Goooooo Gators

I had the exciting opportunity to study at University of Florida for Fall Semester 2017. I arrived in Gainesville, Florida late on 14th August after meeting (little did I know at the time) my soon-to-be best friend, Julia a post-graduate exchange student from Germany, at Gainesville Airport. I remember looking out of the window of the hotel I would spend the night in and repeating to myself in awe that I was in America and about to start a four month adventure.

The next couple of days after I moved into Weaver Hall, the accommodation block specifically for exchange students from around the world and American students interested in meeting non-Americans, were a complete blur of meeting new people, attending introductory meetings, and exploring the beautiful campus. I had arrived at Weaver a couple of days before the official check-in day, so had the opportunity to get acquainted with my surroundings before the influx of other internationals, and my room-mate, Hallie, moved in. Looking back, it is unbelievable how quickly I clicked with everyone, and got involved in my Florida experience; within my first week of arriving, I had gone to clubs and bars in Downtown and Midtown, gone to a house party, and attended a pep rally which involved the Gator Band and cheerleaders.

Classes started on the second week and I quickly got into the routine of two classes a day every day: one class of American History before the Civil War and another after the Civil War, a class on the History of Human Rights, and a class about Nuclear History. All of my professors were passionate about their specialities, and later proved themselves to be extremely accommodating to the new pressures I faced under a new education system and, ultimately, different way of learning.

I did not realise how many new situations I would be in while moving to America – it was like when I first moved to Reading, but with a different culture that I had not experienced first-hand before. There was a new bus system, a different currency, taxes added onto purchases, and accents that were completely new to me; all in a country where I was on my own and with a negative five hour time difference to my family. This could have scared me, and I definitely felt this sensation creep over me now and again at the beginning of my time in America, but ultimately I was excited and amazed that I was living and studying on my own in a different country.

After the first week of school, I attended my first Gator volleyball event, spent the day at Lake Wauburg, and went to the mall with Julia. On Labor Day, Julia, Sam, and I went tubing (using big, rented, inflatable rings) in Ichetucknee Springs. The springs were the most beautiful place I have been in my life, and I had my first glimpse at baby alligators. I also had three dragonflies land on me as I drifted lazily down the springs. I was overwhelmed at the beauty I had only seen in nature programmes on television, and could not believe I was experiencing such wonders myself. The first few weeks at University of Florida taught me how important it is to balance school and fun, as I attended events and met friends who would remain close to me throughout my stay in Gainesville. Although I am writing this in retrospect, I hoped this experience would remain as joyful as it had been so far – and do you know what, although there were difficulties at times, it did.

 

A myriad of experiences on Reading’s doorstep…

Cameron, who joined the University of Reading Study Abroad Programme from the University of Florida in January – June 2017, found there were so many experiences to be had within a short journey from Reading. Join him as he takes a trip to the British Museum in London…

One of the experiences that I have had during my time at the University of Reading was a trip I made to the British Museum in London. While I’m aware that museums are not exactly a great many people’s cup of tea, I for one love them. I think it comes from being someone that has always loved history. The British Museum is particularly interesting in that there are numerous artefacts from across the world that are on display. For one they have jewellery from Sumer that is close to five thousand years old, as well as sarcophagi from Ancient Egyptian tombs. Not to mention a rather impressive collection of Ancient Greek sculptures.

To me perhaps the most striking were the carvings on display from the Ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. These carvings were actually part of the interior decoration of the royal palace and depict scenes from the daily life of the rulers of Assyria to their military conquests. Also, for anyone with an interest in medieval history like me, they have numerous artefacts from the Saxon and Viking period in England. This encompasses artefacts from the 7th century Sutton Hoo burials, including the ornate and famous helmet. In all honesty the British Museum is a must see for history buffs, but keep in mind that the place is huge and it would take most of a day to actually enjoy all of it.

Finally, if anyone is interested in visiting the Museum, it’s only a half-hour train ride from Reading to London, and a ticket for a train ride covering both the round trip to London and unlimited trips on the London Underground for a day costs only about £20.