in less than 3 weeks I will be on a plane to the USA for my year study abroad at Boston College!

I am a Liberal Arts Student, one of the rare breeds of Bristol students taking the degree we will spend the rest of our lives explaining. Within the broad spectrum of the course lies the opportunity to take a year study abroad, encompassing the themes of interdisciplinary study and self-discovery that our course prides itself on.

The last few weeks have been fraught with planning; I have numerous lists in every notebook I own (lists that so far I am unable to reach the end of), countless emails in my inbox from ‘hotpads’ frantically informing me of ’10 new releases’ every day (pity few are affordable), and photocopies of every form and letter required by banks, Boston offices, Bristol offices, landlords and realtors. If the Global Opportunities Team could provide all those undertaking a year abroad with an extra qualification in paperwork and administration, I think it would be well deserved.

As a recent migrant to the North Devon coastline, jumping onto my bike to cycle to the nearest town to speak to the bank, or travel company, or post office has provided variety in my days of frantic organisation, giving me the option to speak to human beings face to face, rather than constantly send emails to strangers back and wait anxiously for their response!

Indeed, conversations with my newfound community have made me realise just how small and simple this world can be (particularly perhaps in Devon where everyone knows everyone!) when we remember to communicate. Many people are happy to share their links with the US of A, offering travel tips or words of encouragement; a conversation in a yoga class led to an offer of a free suitcase and a chat with someone at church provided me with another contact in Boston if I ever became stuck and the offer of an airport pick-up.

Just before July was out I confirmed the chosen roof over my head, and with less than 3 weeks till my arrival in America, a country I have never visited before and have no previous connection with (my closest relatives residing in Canada) this couldn’t be more of a relief! But it all came about rather randomly following weeks of searching in the rental sector, after receiving an email from Boston College housing support office to check up on how I was getting along (previous emails crying out for advice and help probably helped them to acknowledge my existence among the hundreds of other international students!)

The email contained links to a few other options (consider it like a treasure hunt- I did!), one of which was a homestay service. I clicked the link, intrigued by an option I hadn’t previously considered. I immediately sent an email to the homestay company, asking if they had any options around the College. The company owner ‘Moo’* came back within 10 minutes to suggest 1 homestay a half hour journey away from campus and within 2 hours I was emailing a native New Englander mother about both our dogs, a mutual love of Shakespeare and Martha’s Vineyard.

The last few weeks glued to my laptop and phone, waiting for updates every afternoon as Boston wakes up (-5hrs time difference) has proved increasingly stressful. Perhaps unnecessarily so in many ways as many international students arrive in Boston and get it sorted once there. But despite my dreams of being the carefree ‘happy-go-lucky’, ‘take your chances when you get there’ type of student travelling to foreign lands, I am instinctively a planner and needed the reassurance of having it sorted before I arrive. (Although perhaps that’s what this year abroad will be all about; discovering a part of me that trusts it will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not yet ok, it is not yet the end!**)

So now, with housing sorted, my VISA awaiting my collection and my flights booked, there is certainly an ‘onwards and upwards’ journey across the Atlantic that I simply must undertake.

As we enter August, I am determined to make the most of my time left in Britain to get used to the fact that people a) are interested in the fact that I’m going to America for a year b) want to help and are happy to handover unused suitcases sitting in an attic and c) know many other people who might just live in America and be potential free accommodation offers for when I become that free spirited traveller! I may be going 5100km away, but the world only seems smaller…

 

*no names were changed in the writing of this blog

**copyright belongs to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, perhaps future travel partners…