Goucher College, Baltimore
As Goucher is such an inclusive and cheery place, the year abroad whizzed by, until I left in mid May 2016. As it is such a small campus, after a month of studying there, everything from accommodation, fellow students and staff to dining halls began to feel so familiar. In October 2015 during the weekend when my parents came out to visit me, I had crab for the first time; smashing open crabs with a mallet was good fun and the crab was so tasty. I felt so comfortable living at Goucher and loved how when I got up, I was in the middle of campus, even though it took a while to adjust living with a roommate and there were a few mice that appeared in my room – that nearly gave me a heart attack.
Even the simple pleasures of playing 5 a side football at 10pm, or soccer as Americans call it, were so much fun. As for classes, in my first semester I was really unlucky, having two 7pm-8.40pm classes a week and one excruciatingly timed class at 7pm-10.20pm, where I was half asleep by 10pm. They were fascinating subjects nonetheless from Japanese Imperialism to Race and Ethnicity in TV and Film. In my second semester I felt really privileged to be able to learn about Terrorism and political violence and read accounts by mostly deradicalized ex-terrorists, and Latino history, which is particularly relevant now. Being at Goucher was a lot of fun, it was an invaluable experience for me and I cherish the friendships I made out there. Being at Goucher, my confidence skyrocketed; never have I ever felt so independent and excited to get up in the morning.
Travelling in Vietnam
During my second year at UEA I took the module America and Vietnam and in July 2016 I travelled in Vietnam with my brother from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi in four weeks. It was exhausting due to the humidity, the night buses we took, yet it was also exhilarating to experience such a different culture at the same time, where motorbikes and rice are invaluable commodities and to enjoy many nights with backpackers from around the world. There were beautiful beaches in more southern Vietnam in Nha Trang and Hoi An, the latter place was great for tailored clothes, which like everything in Vietnam, is a fraction of the price of what the same goods would cost in the UK.
Ninh Binh, 94 km south of Hanoi, was the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. We stayed in the Tam Cuc Homestay, where we were surrounded by mountains and spent our few days there cycling, hiking and canoeing around the amazing scenery, it was such a surreal experience. After a few days we headed to Sapa, right on the Chinese border, where vast sways of rice paddies, were visible everywhere we went on our many hikes across this rural region that was almost as beautiful as Ninh Binh. For our final few days, we stayed in Hanoi, and on our penultimate day, we took a boat trip to Halong Bay. I had been looking forward to this trip during my time in Vietnam and to actually be in this iconic place, was fantastic. The unexpected and most astonishing bit of the trip was our venture in a cave that was lit up with so many different colours, it was a sight to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to Vietnam, I highly recommend it, for the scenery alone, the 12 hour flight to get there was worth it!
Stuart Aitken (AMA)