When pressed to decide whether to stay at one institution for a whole year or to choose the split-year, I was in a terrible conundrum. Remaining in America would give me the freedom to travel north, south, east and west (basically as many places as I could physically squeeze in), immerse myself in all of the typical American college experiences like joining a sorority, playing for a sports team, as well as the opportunity to drown myself in burgers, shakes, cookie sandwiches, smores…the list goes on. Alternatively, leaving the U.S in December, enjoying a quick stop home for Christmas before flying somewhere new and exciting again, was also incredibly enticing.
Right from my first open day at UEA, Chris Bigsby’s detailed presentation about the benefits of studying abroad meant I couldn’t wait for my third year to come around…never mind Freshers’ Week! But, what was perhaps different for me in this case was the prospect of having the unbelievable option to study in both America and Hong Kong. As an American History and Politics student, East-West diplomatic relations has always intrigued me. So, learning in both environments would be fascinating. On top of this, I had never been to Asia before and was unlikely to do so anytime soon. Why not twin my year abroad with travelling Asia?
In the end, the option to do just this proved too much to miss out on. My academic year of 2014/2015 was therefore, spent at both UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina and the University of Hong Kong…the best life decision I have made so far! So, with 100% of my being I urge you to break out of your comfort zone, choose the split year and reap its rewards.
If I haven’t managed to convince you yet, perhaps these next six points will…
- You will certainly have a more extensive network of friends from all over the world. Studying abroad in general is great for this, but imagine going to two very different, diverse places and how many more amazing people you are able to meet as a result! Apart from other international students, making local friends is just as important. I had the pleasure of sharing a room in both Hong Kong and the United States with local girls (Taylor and Hazel) and to this day, they remain two of my most treasured friends…I always have a place to stay in both North Carolina and HK!
- Going to a new place, making friends, immersing yourself in the culture and then packing up ready for another whole new adventure just four months later, gives you heaps of self-confidence too. I feel so much more self-assured having lived in and adapted to two very different continents. Memories of hopping on Hong Kong’s metro alone and travelling to the other end of the island just for fun, whilst also having experienced so many lonely inter-state American flights means I have become vastly more independent. Additionally, having had the excitement of living abroad I can no longer settle for a quiet, English countryside village with minimum transport and very little entertainment around. The split-year has really changed my outlook for the better and with my graduation scheduled for July this year, I have aspirations to be either working/interning in London or America next year…much to the dismay of my mother who feels she has only just got me back!
- Travel is probably the best selling point about the option to study in two separate places though. Who wouldn’t want to add 7 major American cities and 6 beautiful Asian countries to their list of places already visited? The split-year gives you the option to do just this…and more if you can fit it in! I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago, New York City, Charleston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Asheville and Washington D.C…but also Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. If you are a keen traveller, the split-year is definitely for you.
- Learning to live, budget and adapt in not just one but two different countries is also hugely attractive to employers. It gives you so much to talk about in an interview as well! – I already have first-hand experience of this benefit, as studying in both Asia and America and writing a personal blog of these experiences helped to secure an internship last summer with OK! Magazine in London.
- You certainly won’t feel like you missed out. Sure, leaving friends behind and spending what seems like such a short time in two separate places was my main worry about switching countries halfway through. Had I not been subject to the wonderful advice of my first year exchange friend, Sarah, (who studied at UEA for a year from UBC in Vancouver) to guide me right, my year abroad would have been very different! Whilst she didn’t regret her choice to remain at UEA for the year, many of her international friends had left to go home in December as they were only on exchange for the first semester…meaning whilst not any less enjoyable, her second semester was just, different. Consequently, she urged me to take the split-year opportunity, especially if this was the only negative standing in my way!
- Similarly, you’ll essentially experience two Fresher’s weeks – being the ‘newbie’ twice! To me, this was better than going to one place, leaving for Christmas and coming back when many of your friends had gone home and you were forced to watch other newbies coming in and replacing you! Also, many of my friends that stayed at one institution all year admitted their first semester was often their favourite anyway, with the novelty and excitement wearing off by the time they returned in January.
So, as my attempt to sway those of you pondering the thought of a split-year into a more certain frame of mind, I hope it has been mainly successful in doing just this. If you have any further questions concerning the topic please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop by the Study Abroad desk in Arts 1 every Tuesday 2-4 and ask your questions in person!
I also have my own personal blog that detailed much of my time away in both continent’s…so feel free to have a read of that too!
Amelia Glean (AMA) – American History with Politics and Study Abroad Ambassador 2015/2016