“Oh, you appear to have been upgraded”

Upon hearing these words whilst boarding my flight to Philadelphia this August, I knew that this year abroad was going to be incredible. One semester in, now it is time to reflect on life at Penn State.

Arrival and Starting Classes

Many, many, many hours later (mainly thanks to the worst passport control queue I have ever seen in my life) I finally managed to make it to State College. As I arrived before most American students the campus had an eerie feeling of a ghost town, although this calmness wouldn’t last long.

Classes in America (or at least the classes I took) are very different to lectures back in Southampton, with the classrooms being more reminiscent of school than a university. Another slightly alien concept was being actively marked on participation and class attendance (typically ~10%), this along with instructors penchant for impromptu in-class tests and setting a continual barrage of homeworks and lab reports.

All the fun of the fair 

One highlight of the first couple of weeks was a trip to the Grange County fair, organised by PSU’s international student office. The fair is one of the larger county fairs in the area and is attended by people (mainly farmers) from around Pennsylvania to show off their produce and livestock or just to take it all in. Whilst looking at livestock doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to spend a day, it was the whole atmosphere of the place the was amazing.

The rural Americana culture feels very different to that of urban america and some of the food that was on offer was incredible, albeit extremely unhealthy, with deep fried mozzarella, deep fried oreos and many other delicacies on offer (most of which involved deep frying things). After spending a few hours at the fair I did find myself getting drawn into things, particularly peoples obsession with having grown the biggest vegetables.

'dat pumpkin though
‘dat pumpkin though

The highlight for me was at the end of the fair, as this signified the beginning of the days round of tractor pulling. This was a fascinating competition, which is effectively farmers trying to show-off who has the best tractors. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a video of some of the more impressive runs, where the amount of initial torque looks as if its going to tip the tractor at the start, but I did manage to get a pretty good one.



Life at Penn State – Part 1

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