Considering I’ve spent seven months living, studying and exploring San Francisco, it still only feels like I recently arrived; naïve, burdened with a bulging suitcase and (initially) hopelessly lost. While San Francisco seemed then like an alien city with large roads, jostling with loud voices and an unavoidable amount of homeless people on the streets, it now feels like a second home. Yes, accommodation is undoubtedly the most difficult thing about San Francisco, the prices are extortionate and you are very much on your own: so my advice is look early and if you don’t mind sharing a room, do so, as you will save a lot of money.
Once the housing was sorted, the next port of call was attending lectures at San Francisco State University, a very different environment compared to UEA. For one, they call professors – ‘teachers,’ coursework – ‘homework,’ and Universities themselves – ‘schools.’ Once you get over this trip back to secondary school language, you also have to adjust to the idea of quantity over quality as the workload feels like less but you always have to be alert for the odd surprise pop quiz. One perk of San Francisco State University is the absolute freedom of half your modules which are considered your minor. With options such as meditation class, outdoor adventure class and even a wrestling class. I managed to take modules in journalism, cinema module and acting alongside my major which were all fantastic chances to enjoy completely different classes outside my degree and comfort zone. As San Francisco is such an important city in the Gay Right’s movement and has a high population of immigrants it is considered one of the most liberal places in California, and indeed the whole of America. When the election came around, this liberal attitude which is very apparent in the University professors and students too, was much needed when loss was heavy in the air. The day after Trump was elected there was a real feel of comradery as students and professors took time to talk in lectures about the result, their fears and most importantly what they were going to do about it; which involved numerous marches around SF which I attended, and the memories of which I will always remember.
Once you’ve done all the touristy things (Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Twin Peaks), the city is divided into so many various segments you can never get bored. You have the Sunset area – where I live – with Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park and Land’s End; Castro – the epicenter of the LGBT movement in San Francisco and indeed America with a fascinating and moving history which I thoroughly recommend you research. Downtown you have the Financial District which is a labyrinth of skyscrapers, a collection of shops (or malls), the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and Fisherman’s Wharf with a beautiful view of the ocean. Being so close to so many other beautiful places has allowed me to travel to L.A., San Diego, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and Death Valley – and that was just in one Christmas road trip! Honestly, I cannot recommend San Francisco enough as a study abroad location. The University allows you to try new modules, have access to world renowned professors in American Studies and all the while you get to explore the beautiful city and surrounding areas. My only warning: if you want to come to San Francisco start saving money now, trust me, you’ll need it!
Dan Struthers (American and English Literature) in San Fransisco State University 2016/17