From incredible memories to homesickness woes, our 'Year Abroad Diaries' series details the exciting adventures of two third year students, Abbie Jessop and Ffion Williams, as they embark on a year of study in Boston and of work in Italy and France respectively. In her first post, Abbie discusses everything from endless paperwork and accomodation panics to an unlikely find in a yoga class...
As I leaf over my RAG Naked Calendar onto the aesthetic buttocks of the Pool and Snooker Club, the poster boys of August, it hits me that in less than 3 weeks I will be on a plane to the USA for my year study abroad at Boston College!
I am a Liberal Arts Student, one of the rare breed of Bristol students taking a degree we will spend the rest of our lives explaining. Within the broad spectrum of the course lies the opportunity to take a year study abroad, encompassing the themes of interdisciplinary study and self-discovery that our course prides itself on.
The last few weeks have been fraught with planning; I have numerous lists in every notebook I own (lists that so far I am unable to reach the end of), countless emails in my inbox from ‘HotPads.com’ frantically informing me of ’10 new releases’ every day (pity few are affordable), and photocopies of every form and letter required by banks, Boston offices, Bristol offices, landlords and realtors. If the Global Opportunities Team could provide all those undertaking a year abroad with an extra qualification in paperwork and administration, I think it would be well deserved.
As a recent migrant to the North Devon coastline, jumping onto my bike to cycle to the nearest town to speak to the bank, or travel company, or post office has provided variety in my days of frantic organisation, giving me the option to speak to human beings face to face, rather than constantly send emails to strangers back and wait anxiously for their response!
Indeed, conversations with my newfound community have made me realise just how small and simple this world can be (particularly perhaps in Devon where everyone knows everyone!) when we actually remember to communicate. Many people are happy to share their links with the US of A, offering travel tips or words of encouragement; a conversation in a yoga class led to an offer of a free suitcase and a chat with someone at church provided me with another contact in Boston if I ever became stuck and the offer of an airport pick-up.
Just before July was out I confirmed the chosen roof over my head, and with less than 3 weeks till my arrival in America, a country I have never visited before and have no previous connection with (my closest relatives residing in Canada) this couldn’t be more of a relief! But it all came about rather randomly following weeks of searching in the rental sector, after receiving an email from Boston College housing support office to check up on how I was getting along (previous emails crying out for advice and help probably helped them to acknowledge my existence among the hundreds of other international students!)
The email contained links to a few other options (consider it like a treasure hunt - I did!), one of which was a homestay service. I clicked the link, intrigued by an option I hadn’t previously considered. I immediately sent an email to the homestay company, asking if they had any options around the College. The company owner ‘Moo’* came back within ten minutes to suggest one homestay an half hour journey away from campus and within two hours I was emailing a native New Englander mother about both our dogs, a mutual love of Shakespeare and Martha’s Vineyard.
The last few weeks glued to my laptop and phone, waiting for updates every afternoon as Boston woke up (-5hrs time difference) has proved increasingly stressful. Perhaps unnecessarily so in many ways as many international students arrive in Boston and get it sorted once there. But despite my dreams of being the carefree ‘happy-go-lucky’, ‘take your chances when you get there’ type of student travelling to foreign lands, I am instinctively a planner and needed the reassurance of having it sorted before I arrive. (Although perhaps that’s what this year abroad will be all about; discovering a part of me that trusts it will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not yet ok, it is not yet the end!**)
So now, with housing sorted, my VISA awaiting collection following the visit to the US embassy and my flights booked, there is certainly an ‘onwards and upwards’ journey across the Atlantic that I simply must undertake.
As we enter August, I am determined to make the most of my time left in Britain to get used to the fact that people a) are interested in the fact that I’m going to America for a year b) want to help and are happy to handover unused suitcases sitting in an attic and c) know many other people who might just live in America and be potential free accommodation offers for when I become that free spirited traveller! I may be going 5100km away, but the world only seems smaller…
*no names were changed in the writing of this blog
**copyright belongs to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, perhaps future travel partners...
Want to read more? Follow Abbie's blog for all her Boston-based adventures!
Featured Image: Flickr / dalecruse