My year abroad has taken place at the University of Oregon, a friendly campus located in the state of Oregon. The University is in the small city of Eugene, which itself is nestled within the Willamette Valley, a vast and beautiful landscape of mountains, forests and rivers. The University boasts a range of facilities and accolades, from the running track used for the latest Olympic try-outs, to renowned research, all within a comfortable distance of the great natural environment it’s surrounded by. However, as a study abroad student, the opportunities that the University of Oregon has provided me, both on and off campus, has been what has made my year abroad so memorable.
A large part of my University of Oregon experience involves being part of the University Athletics bands. When I first sent an e-mail asking to join the marching band, I had no idea it would mean that within 12 hours of landing in the US I would be with 250 other students, learning how to march and play a half time show for the American football games, which was certainly an interesting introduction to life in America, and one way to beat off jet-lag! But over the Spring term, my time in the marching band led to meeting a whole bunch of great people, as well as kick starting my travels around the US West Coast, with the band travelling to games in the neighbouring state of Washington, as well as a game in Corvallis, another city in Oregon.
Being part of the marching band and playing at the football games was an incredible experience, and one I am so glad to have been given. Making friends in the band has led to so many other opportunities outside the band that I couldn’t possibly start to describe them all. But sadly, by the end of the term it was clear that the football season went poorly for the Ducks (The name of the teams and students at the University of Oregon), meaning that travelling with the football team to more games over the Winter Break had to be cancelled. This did however mean I had the opportunity to travel by myself over the winter break. I packed a backpack and went travelling south to neighbouring California to stay with friends and explore more of the US west coast. I got to see San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hollywood as well as visiting some Californian beaches (the beach was perhaps a poor choice for winter in hindsight-But they still looked good!). I then returned to Oregon to spend Christmas and bring in the new year with friends in Portland.
Visiting friends and exploring the West coast over winter break not only gave me the chance to spend time as a tourist and relax after the terms classes, but after having spent so long in the US, and seeing my American friends in their own homes I could begin to get an idea of what life in America could be like.
When the Christmas break was over and the winter term began, I was back being part of the band, but this time we were playing for the Basketball season. Basketball band came with a few perks, notably: basketball is a game played inside, meaning we were guaranteed a warm performance area, but also both our basketball teams were tipped for great things, which meant more traveling opportunities. I personally got to travel to play at games in Seattle, WA, and Bridgeport, CT, allowing me to explore Seattle and New York, all while performing at televised basketball games with a great set of bandmates.
But being part of the UO band hasn’t all been about sports. One of the biggest opportunities I’ve been given was the chance to travel to Ireland to play in the St. Patricks Day parade as part of a marching band with members from Universities across the Pacific North West. Not only was playing in the parade an incredible experience, and a story I’m sure I’ll be telling people for years to come, but coming so close back to home was a great opportunity to meet up with family I hadn’t seen in months, and being with a group of Americans experiencing Europe for the first time was a great role reversal for the experience I’d had over my time in the US, which was refreshing twist.
My year abroad and being part of the band has given me the chance to meet incredible people, do incredible things and go to incredible places – but being a ‘Duck’ has been more than just being part of a band, and there’s countless experiences with classmates and dormmates that I could go into that I haven’t here, but you can get these experiences first hand by going on a year abroad yourself. And if you’re considering it, I cannot recommend Oregon enough, especially if you just so happen to play a marching instrument, and who knows where you might end up?