I’m now back at Southampton and in week 3, I’ll start this with how it feels to be back… Overall it’s so nice to be back home with all my friends, girlfriend and its an added benefit to be of legal drinking age again! On the other hand, compared to 5 modules last semester I now only have 2 (+ my IP/Dissertation) and I’m finding the change in pace a bit tricky. Compared to all the homework and deadlines that I had at Penn State, everything now needs be self-motivated and I must be more organised… but I have produced a weekly workplan and am slowly getting back into the swing of things. Other things I miss are, of course, the friends I made there and just the scale of Penn State… St. Marys 32,000 stadium feels a bit cosy compared to PSUs giant 107,000 seater!
Some other key features I feel like I should discuss more from my time at Penn State are having a shared dorm, THON (Penn States Philanthropic dance marathon) and having a long-distance relationship.
Living in halls (West Halls for me, see picture) was overall a very positive experience, it was extremely convenient for lectures and food, also being surrounded by that many people also made it easy to make good friends with my floor (although most of them were freshers). Sharing a room was good as I was able to make a firm friend who knew about American customs, however it could also be extremely frustrating at times not having a space to myself. Also, something worth looking into when you are choosing your halls is that some of the dorms are segregated by sex, my floor was guys only. Another thing you could consider is living off campus, I know a Southampton student that went previously and lived in an apartment, that is something else that may suit you if you don’t want to share a room or want to feel more like a 3rd year!
This weekend (15th to 17th of Feb) is the THON weekend, which is a 46 hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon to raise money for paediatric cancer. It’s a massive part of life at Penn State with nearly every club/society/fraternity/sorority involved in some way to help raise money. Fundraising happens all throughout the year and culminates in this weekend. There are dedicated THON orgs, such as Apollo, which I was a part of, who’s sole aim is to raise money through ribboning, cake sales and events like fun runs. Ribboning is where you go to a nearby town, stay in someone’s house for the weekend and sell ribbons/knock on people’s doors for donations. It’s a fantastic way to see more of America and make great friends – I would really recommend it to anyone who’s attending PSU.
Now onto the sticky topic of long-distance relationships. I’ll keep this short and not too moist… but in my experience I really do not think a relationship at home should hold you back from going on a semester abroad, it is only 4 months! I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend come out to visit and through facetime you can easily stay in touch. There were of course tough times and arguments, but now since I’m back at Southampton we seem stronger than ever!
It is worth mentioning that it does cost more to go to the USA on a semester abroad, I feel like roughly 1/3 more on top of what you would expect to pay during a semester in Southampton. Especially with the $1100 health insurance you are required to purchase, flights and even more if you are lucky enough to travel like I was.
To summarise my two blogs, the semester abroad at Penn State is one of the most exciting and best decisions I have ever made. There are so many opportunities available to you and its up to you to make the most of it! Go for it! Again, feel free to find me on Facebook or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.