Adventures and Challenges About Studying Abroad

October 12, 2015 marks the twenty-third day that I am studying abroad in Bristol, United Kingdom. Even though I’ve only been here for a very short amount of time, this studying abroad experience has already had a huge impact on me.

Adventure 1: I got to explore United Kingdom extensively!

In the past few days, I’ve explored both London and Bristol. I went on London Eye, visited Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kensington Palace, and Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station in London. I’ve visited the stunning Clifton Suspension Bridge, the beautiful Harbourside, and walked up the hilly Park Street in Bristol. In the next few weeks, I will be visiting Bath and Stonehenge, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, Snowdonia, and Edinburgh. It’s both eye-opening and exciting to explore United Kingdom so extensively!

I was about to get on London Eye in London

 

Park Street in Bristol

 

Adventure 2: I got to absorb British culture entirely!

Since I am participating in an exchange program, I immersed into British life immediately. I am currently living in a suite/flat with six other British students. I remember when I moved in the first day, my flat mates offered me tea and biscuits as soon as I walked into the kitchen. They also taught me many British slangs and customs and invited me to go to pubs and welcome week events with them. I’ve had many fish and chips, enjoyed afternoon tea, learned Ceillidh dance and watched Doctor Who with my British friends. I might even be able to speak with a British accent when I return to the US!

My residential hall, Goldney Hall at Bristol Uni

 

Adventure 3: I got to experience a different education system and join interesting societies!

Unlike American universities, British students only spend three years in the university to obtain their bachelor’s degrees. British university students even have to declare their majors before they enter university, and they only take classes that are pertinent to their subjects. So, spending a gap year abroad right after high school graduation is quite common in the UK. Oh, and my final exam grades will make up 80% of my final mark, so this is quite terrifying.

While in Bristol, I joined some very unique and interesting clubs. Right now I am a contributor to both the fashion and science & technology columns at the Bristol student newspaper, Epigram. I am also a member of the Wine Tasting Society and Bollywood Dance Group. Joining different societies allows me to meet more people and relieve stress from studying.

The School of Arts at Bristol Uni

 

However, studying abroad isn’t only about exciting trips and delicious food; there are some challenges that I didn’t expect before I came here.

Challenge 1: Homesickness and culture shock are real.

Being in a new place can be overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone prior to my arrival ten days ago. I also had a hard time understanding what my flat mates were talking about due to their accents and different usage of English. I really missed my friends in Rochester for the first week. But later, I realized that once I stepped out of my comfort zone and initiated conversations with other people, I can make new friends every day. British people are indeed more reserved and indirect compared to Americans, but if I make the effort, they will open up to me.

Challenge 2: I have to make my own meals and maintain a budget at the same time.

Since I am living in a self-catered residential hall, I have to cook for myself three times a day. I relied heavily on my meal plan when I was in Rochester and my parents always cooked for me when I was home, so buying groceries every week while under a certain budget, preparing three meals a day, and washing dishes have become part of my daily routine here at Bristol. I now really appreciate my mother cooking every night while working during the day when I lived at home, and I feel more responsible and mature for taking care of myself.

Despite the challenges I’ve encountered, studying abroad is certainly a life-changing and unforgettable experience for me. Thank you to the University of Rochester and Bristol University for offering me this chance!

Bristol city view

 

About the author

Sophie Zhang

I'm a member of Class of 2017 majoring in electrical and computer engineering and minoring in biomedical engineering. I'm originally from Chongqing, China, but I spent my junior and senior year of high school in Concord, New Hampshire. I am a campus tour guide, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega community service Fraternity and a contributing writer at Campus Times. I will also become a freshmen Resident Advisor and a senior interviewer next year. I am excited to meet all of you, Class of 2020 and 2021 in person!!!

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