I finally received my acceptance email from the University of Arizona today, where I’ll be spending a semester at later this year! Knowing that I am officially going, and able to start the long process of visa and housing applications, has gotten me really excited for the new few months. However, it also go to me thinking as to why I’ve decided to spend a year in two different continents, and more importantly, why these institutions.
Having a year abroad to study was vital when choosing my university and course. I only applied to courses that included, or had an option, to do this. Although, when I visited UEA and was told they are the only university to offer the option of a ‘split-year’, I was sold. You can spend the first in either Canada or the U.S.A., then go to Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, or Hong Kong. Such an incredible offer and opportunity, allowing us to see even more of the world whilst also completely our studies.
Whilst some people prefer to settle in, make new friends and get used to their surroundings, I’m quite content with uprooting myself…especially if it means I get to live in Australia for 4 months. Therefore, the split-year option was a no brainer for me. However, I can see the appeal of staying in North America for a year. You’d really feel part of something and somewhere. Whilst I may not be fully immersed by the time I leave, the guys staying on for the whole year will definitely get to encounter all there is to know about their adopted country.
The decision process was by no means as easy as picking which option to do though. In first year, I had my heart set on the West Coast for the U.S. – San Diego or San Francisco preferably. It wasn’t until further research (and discovering the only way to go to San Diego was to get into UC, something I certainly wouldn’t be able to do) that I broadened my choices. The University of Arizona looks like the typical American college. Their football team is the ‘Wildcats’ (cue High School Musical flashbacks), and EVERYONE gets involved. Tucson is smack bang in the middle of the desert, surrounded by beautiful scenery whilst still being a thriving city. Plus the on-campus housing looked ace…lots of pool parties.
As for Australia, this was slightly easier. I didn’t have the 50+ colleges to choose from as I did in America, in fact it was more like 15. The University of Sydney was actually was my second choice (my frigging boyfriend nabbed the only place at the University of Wollongong!), but I can’t say I’m upset about having to live in Sydney! The university is right in the middle of the city, but still looks like something out of Cambridge. Plus they boast an amazing creative writing programme…and Bondi Beach.
Doing the split-year option also means I’ll have about 2 months in between the two universities where I’m free to do whatever I want. Australian semesters don’t start until the end of February, but the American Fall semester ends in December. Whilst some may see this as a chance to go back to the U.K., catch up with family/friends, maybe even get a job, I’m planning to make the most of this free time and travel. I’ll be in America, which means cheaper flights to place like the South Pacific, something I definitely plan to take advantage of.
It may be my love of travelling and exploring new places that drove me to choose to study abroad, but I guarantee just seeing new scenery won’t be the only reason that that choice will benefit me. I’ll be surrounded by new people from a culture very different to mine. It will encourage me to adapt, respect and love new ways of life. Many people find going to university in the first place quite a daunting experience at first, but I’m going to have to do it all again, twice…in one year! Whilst this is scary in some ways, I’m just excited to throw myself out of my comfort zone, embrace it and relive ‘fresher’s week’ two more times. Note to self – learn to handle alcohol.