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It’s a Balancing Act

I’m about half way through my first semester here meaning I’m about a quarter of the way through my year abroad! It feels like I have so much more to do and not enough time to do it in! Although I try to be conscious of making the effort to do new things and visit new places, I’m learning that the balance isn’t always perfect and I won’t always be able to do all of the things I want to do.

But I think my current lull in travelling and exploring is to be expected at this point in the term. I am now 8 weeks into US college life and I still have 7 weeks to go until the Christmas break (as well as another week’s holiday for Thanksgiving). For the last couple of weeks the whole university has been going through midterm exams. And although I have still managed to avoid any exams so far in my university career, the work load and essays have increased a lot recently! I’m becoming more aware of the differences between my UK university experiences and here, working for so many weeks in a semester is very different to the 10 week semesters that I’m used to at Southampton (including the 2 reading weeks I usually get)! But I’m still staying on top of my work and I am enjoying campus life here by going to small events like an improv comedy night I went to with a couple of flatmates last week.

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At the moment I miss having more opportunities to explore the redwoods or go on road trips through mountains to towns like Redding (a 3 hour drive away). But I’m already planning more trips now that midterms are over!

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In the last few weeks I’ve also been realising more clearly what I miss about home, things like being able to pop to a supermarket that is only a 10 minute walk away rather than having to walk for half an hour both ways to a shop that doesn’t sell biscuits. But these are only small problems and they are definitely to be expected when moving halfway around the world! Other than these pangs of homesickness I am really enjoying life in California and I hope that I can explore more of the US in the Thanksgiving break that is coming up next month.

On another note, when it comes to expectations and stereotypes of American culture, there is one stereotype in particular that I’m starting to realise is true, as it is beginning to look a lot like Halloween…. As soon as October arrived I started noticing small Halloween decorations in dorm windows, but now that we’re a couple of weeks into October I’ve been getting emails about the day, people have been asking what I’m dressing up as, and shops are filled to the brim with random Halloween decorations. I knew that Halloween was a big deal in the US, but like most things so far, I never really understood how big they went with it! Now I’ll just have to wait and see what the actual day is like….

Trish

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Enjoy this picture of a sunset from the top of campus:

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One thought on “It’s a Balancing Act”

  1. Wow, wow and wow! I love the pictures, the ones in your last blog and the incredible woods – but that sunset…. something else!

    It really is truly amazing how different university life and academic life can be. We often think that the US and the UK have very similar systems but as you have rightfully pointed out, there are very different expectations. We send you all away for weeks and days on end to research and read, then to read more, and read more – we give you the space and time to do this because it is the foundation of our degrees in the UK. It is often harder for students who are so used to the masses of autonomy our system allows to then have their time planned for them! I do hope you manage to find those gaps to be able to explore and travel. I’m sure you will 🙂

    I also found the US incredible in terms of distance and the fact you really can’t walk anywhere. We suddenly remember what a tiny island we are here. You’ll have a new appreciation of distance when you come home – trip in the car to Edinburgh for the weekend to someone from the US is like crossing into a different State!

    I am really enjoying reading about your new found perceptions.
    I will be looking forward to next (this) months Halloween update and to finding out what you have dressed up as!
    Best wishes
    Vanessa

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