I am writing my first blog entry looking back fondly on the memories that I have made during the first semester of my year abroad. I have 4 months worth of incredible experiences to talk about but there is no better place to start than the beginning.

I arrived in State College, Pennsylvania very late on the evening of August the 12th, jet lagged I wandered about trying to find out how to get to the new bed that was waiting for me. A very energetic (especially for the time of night) taxi driver took me from the airport to where I would be calling home for the next year, pointing out a few key landmarks on the way.

I woke the next morning to begin the week long process of international student orientation, during which I met some of the people that would very soon become some of my best friends. It almost seemed like the campus was our own, the american students were yet to arrive, I would never see campus this quiet again.

University life at an American university is a completely different experience to what I was used to. In a way its more like being back at school, weekly homework, referring to professors by their surnames and marks for attendance. Whilst your getting accustomed to it it almost makes you feel like a 16 year old again (not helped by a sudden inability to purchase alcohol).

Some of the best experiences I have had during this semester have been the weekend trips I have made. State College is quite a small town that is almost entirely built around the university so it quite nice to escape every now and then to see something different.

The first trip I went on was probably the biggest so far, together with a large group of other exchange students I took a road trip across the border to Canada to visit Niagara Falls and Toronto, taking the advantage of the long weekend thanks to labour day. The Niagara Falls are absolutely stunning, the trip on the Maid of the Mist if definitely worth a go, this is a boat ride that takes you up close and personal with the waterfall (kept dry thanks to a very fetching free poncho). Unfortunately I found that the surrounding town detracted from the awesomeness of the falls, it is one of the most touristy, commercialised places I’ve been, (but the Niagara Brewing Company does make a good pint). Toronto on the other hand was a delightful city; clean, modern and with a very relaxed atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve felt as chilled out as I did, sitting on the lake-front with my feet dangling in the cool water, for a very long time.

Niagara Falls Toronto Lake-Side

The next trip I went on was pre-organized by a university run organisation called Adventure Recreation, they give discounted outdoor sporting trips for university students, allowing me to go on trips that would normally leave me bankrupted. The first Adventure Rec trip that I went on was a weekend away down in West Virginia (country roads, take me home), we had one of day of rock climbing and one day of white water rafting planned. Unfortunately the weather on the first day was not ideal for climbing, there was plenty of rain falling but we braved the conditions and gave it a go anyway. Even with the lack of grip thanks to well and truly soaked hands I managed a fairly difficult climb (that only 3 of us managed). The next day there was still a little bit of rain, but it didn’t matter because we were going to get soaked anyway. We were taken down a section of river that included some class 5 rapids. Despite all this we only had people fall out of our raft at one point, and I even managed to narrowly avoid falling out at all thanks to a last minute push back in the raft from one of my friends as she fell out herself. We then dried ourselves off and head back to State College. Other Adventure Rec trips I have gone on are a days caving and a days canoeing which were also incredibly fun experiences.

New River Gorge - West Virginia

White Water Rafting - West Virginia

The experience that has probably been my favourite so far however was a fairly impromptu trip on a friday afternoon to a place called Raystown lake. This is a fairly secluded lake surrounded by woodland, we hiked for about half an hour to 45 minutes to get from the car park to the lake. Here we were met by a houseboat full of drunk middle aged Penn State alumni who proceeded to banter with us for the next hour or two as we swam out to a small island in the lake which was a perfect spot for cliff jumping (and even had a small climbing route starting from the water). This was a great experience made all the better by the regular chants of WE ARE, PENN STATE! coming from the house boat. We were having so much fun that we let time get the better of us, we were still messing around in the water when we saw the sun going down behind the tree-line. Quickly we swam back to shore and begun the hike back to the car, the way lit only by the torch from a single iPhone.









Now I sit waiting for my family to arrive for the Christmas holidays, slightly sad that the first semester is over already and that I have had to say goodbye to some of my friends who were only here for one semester. But also looking forward to what the next semester will bring.




Penn State – Part 1

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *