Siobhan Mooney – Film & Media – Level 3
Southern Connecticut State University, USA
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to go to America. In my third year of studying Film I applied for a semester abroad. I had decided I was going to do this for a while and had been saving up for over a year and luckily found out about the Santander fund which offered up to £1500 to students thinking of going abroad. I wrote an essay explaining why I felt I needed the funding and fortunately got a reply very quickly stating that I was eligible. Suddenly I wasn’t just hoping to go to America, now I was certain.
The money from Santander covered my flights and 1 months rent in my accommodation. Then in January 2020 I made my way to New Haven Connecticut and studied for a semester in Southern Connecticut State University.
My trip unfortunately got cut short due to Covid, but I did have a great time while I was there.
Making friends was really easy as the day after I arrived we had our introduction day where nobody knew anyone and we were all as shy and new as each other, however being on the same boat helped us talk to each other. We spent the day learning about the university and city together then when the day was over we all met in one of the dorms and our friend group was set for the rest of the stay. These were also some of the best friends I ever made. We came from all over the world and learned a lot from each other about our cultures and how to speak small parts of their languages. Having such a diverse group of friends we were always interested in each other and conversation starters were impossible to run out of.
A Few days later we started our classes and began to integrate with the American students. From my experience the students there were really interested in learning about what it’s like being in Scotland, a lot were excited and some already knew a lot more Scottish facts than I did. One thing I noticed was that there weren’t a lot of foreign students in this new university at all compared to my home one so having a foreign person in their class seemed to be a lot more exciting for them. This also made making friends a lot less effort.
The classes were a lot different there and much more practical which was great for me because I’ve always learned better that way. I was taught to see things in a way I never would have thought of. Experiencing two different universities with different methods to each other was like getting the best of both worlds, there was a lot I learned in QMU that I took to the new university that helped me get ahead in some aspects and as vice versa there will be a lot that I will take back to Queen Margaret.
My friend group began to rapidly grow as I was introduced to all my classmates, however I was still closer to the international students. About a month in we started getting invites to day trips and parties (Frats included) and the stay was beginning to become very eventful.
There were a lot of trips as well, New Haven is an hour train ride from New York and costs around $10. I also realised that you can do most of New York in one day, on the day me and one of my friends visited we went to Central Park, walked through the zoo, walked through Times Square, visited ground zero, saw the Statue of Liberty and went on the Staten Island Ferry (which is free) all in ten hours and walked the whole time, the only thing we paid for was lunch. The rumour about New Yorkers shouting at you in the streets is absolutely true but that’s all part of the experience.
The university also held free trips such as Go Kart Racing, bowling, Six Flags, cinema trips etc.
While on the subject of free, there is so much free food. Almost every night there would be some kind of event such as painting, DIY or quizzes and there would always be free pizza. Whenever me and my friends wanted to save we would simply just go onto the universities Instagram page and find out which event was on and show up for their buffet and we all developed some random hobbies due to this.
One of the great things about America that I wish I could have experienced was travel. I had a lot of trips planned but unfortunately due to Covid-19 the trip was cut short and I had to go back home. I arrived in Scotland the same day I was due to arrive in Los Angeles for spring break. Through booking Los Angeles I discovered that once you get there almost everything to do is free or really cheap and I know I would have loved it. We also had booked small weekend trips to Florida, Memphis and New Orleans. I was in the midst of planning the last month as I didn’t know prior to arriving that my visa was made to last for 3 weeks after the semester finished to give me the chance to travel.
Once I was home I was pretty distraught for a while and felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. However when half the money was refunded for my accommodation I decided I needed to turn this experience into a new opportunity. With my newfound love of living in another country and almost £2000 refunded into my bank account I have begun the process of applying for a visa to live in Australia once I have graduated.
All in all, doing a semester abroad is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I have a new group of best friends who while I haven’t seen in almost half a year we still talk to each other everyday, we are also planning future trips to meet up. I feel that it has totally changed the direction I was taking in life as going to Australia was something I had never even considered but am now looking forward to. I also have a much more broader and open minded sense of the world and despite the trip ending somewhat badly I can only see it as a positive experience.