It’s strange to think that this time two years ago I was deciding between the Study USA experience or the year in work placement. I mean, do you choose to have a year of fun or a year that directly helps you get closer to your dream career? I chose the study USA path – fun or work… It was a no brainer really! To give you more of an idea of what it is truly like I’ve comprised a list of 5 things everyone needs to know before starting Study USA.
1.The workload is continuous
You are warned about the workload before you begin but it was still a shock having piles of homework every night after being in class most of the day. It almost feels like you’re back in school but you will soon realise that everyone there is on the same page and everyone has this homework so you find ways to make it more social. Group studying was really popular and often, after class, we would go to Starbucks or Newark’s and do our homework together, which was a much less serious atmosphere. Frappuccino’s make most things better… Right?
2.Don’t pre-judge your college
Another big one! If your successful in the application process, try your best to be really open-minded about your college. I am guilty of pre-judging. After finding out what college I was going to I immediately decided Study USA was no longer for me. Iwas placed at an all-women’s college in South Carolina – who knew these even existed? However, looking back, I couldn’t be happier and I wish I hadn’t spent so much time stressing about Columbia college. It is all part of the experience and the team at study USA matched me up brilliantly. I quickly realised that my new-found friends were the ones who were going to make this experience for me.
3.The ‘freshman fifteen’ is real
This is one of the American terms that I picked up and it refers to freshman (what we call first year students) putting on 15lbs after starting college life and it couldn’t be more real. Between the constant streams of beer and the huge portion sizes if you don’t keep up some form of exercise you will be lucky if it’s only 15lbs you put on. Also with Study USA you get a meal plan which entitles you to three meals a day (all paid for), so surely you shouldn’t waste this… Right? Well, that’s the approach I took anyway.
4.Fraternities and sororities really do exist.
Well, obviously fraternities didn’t exist in my college, and they were only introducing sororities the year I left. But most of my friends went to University of South Carolina (USC), which is a massive college right beside mine which had every type of frat and sorority you could possibly imagine. Our friends were in TKE and I was lucky enough to get to a few of their events. One of which was a mountain weekend, this is where all the members of TKE bring a date and the fraternity rents log cabins up in the Georgia mountains for a weekend. With this invitation, there was the obligation to paint your date an ice cooler to store your drinks in for the weekend (Something I was not aware at the time). Photos of my cooler are featured below, most stressful experience of my life, it took two months to complete!
5.Just go with it
My final and most important point is simply just go with it all. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable to begin with and things might seem a bit odd but I promise it’s all very fun if you just embrace it. I remember my first weekend I was out in the car with the girls heading to my first frat event – a ‘darty’ which is a day party where all drink and food is provided by the frat. The playlist for the car journey involved every rap song under the sun, I had never heard any before in my life, but they knew every word. Shazam (the app which listens to the song and then tells you the name of it) was my answer to this problem, discretely using this on my phone to store the songs being played so I could listen to them in my dorm later. I laugh so much just thinking about doing this, so ridiculous now! But, it’s just how I adjusted. It really was an incredible year and for me it was completely worth every moment. In my eyes, I took the stance that you will be working for the rest of your life so why not take an opportunity to do something different? Below is a short video of my year – see for yourself all the fun and opportunities I had.
Niamh Webb is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @1234niamh, and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-webb-2b5260107/