Whenever you read about someone’s year abroad, they often recount the happy times and fondest memories, so as to not scare you into what may be a harsh reality, I expect. What many accounts choose to glaze over though, are the times of homesickness which can last, or be over in a flash. For the most part, the year abroad really is the most amazing time and a chance you really shouldn’t pass up. BUT. What should you do if it doesn’t all go to plan?
For instance, what if you find yourself in a scary situation with your new housemate in the early hours of the morning? From experience I can say: stay calm. One thing I have learnt is that I am capable of much more than I realised before, and knowing this has given me so much more confidence to work through the difficult times. If it really gets too tough though, the Study Abroad Office are ALWAYS there when you need them. Whether it’s a friendly phone call to cheer you up, or an email to your exchange university – they’ve got you. This support makes you realise your own strength and the next time you feel like you’re in a mini catastrophe, (what do you mean I’m only registered for one semester, I applied for two!) you can handle it on your own in a calm manner, and feel great about yourself for it.
So what can I tell you about this city? St. Louis (pronounced Saint Lewis, not Louie – you’ll give yourself away as a tourist in a split second if you say the latter) is a truly beautiful part of the world. It’s not often on the tourist’s radar which is exactly why it so appealed to me. I wanted to have the true American experience, so I chose the mid-West as it was a region that just ‘spoke to me’ when I read about it (as poncey as that sounds…). Although it is near impossible to get around without a car, the university does provides weekly shopping shuttles for groceries, as well as a free metro pass for all students. The recent introduction of Uber also means that trips across town are becoming more regular for me. I’ve been here for 3 months now but I still don’t really feel like I’ve ‘seen’ St. Louis at all. Consequently, before finals in December, a few of us internationals are taking a ‘holiday’ here. We hope to explore just as though we’re tourists, visiting as much of it as we possibly can in the time frame!
St. Louis is probably most famous in recent times for the negative impact of Ferguson. But, I can assure you it really is a lovely place and not at all as scary as the media paints it to be. The recent Mizzou race-relations scandal, with the resignation of the President and Chancellor also made us newsworthy, affecting not only Mizzou, but also the entire umbrella of ‘University of Missouri’ – St. Louis. It’s certainly an interesting place to be at the moment!
Studying here has also allowed me to draw certain similarities between UMSL and UEA, such as UMSL’s support for the community, the protesting of university fees, the push for achieving excellent standards for student satisfaction and so on. So, in a way, it sort of feels like I’m at a home away from home – making homesickness just that little bit easier to deal with.
The whole process of studying abroad makes you grow as a person. I really feel like I have blossomed into an adult (at 25 I think I can legitimately call myself that). I have jumped hurdles and succeeded in overcoming challenges that once would have floored me. I have become so much more independent too, having already explored LA, San Francisco, Memphis and Chicago. This weekend I fly to Seattle, and then take the bus to Portland for Thanksgiving. I’m also going to Houston for a month over Christmas to see my sister, her husband, and their cat – this is what I’m most excited about! If you have pets, you might find that you miss them more than your family!
Truly, studying abroad for the year is the best decision that anyone can make, no matter what the motivations are for doing it – you’ll get more out of it than you ever expected!
Jasmine Daze, (AMA) BA Film and American Studies