A year abroad, a lifetime of memories.
As cheesy and cliché as this may sound, it is nothing but the honest truth. For anyone considering, and for those who have been on a study abroad programme, I’m sure you can identify with this – studying abroad was the best year and the best decision of my life. Having never been to America before, people commented on how crazy I was to be spending a whole year there without having experienced it first; but go hard or go home right? I can’t begin to explain to you how amazing North America is. Such a large place with the most beautiful variations in landscapes, scenery, nature, traditions, and people available, just from crossing one state to another! It has so much to offer, I wasn’t sure exactly what my expectations were from the USA, but I can say that all of them were superseded during my time there.
I was extremely fortunate to spend my year studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a university not unlike UEA in size, but which offered classes I would never have the chance to take back home in the UK. As a final year undergraduate in Biochemistry who wants a career in medicine, I relished the opportunity to study classes such as the AIDS epidemic, and human anatomy (yes, with real dead bodies). Lectures were so laid back and happy too, maybe it was the good weather affecting their mood. Sunny California days drenched the campus covered with vast greenery and littered with students soaking up the sun or taking part in the numerous activities / entertainment which would occur in the main square of this vibrant campus.
As for San Francisco, (don’t call it San Fran- they really hate that!) it is truly a beautiful city. The built up city centre is contrasted perfectly by the great expanse of the bay, with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge making its mark on the backdrop. Each part of the city has something different to offer- you can dip your toes in the pacific at Ocean Beach, have all the tacos, quesadillas and margaritas you want in the mission, high-five a seal at Pier 39, and get a bird’s eye view of the beauty from the Twin Peaks view point, and that’s not even the half of it. My weekends and days off were spent going on multiple excursions, from long weekends in Las Vegas, to Thanksgiving road trips to LA, to doughnut eating in Portland and going up the needle in Seattle. Not to mention numerous bars, basketball, football and baseball games!
One excursion which stood out as the highlight of my year was definitely bike riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. Half way over the bridge I was overcome with a mixture of emotions, mostly disbelief that I was lucky enough to call this beautiful place home for a year. I also need to take a moment to appreciate the food; the food was amazing, plentiful, and on the whole, cheap! The melting pot that is SF allowed me to sample Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Mexican and seafood like I never had before. Seeing the meagre portions served to me at some restaurants in the UK, makes me long to be back in the US!
After my study period in SF was completed I took advantage of my remaining visa time and travelled through the US. For a biased Cali girl, West coast will always be the best coast, but I completely loved visiting places like Chicago, New Orleans, Nashville (country music and beer, what’s not to love?) as well as numerous countries on the east coast (DC, Boston, NYC), all culminating in me and my friends celebrating my turning 21 at midnight at the top of the Empire State Building!
Overall, I look back on my study abroad experience with nothing but fond memories and not a single regret about going. If anything, I only wish I did more to enhance the already long list of things I was able to experience. I now have friends from all over the world, and a second place to call home. Like I said, best decision I ever made. Happy travelling!
Yasmin Toseafa studies Biochemistry at UEA