Sororities, snow and sports: What really happens on a year abroad in America
For some reason they really like the Chainsmokers
Choosing to study abroad was a big risk. I'd always wanted to study in another country, with America being that big dream. The glitz and glamour, the opportunity to try something new and see if I can make it in the big, wide world.
The experience was surrounded by all kinds of assumptions. Will people like me? Will I make friends? Will I be able to understand every American accent?
A year abroad can honestly change your life. It's worth the risk. Going to study in the US might not always be as sweet as the movies, but parts of it definitely feel like an American dream.
It can be really hard to stay healthy
I arrived in America thinking that I'd be on a meal plan, but fast food is tempting. Everywhere you look, there's a franchise that you've been dying to try for weeks on end. You could go for that good looking salad, but for a cheaper price, you could go for a burger, fries and a shake. Admittedly, i found myself asking, "what's more of an American experience?", and that guided a lot of my decisions.
You probably won't make it round all 50 states
The US is really, really big. It's hard to know just how vast the US is until you're actually there. My town (Flagstaff, Arizona) felt tiny, but in fact, it's bigger than Manchester.
Travelling can be expensive. Be prepared to look up flights that you thought would cost $50 to find out they cost $300+. I managed to travel around Arizona, as well as New Mexico and Southern California with a 10 minute trip to Utah.
You'll discover that Americans are obsessed with sports
When you're in the UK and you see a football match on the big screens, people will get excited at the prospect of a goal, or when someone gets carded. Americans will get excited at anything in a sporting match.
People go mad over every sport, they'll wear the merch every day like it's school uniform. The quarterback scores a touchdown and the stadium goes wild. The cheerleaders come on, free pizza flies down from the ceiling – the works. Oh, and don't forget the giant stadiums that are just a part of campus life. Forget "meet me by the library", I'd be saying "meet me by the Skydome." Very American.
You'll probably come home feeling more British than ever
A weird one, really. There's a few American terms I'll now say. Winter vacation over the holidays, for example. The main one is asking how are you, rather than are you alright? Asking an American if they're alright will get a begrudging response of, "yes I'm okay, why did you assume I wasn't?"
I spent a good portion of my year saying my 't's' and then realising shop clerks couldn't understand me, so I had to drop them. Just don't get me started on the Americans calling a scone a "biscuit", now that's a word I'll never use with the American meaning.
It does actually get really cold in Arizona
Just because you're in Arizona, typically heralded as one of the hottest places in the world, does not mean you won't have cold weather. Flagstaff is in northern Arizona and is prone to snow. A lot of snow. Too much snow.
In the first weekend of second semester, we had six feet in a weekend. It snowed on my 21st birthday in March, it snowed in my finals week in May. Let's just say I'm done with snow for a long time now.
You'll always find a Brit about…even those you might not expect
The university I was at (NAU) is 7,000 feet above sea level. It attracts a lot of world-class athletes for training to practice at high altitude. My friends and I got to see Sir Mo Farah practice on the running track. I consider this to be a big part of why he won at London 2017. Yes, this may be a humble brag of my year abroad. No, I'm not sorry…
Greek sororities will amaze you
I joined a sorority. I'm a member of Omega Phi Alpha, a national service sorority. I love my sisters dearly. I can't explain it to anyone in the UK, because nobody else I know in this country is part of a sorority. I've got a twin, I've got a big, I am a little, all the works. As soon as I got to the US, I realised just how big Greek life is. It's not like the movies though and it's certainly not all fun and games.
I did a lot with my sorority, whether it be events in the community, projects or sister bonding. You have to pass tests and do hour requirements to keep your membership, but it's all worth it. My sorority was one of the best parts of my year abroad. You get to work out the good fraternities as well. All I can say is God bless the Kappa Alpha Order.
Don't catch feelings, catch flights.
I'll leave this one for you to decipher.