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The Application Process to Study Abroad

It’s been another year and a half since I last posted on here. I’m still living in the capital city of Washington, D.C., working in communications and enjoying life. This month is the five-year anniversary of when I first began the process of studying abroad. Looking back, I realized I hadn’t really talked about the application process of studying abroad, with my entries mostly being filled with my trip details and how life in England was. I figured I would take the chance to talk about the topic.

In February 2012, I emailed my university’s study abroad office about my interest to study abroad. I knew I wanted to go to England, because that’s where my brother had studied abroad and also where my father had been stationed in the 70s when he was in the AirForce. Another reason I wanted to go was because I wanted to be in a country where the native language was English. I was already going to be out of my comfort zone, and drew the line of wanting to be able to understand the language.

That being my personal preference, most colleges offer programs to a variety of countries. I’ve known people who went to Italy, Spain, France, and even Australia. Since my university is so small, there were only two options for England: attend Kingston University in London, or Edge Hill University outside of Liverpool, the latter of which I chose. Your college’s website usually has more information on what study abroad programs they offer. Here is my alma mater’s for a reference.

The entire process from when I had the first meeting with the study abroad director to when I got my acceptance letter was about three months. First, I had to get approval from my academic advisor, and the dean of the journalism school. This required filling out a form of courses that Edge Hill offered that could count toward credits for my journalism degree. I mostly ended up filling elective credits since not all UK courses were equivalent to the type of classes I needed from Bonaventure in order to graduate. Again, this is another factor that can differ depending on what school you go to and what your major is.

Second, I had to get two written recommendations. In this case, I had my supervisor from my summer job and one of my high school teachers serve as them. I sent them a form for them to fill out and then send to the study abroad office. All of this material was gathered together, then sent off to Edge Hill. My acceptance letter came in early May, right when I got home for the summer.

But the process didn’t stop there. Over the summer, I got a required physical from my family doctor. I also got a passport, which I did by going to the post office and filling out paperwork, getting my picture taken and paying the fee, which was about $115. This is New York State’s fee, I think it can differ from state to state.

Booking my flights were not too hard, but expensive. For some reason, despite my city’s “international” airport status, we couldn’t find any direct flights to Manchester, England, and I ended up having to get a layover in Chicago. Ironic, considering that meant flying west to go east. But it was the cheapest option, costing about $1,000. Instead of searching on one airline’s website, I used the website Hipmunk which allows you to search several airlines simultaneously. In retrospect, I definitely recommend saving up if you plan to study abroad.

On the topic of money, I also ended up getting a credit card. I was only 19, but having a credit card made paying for things easier. My American bank card worked okay, but I already had international fees adding up from using it abroad and it was nice to have an alternative.

And that’s pretty much the process of applying for a study abroad program. Thanks for reading!

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Three Years Later…

Okay, so the title of this entry sounds like the corny transition phrase in a movie.

In life, though, three years does not just pass instantaneously.

I guess the best way to start this entry is to give an update on my life, since it’s been a good year and half since my last entry. I graduated from St. Bonaventure University in May 2014 with my Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communication. The majority of my last semester of college was spent scouring the Internet for job postings, sending email after email with cover letters and resumes. Visits to the Career Center also ensued. I was able to find a work study job for the semester, so my financial standing was going well.

On the social side, things had been a bit more interesting. Since I was finally 21, I could at last go out to the bars with my friends on the weekends. It had been over a year since I had gone out to the bars in England, and the experience was a little bit different. Still, I reveled at the freedom of being able to socialize with people legally, instead of having to rely on house parties to be able to drink.

In February, everything slowly started to get more fragile. I realized I only had three months until the real world was at my feet, and stress started to consume me more and more. The week of Valentine’s Day was one of the worst weeks of my college career, and ended with an event that made me a mix of relieved, discouraged and sad. Let’s just say, I celebrated Valentine’s Day with my two single friends.

I had a Skype interview in March, but it didn’t go anywhere. At that point, I was fixated on going to Washington, D.C., where my brother lived and where opportunity presented itself. Going to England had given me a case of wanderlust, and I intended to satisfy it somehow.

Graduation came and went, and I went back to my hometown for the summer, working my old job as a cashier while applying for jobs.

My break finally came in July, two months after graduation. I spent two weeks in DC house-sitting for my brother while he was in Europe. I landed an interview at a nonprofit organization for a paid internship for the fall semester. Two weeks after the interview, they offered me the position. I landed in D.C. on August 15, 2014 and have been here ever since.

After a year of two internships, temp jobs and part-time jobs, I finally landed my first full-time paid job as communications assistant to this small nonprofit in downtown D.C. I’m making real money and have a normal schedule. I’ve met so many new people since I’ve gotten here that it’s been great. My social skills became a lot better after England.

As for communication with my friends I made while in England, social media is what’s kept it alive. I’m still friends with people on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and Instagram. I plan to hopefully visit them at some point next year, once I’ve saved up enough money.

Even though time has passed and everyone has gone their separate ways, I’ll always remember everybody and everything.

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A Sequel Blog!

Hello!

It’s now February and the new year of 2014 has been here for a month. I decided to start another blog called “England Epilogues” which documents more personal experiences in England, other than just the trips to foreign cities that this blog described. I still have a lot of stories to tell and figured another blog would be suitable in telling them on. You can find it here.

http://englandepilogues.wordpress.com/

Thanks for following!

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One Year Later… Reminiscing

On the afternoon of September 19, 2012, one of the greatest adventures of my life began. I was on my way to a foreign country. That country was England. My ultimate destination was a place called Edge Hill University, located in a little town called Ormskirk, north of Liverpool. Unfamiliarity was to be the initial basis of the trip, as I had no idea where I was going and I didn’t know a single person over there, as I was the only person from my home university travelling there. While that notion made me a little nervous, I was excited. Excited at the prospect of actually getting off the continent of North America for a few months; meeting new people and travelling places I had always wanted to go to. I had no idea of the magnitue of the adventure I was about to begin on.

 

 

After that storybook/essay-type introduction, it’s easy to tell how I still feel about England. As I sit here writing this, I’m reminiscing on the first few days of my experience. I remember how tired I felt arriving at the Manchester airport the morning after leaving. Having only slept for a few hours on the plane ride over, I stood in the customs line, struggling to stay upright and awake. I felt like I had been up for a full 24 hours and my body was telling me it was still nighttime, which technically it was, in the United States.

 

 

Somehow I managed to endure the first full day there in a daze, which included a tour of the campus and the town of Ormskirk, meeting my fellow American dorm mates and figuring out how to use English currency, whose small, colorful notes fascinated me. By the time evening came, the only thing I could do to stay awake was unpack. I shuffled around my dorm room, half-asleep, arranging my stuff as best as I could. When night finally came, I laid down in bed, instantly falling asleep.

 

 

I also recall one of the biggest issues there the first few days there: Internet access. The dorms we were living in, which were built in the 1960s, had two different wireless networks: one for visitors and one for students. Since we had no way of accessing the student network for a few days, most of us ended up down in the common room with our laptops, as it was the only place we were able to acquire the guest network. It was there that most of us met each other. Sometimes I wondered if the school did it on purpose as a way to have us Americans mingle. It definitely worked for us.

 

 

 

I admit, to look back and think this was actually a year ago is a bit scary, but illustrates how profound and enduring the experience is. Even a year later, I can still clearly remember how I felt after the first few days there: that I loved this place and wouldn’t want to leave for awhile.

 

 

 

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Six Months Later…

Six months ago, my three-month stay in a country halfway around the world officially came to an end.  Although the time went by quick, my semester abroad was an unforgettable, remarkable experience that has had enduring effects on my life and perspective.

Looking back, those twelve weeks seemed surreal at times. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a foreign country, not in the United States, although the narrow roads, accents and rainy weather were constant reminders. The other realization came with the fact that I was living with people from all over the United States- and the world. Suddenly knowing people from at least 10 different states and countries is definitely not something that happens every day.

Starting the new semester at Bonaventure in January, I felt like my life had fast-forwarded in a way. After two years of being at Bonaventure for the full school year, I wasn’t accustomed to be moving into my dorm room and starting the “year” in 30-degree weather.The added challenge came with the returning workload of classes. I had the same class three times a week, as opposed to in England when most classes (modules) were once a week. However, spending time away had definitely improved my attitude toward school and college in general. (It’s a long story.) I began the new semester with an enthusiastic attitude and became more involved in activities around the campus.

Then, just like that, it was May and my junior year concluded. In the autumn, I’ll be starting my senior year at Bonaventure, then graduating in May of 2014. In other words, about 10 months from now. Exciting, yet a little daunting.

Over the past several months, there were (and still are) times that I miss(ed) Edge Hill University and England terribly. I grew close to the people I met over there, from the United States, England, Ireland, just to name a few of the countries and places. The twelve weeks literally slipped by in a sequence of classes, trips and nights out. I tried not to focus on whatever time I had left, but instead making the most of the time I had there.

In the meantime, I have been keeping in contact with people from there through the Internet and writing about my experience in a journal that I aspire to publish into a book one day. Traveling to Paris, Edinburgh, London and other locations gave me a myriad of experiences to write about. I already wrote an article about my semester for my school newspaper, found here http://www.thebvnewspaper.com/2013/01/31/bona-student-reflects-on-semester-abroad-in-england/

My hope and goal is by sharing these experiences with people, I can encourage others to pursue traveling as well. Everyone has that one place they have always dreamed of visiting. It definitely is worth the trip, especially in college, when there is the time and opportunity to embark on these journeys.

When I look back though, I can honestly say that deciding to study abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made. While the idea of going to an unfamiliar place where you don’t know anybody may seem scary to some, it appealed to me and I ended up loving it. Not only did I get to live in a foreign country, I traveled to places I never thought I would at such a young age and made friends with people I never thought I would meet. The notion of not knowing what was next was exhilarating.

Journeying abroad definitely altered my perspective of the world and life in general. There is a world out there, beyond my tiny little town in New York State, just waiting to be explored.

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Article

Hello everyone!

Sorry that it’s been so long since I last posted, I’ve been busy with a new semester at my home university. Technically, after not being at this school for eight months (counting the summer and semester abroad), it feels weird being back. Readjusting has been both easy and difficult. I do miss England and everybody a lot, but this invention called the Internet makes communication easy. Hopefully sometime in the next few years I’ll be able to go back for a visit.

Anyway, the point of my post it to highlight an article I wrote about my abroad experience for my college newspaper. Follow the link below to read it:

http://www.thebvnewspaper.com/2013/01/31/bona-student-reflects-on-semester-abroad-in-england/

Thanks for reading! Expect me to post more often after this.

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Returning and Readjusting

It’s been ten days since my return to the USA. Just like those three months in England, the last week and a half has passed too fast.   
My return trip fared well. I left Manchester Airport around 10a.m. England time and, after an hour layover in Chicago, arrived at Rochester at 4:30p.m. Eastern/Standard time.
In my opinion, the return trip was better than my flight over. My flights were on time, the airport waiting times proved short and the on-board meals tasted delicious. Another highlight occurred viewing the snow-covered landscape of Western New York (State) from the sky.
    Since I had a daytime flight, I didn’t return to the United States feeling as sleep-deprived as I had going over to England. The first few days back, though, I felt exhausted around 7p.m., my England-adjusted body thinking it was midnight. Let’s just say I had no trouble falling asleep those first few nights.
    Three days after my return, the day after Christmas, a massive snowstorm blanketed us (and most of New York State) with at least 14 inches of snow. I saw this as Mother Nature’s way of acknowledging my return from a country that receives little snowfall: sending a snowy surprise my way.   

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My return gift- 14 inches of snow

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blanketing my car as well

    Initially, I was unsure about whether or not I would be able to adjust back to American customs. After twelve weeks of living in England, the small cars, narrow roads and the concept of opposites became normal for me. However, I found that the readjustment process came easy for me. Driving felt the weirdest, marveling at the wide roads and big cars we have. Weeks of riding around in foreign cars half the size of my Buick on small roads had definitely altered my perception a bit.  
    Using money has been an interesting transition. Compared to the United Kingdom’s money, with their colorful pound notes and cool-shaped coins, American currency looks boring now. However, I am glad to be back in a country where the dollar is equal to a dollar.

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    My feelings about returning have been jumbled. Seeing my family and spending Christmas was great, after not seeing most of them in person since September. I know that as time passes, though, I’ll start missing England and everybody I met more and more. Fortunately, in these modern times, we have the Internet to keep in contact, something not possible for people just years ago.
    January 14th is the day I start classes back at my home university here in the United States: St. Bonaventure University. I know that after nine straight months of not being there, attending classes and doing assignments will feel foreign at first. It will especially come with the contrast of the scheduling and work load. At Edge Hill, I only had a certain module once a week, while at Bonaventure; I have the same class three days a week.
    The one experience that I’ve been having since I’ve returned, as I’m sure everybody else who has studied abroad has, is answering questions from people. Friends and family have inquired about my trips: how it was, where I went, what I did and did I take pictures. I have to admit, travelling around Europe has made for a refreshing and interesting topic of conversation. It breaks the clichéd “What’s up” response “nothing much” by replacing it with the phrase “I just got back from spending three months in England.” How many people expect to hear that as a response?

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Goodbyes to England and Friends, Hello to Home and the Holidays

    Well, I’m just about done. Tomorrow morning I leave for the Manchester airport to fly home to the United States. I have a layover in Chicago before flying back to New York State. That means I’ll get to see O’Hare Airport (the busiest airport in the country) at Christmastime!
    The thought is bittersweet. I do miss home and will be glad to return to see everyone and celebrate Christmas with my family. But facing the fact I’m leaving England and everyone here, people and places I might not see again for a very long time, is very tough. I’ve already said goodbye to a lot of my English and American friends who have returned home for the holidays.That’s the hardest part.

How is it possible for three months to have gone by so fast? Unlike my university back home, I won’t be returning here for the spring semester.
    I would like to thank everyone for reading this blog about my journey through Europe. I’ve made fantastic friends here and gone to places I never thought I’d go to, all before the age of 21!
    There should be one or two more blog posts after this one, describing my reverse culture shock. Using American money, driving on the right side of the road and hearing people with American accents will seem amusing yet confusing to me. After living in a foreign country for three months, I’ve become quite accustomed to the English culture.
    The one detail about England I won’t miss- the conversion rate of money. With the English pound being worth almost double the American dollar, everything has been more expensive. It will be nice to return to a place where $1= $1.

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Christmas in England

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Liverpool’s Christmas lights

 

 Here in England, Christmas spirit is everywhere. With no Thanksgiving to celebrate, the Christmas season begins right after Halloween. Literally. Starbucks brings out their red and green cups. Decorations pop up in the store windows and, of course, who could forget Christmas lights? Everywhere.
    Witnessing how the English culture celebrates Christmas has renewed my enthusiasm for the holidays; seeing how each city and town expresses their spirit.   
    Here in Ormskirk, it’s not too hard to catch the Christmas spirit. Colorful lights are strung between the buildings downtown, while a gigantic Christmas tree sits in the center, donned with blue lights. They even have a ceremony to switch them on at the end of November. 
Liverpool showcases their lights along the main shopping center and their Christmas markets. A little more exquisite then Ormskirk, expectantly, with miniature Christmas trees and round, glowing spheres.

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Liverpool’s Christmas Market

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Round light orbs

However, London triumphs above all with their Christmas displays. While on the family trip in London, we were lucky enough to witness the Christmas lights along Oxford Street and explore Harrod’s fantastic Christmas store and displays.  

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    Here at Edge Hill University, us Americans, along with the English students celebrated the holidays by holding our own Christmas dinner and movie marathon. We decorated our hall’s common room with Christmas decorations to help get us in the spirit.

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Christmas decorations in the common room

    As much as I’ve loved experiencing the holiday season here in England, I am excited to be returning to the United States to spend Christmas with my family.
    Nevertheless, I will always remember being fortunate enough to celebrate Christmas in two different countries; the best of both worlds.
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Manchester’s Christmas Markets

On Saturday, December 8, we took a trip to the city of Manchester to explore the Christmas Markets.

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We’re Here!

The first detail I noticed about the markets- they were crowded. Hundreds upon hundreds of people, walking every which way. Not too surprising, considering it was a sunny Saturday and not too cold. Although the crowds made navigating feel like a maze, it was refreshing seeing so many people at an outdoor market, as opposed to in the mall.

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People, people and more people

    The market consists of all these wooden stands, starting in front of Manchester Town Hall, and snakes down the streets for four block. A little confusing to navigate, but maps were conveniently set up on every block to help guide people to the right place.
    The market stands themselves were something else. Dozens, maybe hundreds of them, selling just about anything you can think of. Hot chocolate, purses, wind chimes, figurines, scarves, jewelry, even wood carvings- more diversity than I ever would have imagined.
    Christmas decorations were everywhere; lights on the trees and stands. The most distinctive feature I found was a giant carousel-like structure with a windmill fan, sitting atop one of the stands. I later found out it’s called a Christmas pyramid. The town hall had its own giant Santa decoration sitting atop an electronic sign.

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The giant Christmas Pyramid

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The giant Santa

The atmosphere of Manchester differentiates to Liverpool’s. In contrast to Liverpool’s commercialism and touristy feel, Manchester has more of an industrial look and feel.
Like most English cities, the architecture once again awed me. The Town Hall, with its clock tower and high windows, along with the fancy interior, resembles more of a cathedral. A fine example of English architecture, a contrast to the United States’ brick buildings.

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The Town Hall exquisite exterior

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and interior…

Overall, I enjoyed the Manchester Christmas Markets, experiencing the diversity and Christmas spirit it offered.

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