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Expectation vs reality: A month gone by in Boston College

In the second edition of our 'Year Abroad Diaries' Abbie Jessop tells the truth on what it is really like to be an English student in America

By Abbie Jessop 3rd year Liberal Arts

In the second edition of our 'Year Abroad Diaries' Abbie Jessop tells the truth on what it is really like to be an English student in America.

With Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack playing in my head, and an image of myself as the carefree traveller, as beautiful as Lily James and as determined as Donna, I stepped off the plane, planting my feet in US soil for the very first time…

(Well -onto the carpeted aircraft tunnel surrounded by sterile airport white walls, but work with me here..!)

I was so incredibly excited, and indeed still am! The newness of being in America has not worn off yet, and I’m still getting used to the singing of the cicadas at night, the intense New England climate (reaching 90 degrees), a few choice insects, drivers on the right-hand side of the road, the lack of streetlights and the differences in language I didn’t anticipate.

I’ve now been a full month in Boston. Sometimes it feels like I’ve just arrived; other days I can’t believe it’s only been 3 weeks of term time. I’m already exhausted and ready for another holiday.

There have been a few low points, from being in Bank of America for three hours munching on cereal bars, feeling extremely jet lagged as a South Korean student chatted away to me about how I reminded him of his old English teacher. To uploading medical forms onto the Boston College website and feeling as if I was completing an intense IQ test trying to work out what vaccinations I have and haven’t had! There was also the moment I realised I’d paid $2.56 for three apples at Star Market, and the time I stayed up for an hour waiting for the two damn cats to leave my room before I could go to bed, having realised I am a little allergic to them.

Sometimes I forget I’m in a whole other country when going through my usual paces as a student, but then I hear the cicadas at night or experience New England heat rocketing ‘above 90’ (over 30 degrees to you and I) and I’m reminded that I’m in a very different place. Some things I’ve adapted to straight away and even found they suit me; such as class contribution being very normal in the US, everyone doing 50 different societies and friendly bus drivers on the Boston version of Stoke Bishop’s bus service.


Epigram / Abbie Jessop

I have a whole new appreciation for being an international student- and I don’t even have another language to deal with, although I’m learning which words are British only, and American slang and phrases. Also, not only do you have all the study pressures but there’s also the risk of being kicked out of the country if you don’t ensure you meet all the immigration requirements. I’m an alien-literally!

My favourite part of the experience so far is certainly being part of the international student community. Linking to the small world note I ended my last blog on, I have met someone from NZ who knows one of my best friends I met in halls in first year while she was a Bristol exchange student. Now that is a small world!
A group of us from Singapore to New Zealand, Australia to Japan, South Korea to Denmark embarked upon Boston’s Freedom trail, led by our pioneer from Peru! We didn’t quite finish the trail and fully complete our quest to freedom, because the route goes through a fruit and veg market where you can actually get greens for reasonable prices so we all got quite excited and filled bags that impeded our freedom of movement somewhat, but I will endeavour to complete the quest another day…

The society system here is very different. Activities Fair was similar to Welcome Fair: I had the same problem as I have in Bristol of making eye contact and then being unable to say no, signing up for Taiwanese cultural club and African American church newsletters, whilst being informed “your accent is cute” (what does one say to that? Place your ideas in the comments!). However, here, registering interest is only the start... You then need to attend the first meeting, go to auditions if there are any, send in application forms and resumes, and promise to commit to that society over other groups; like a highly competitive job market!

Other things have shocked me about Boston or US generally. The inefficiency of public transport in Boston is strange for a major city: students can race the T-line tram system and win. The length of the streets is mind boggling as well, because something can be on the same street address 2 hours walk away. I’m also struggling with the mindless consumption of products paired with the lack of recycling. You think campus food prices at Bristol are bad but $4.50 for coffee here means I am loving representing Bank of America with my keep-cup.

The most challenging experience so far: doing an american accent in front of a room of americans at a callback for Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. I must confess, that offended both my Sense and Sensibility..

“If adventures will not befall a lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad”- Jane Austen

Featured Image / Abbie Jessop

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