My name is Cecily Edwards, and I am currently enrolled in the BA (Hons) English Language and Media degree programme as a final year undergraduate. Studying abroad is said to be full of rewards and experiences, and so when offered the opportunity to internationalise my degree, I leapt at the chance. After much consideration, I felt that the USA would provide me with the best opportunities and I was attracted to the West Coast; more particularly San Diego State University, which lies at the very corner of California and is close to the border with Mexico. It wasn’t long before I found myself venturing out into the unknown.
San Diego is the healthy dose of sunshine that everyone needs. The city is alive with culture; it hosts the best Mexican food North of the border and is a magnet for surfers. The San Diegans whom I befriended were proud of their city, and eager to show me why. The Gaslamp Quarter, downtown, is described as an urban playground for diners and partygoers, which I saw in full force whenever the Americans had cause to celebrate (… almost always). Pacific and Ocean beach offered miles of coastline, while Balboa Park and La Jolla were the perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of Californian life.
The summer that I arrived to was warm and arid, with ‘flip-flop weather’ expected all year-round. I lived off-campus with eight American girls in a house that had the luxury of air-conditioning and a pool in the backyard. Unfortunately, California isn’t the most public transportation friendly state so getting from a-to-b proved difficult. However, the campus itself was luckily within walking distance of where I was living.
The host institution can justifiably be described as ‘part university, part Greek temple’ and boasted a recreation centre and aquaplex, of which we took full advantage. The lectures are conducted in a similar fashion to those at Swansea University, although I was taken by surprise when it came to course assessments, which consisted of attendance, pop quizzes, class worksheets, homework and multiple-choice exams to conclude the semester.
The exam settings at SDSU were far more relaxed, taking place in the classroom with belongings placed under your desk. However the workload throughout the term itself was not as easy, unfortunately: homework after every lecture! Overall, the professors at SDSU were always on hand to help if you were having difficulties adjusting, although the classes themselves were very teacher-oriented, and group work was not an activity they seemed to practice. The International Student Centre sent out a weekly newsletter to let students know about upcoming events and important deadlines, which was of real help when getting accustomed to college life.
The experience taught me a whole new kind of independence and gave me an international network of friends. San Diego opened my eyes to the way the world works and made me far more aware of different cultures and customs I had never come across before. I would warn that being under 21 years old does have its limitations; no alcohol in public places, and you will definitely experience culture shocks like driving on the opposite side of the road and added tax to all your expenses. However, these are easily overcome.
Take advantage of the opportunity to get out and explore other cities and states. Whilst the distances are large, air and bus travel is cheap, regular and easy. I had all too much fun in Las Vegas, Texas and Mexico, and was enthralled by the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Hollywood….the list could go on … .!