Exploring new places solo

If you, like Hedyieh from Colorado State University, are coming from outside of Europe to join the Study Abroad Programme at Reading, you’ll find Reading an ideal base for exploring the Continent, either with friends or solo…

Now this is not for everyone, but I wish it could be. If the fear of being alone or traveling alone scares you and bothers you more than it benefits you I do not suggest you travel alone BUT if you are just making excuses, stop making them. There are many different types of traveling: going with your family, going with friends to a party destination, going with friends to sight see, small group travels, large group travels, solo, etc. All of these types should be experienced if possible because you learn something different with each way of traveling and it helps make you a better individual overall.

Traveling completely solo was something I had never done before. I have travelled alone to meet friends or go to camp but I have never just travelled to a destination alone and stay alone. My first trip was to Paris and I was completely hesitant on whether or not I should do it because all the friends I was supposed to travel with could not make it to the trip. That fear was the only thing that was holding me back.

After a week of thinking I knew that if I did not make it to France I would highly regret it and at the end of the term I did not know if there would be time to squeeze in France, so I just went for it. I was in Amsterdam with a friend the weekend before visiting Paris which was perfect.

Once Monday came around I caught an 8 hour bus ride from Amsterdam to Paris and it went by so quickly. I was super nervous about so many things from navigating alone, to eating alone, and to having my evenings alone. I have always had friends to lean on and join at hostels when making more friends, almost like a safety cushion, I was nervous that I was not going to be able to make friends on my own and that I would look silly or desperate approaching strangers at the hostel. All of these nerves are normal and good, the best way to get over them is by just being yourself and going for everything you want. You have already arrived and booked the trip so why not do more.

Since I arrived into France at an awkward time, there was just enough room for me to see one place before the sun completely set, I quickly made it to the metro station and chose to see the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely stunning in person. I could not believe something I see in pictures and learn about was finally in front of me, I was in awe. I made it back to my hostel by dinner time and I was able to chat amongst a few people which was not so bad for the first day.

On the second day I really experienced traveling alone. I had to eat breakfast and lunch alone, the thought of that made me so anxious but then I realized so many people around me were doing the same and no one was watching. Sight seeing alone was also nerve racking at first but slowly everything came together. When you travel alone you really get time to think, travel at your pace, and just dive into peace and quiet.

The third day was absolutely perfect. I woke up early to get into the Louvre near opening time. Going alone was the best choice I made because I ended up spending 6 hours inside, doing everything at my pace. If I were with people I do not know how it would have all happened. Afterwards I walked down the Seine to the Notre Dame and I finally got a message from my stomach telling me it was hungry. Lunch was perfect. I walked down the Seine with a baguette in one hand and a liter of Prosecco in the other. It was so beautiful and quiet and the sun was out shining down on Paris.

I got to make my way back to the Louvre through the gardens and down the Champs Elysees and I finally reached the Arc de Triumph. As the sun set I was smiling and soaking up all the incredible time I got for myself in the 3 days. I do not know if it was because no one was around influencing my thoughts or if I never put in time for myself like I just did but everything fell into place. I really appreciated myself and my capabilities. I learned the city within 48 hours, never got lost, never got robbed, and learned to accept that it’s okay to be alone, it’s actually really healthy to do so once in awhile.

We can get so caught up in our daily routine and get sucked into this bubble we never noticed. Traveling really wakes you up from all the closed curtains and traveling alone challenges you as an individual to think. You think about what you are doing with your life, you think about what you want out of life, you think about everything you are seeing and experiencing. It is like doing a puzzle on your own and you finally see the big picture instead of each piece alone.

So if you are reading this and you run into a weekend or a few days where no one can travel with you, it’s okay you should still go! Do not skip out on a trip because no one else can come with you, go for you! Bring a book and a journal or camera and just indulge in everything you do!! Be safe, be smart, and be cautious!!


Reading: location, location, location and so much more…

Just what is it about Reading? Hedyieh from Colorado State University, who studied abroad with us from January – June 2017, tells us more…

I took a chance with Reading and chose this school out on a whim. I knew it was super close to London and that the academic program at the university was very good for many courses but little did I know how thankful I would be for Reading. With the 5 months I have had here, Reading has grown on me each day and I am so glad that this was the place I decided to make my home.

Lets start with academics. So many programs here in Reading are flourishing. I have been challenged studying for exams and essays due to the rigor my professors provided for me. I loved the practicals offered as well. I am a biomedical science major and neurobiology had a really cool practical. I have never dissected a brain and having that opportunity was incredible. Professors here are really passionate about their work and give as much information as they can throughout their lectures.

Location, location, location. Reading is the perfect place to be honest. It is a thirty minute train ride to London and nearly an hour or two to other cities and places like Oxford, Dover, Cambridge, Stonehenge, Bath, etc. It’s amazing! Besides London Stansted Airport the other three airports are super close and choosing any of them for a cheaper flight was perfect. While traveling Europe I never had a plane ride longer than two and a half hours which was so nice, England is so central. With so many friends who were also studying abroad I was able to go to London and back as often as I would like for a very reasonable price.

Living in Reading was perfect because it was not as expensive as living in London. What is there to do around here? Everything. Town center is awesome and its where my flatmates and I found ourselves with any downtime in Reading. You could walk or catch the 21 bus and get to town in fifteen minutes. Any home goods and groceries needed throughout the term were easily accessible and there was a variety of stores to choose from. Popular shopping stores and restaurants are everywhere. Bars, pubs, and clubs are open every night and provide an evening filled with dancing or cheering on a football team.

Reading has a small town vibe, it is not very big and most of it can be visited within a few hours but that is the best part of it. There is not a certain type of people living here, it is a big melting pot of diversity so every person you will see has a different style in clothing and you will run into people of all ages. Everyone here is so friendly and it is so nice having that kind of environment when going out or just spending a day in town with friends. I could not be more comfortable in this awesome town.


Upgraded to Business Class after the Goodbyes

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Harriet is studying abroad at the Colorado State University (Fort Collins) in the USA as part of her English Literature Degree at Reading. After spending a semester abroad, this is her last post covering her last month in the USA!

So my Study Abroad experience has finished and I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life so far. In my last few weeks at CSU I experienced Thanksgiving – it’s basically just Christmas but without any presents. I spent the week with my friend and her family and it was great to feel involved with the true American culture. The food was also amazing! When I was at my friend’s house we visited Denver one night, which is the capital city of Colorado. We went to the Aquarium and also just explored downtown a bit, so it was nice to see other parts of Colorado. It was also great to just have a week of no work after having eleven solid weeks at University without a break!

After Thanksgiving I had a few more weeks of classes before finals week, and it finally snowed! It snowed a lot more than it usually does in England, and the snow stayed for about a week before melting. It was so cold but worth it because Colorado is really gorgeous in the snow, especially the mountains.

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Soon enough it was finals week. I had been dreading it, however exams were not even nearly as hard as exams in Reading – I got 2 hours for each exam to answer short questions without writing any long essays. I finished really early in every exam and I think my grades are looking okay. One of my exams was also online so for this we were allowed to look at our notes whilst we were taking the exam! It is definitely easier to get good grades in America than it is in the UK!

After finals week I went to Seattle, Washington with my roommate and my friend from Reading. We stayed with my roommate’s family who were really accommodating and made us feel incredibly welcome. We had an amazing week and saw sights such as the Space Needle, Gas Works Park, the famous gum wall, and took a ferry across to Bainbridge Island. On our last day in Seattle we went Snow Tubing in the mountains, which was incredible. You basically sit in a rubber ring and go sledding, but being in the mountains made it an even more amazing experience. Seattle is a beautiful city and it’s very historical so it was interesting to visit, and it was also great to get to spend more time with my roommate before having to say goodbye.

Leaving the US and my roommate was most definitely the hardest part of my experience – I just did not want to leave, and if I had had the option to spend the entire year in America I would have. Our flight home was quite eventful as we arrived late to our connecting flight so had to be rerouted through New York instead of Georgia. But we were upgraded to business class because of the delays, so it could definitely have been worse!

I have been talking to my roommate every day since leaving and have already planned my next trip to America, as well as when my friends from Colorado will visit England. Study Abroad was a truly awesome experience and I would not change a second of my time.


Read Harriet’s last post here: http://bit.ly/2iL05Jc 


Running workshops at the local prison

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Harriet is currently studying abroad at the Colorado State University (Fort Collins) in the USA as part of her English Literature Degree at Reading. Getting involved in CSU has given her the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of activities, read on to find out more. 

Halfway through my study abroad experience and I can most definitely say that I do not want to come home! My classes are going really well and it’s interesting to get a different perspective on subjects that I learnt at home. I’ve just finished a week full of midterm exams, however they were definitely not as hard as the exams at Reading because most of the exams are multiple-choice, so a lot better than writing essays!

Two weeks ago I took part in “weekend in the mountains”, a trip run for international students where we went up to the Colorado State University Mountain Campus for the weekend and do a load of activities, such as hiking and roasting smores on the campfire. This was really cool, and I made a lot of friends from Universities all over the world, mainly Australia and New Zealand. The weekend was a fantastic experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who goes to CSU for their study abroad.

I’ve also gotten involved with the CSU Literacy Centre, so every Wednesday evening me and three other girls go to the local prison and run a workshop with some of the inmates, and at the end of the semester we publish a book of everything they have written. It’s been a really rewarding experience so far, and it’s something that I’d really love to bring back to Reading because I can see the huge difference it’s making on the inmates’ lives. There are also workshops run with unprivileged children, which one of my friends is involved in, and she also loves it.

I still can’t believe how much pride the students have for the school here at CSU. It was homecoming last week, so there was a huge bonfire, fireworks, a load of parades, and a big football game, which we finally won! It was a really great week and everyone was decked out in CSU gear all week. There’s a lot more team spirit and support for all of the sports teams here than there is at Reading, so it’s really nice to be able to get involved with all of that.

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Halloween was also really cool, but it’s not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. My roommate and I went to a few Halloween parties, which were all really cool! Thanksgiving break is also coming up in a few weeks! I’m staying at a friend’s house for the week and we’re planning a load of activities to do each day, so hopefully I’ll get to explore more of Colorado! As well as Colorado, I’m going to Washington for a few days at the end of December with my roommate before flying back to England. I’m really excited to go there because that’ll be the fourth state that I’ve visited in my time here, and it looks like such a pretty state, although it’s definitely livelier than it is here in Colorado. I wish I could stay here for the whole year, but this is definitely an experience I will never forget!


Missed Harriet’s first blog post? Catch up on her ‘My Dorm looks out on the Rocky Mountains’ Post.

My Dorm Room looks over the Rocky Mountains…

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Harriet is currently studying abroad at the Colorado State University (Fort Collins) in the USA as part of her English Literature Degree at Reading. Read on to find out how she’s adjusting life in the USA.

Before coming to Fort Collins, a friend and myself went to New York for five days and Florida for ten. We had an amazing time in New York: we went up the Rockefeller Centre, on a boat tour around New York City, and went shopping on 5th Avenue, among other things. Florida was also amazing: we went to Disney World for a few days, and we also went to Universal Studios. This travelling experience was a great way to see different parts of the country and at the end of it, we were both so excited to finally get to Colorado and move into our dorms!

When the plane began to land at Denver International Airport, I fell in love with Colorado; all you could see were fields with occasional small towns nestled among them, and this view didn’t change once I had landed. Through the whole drive from the airport to the University, the mountains were visible: they spread over the whole state and make for insane photos! My dorm room looks out onto the Rocky Mountains and I still haven’t got over the beauty of this state. Every morning when I wake up I have to take a picture of the mountains in the morning sun because it takes my breath away – it’s definitely very different to Reading!

University of Reading student studying abroad in the USA for a Semester

Making the most of the semester abroad in the USA

My first few weeks at Colorado have been amazing! I have made lots of friends from all over the world, which is really cool. So far I have been on a hike up the mountains, gone to an American Football game, and went out boating on the Horsetooth Reservoir. Through most of the game I had no idea what was happening and our team lost, but it was an amazing atmosphere and it was definitely more interesting to watch than a normal football game! Going up the mountains was also amazing and stunning; you could see for miles all along the reservoir and I made a lot of friends whilst doing this hike who I have seen a lot since then. Going boating has definitely been my favourite thing so far though – I went with my roommate and her family friends and we did a lot of water sports, like tubing and wake-boarding.

My roommate is so nice; in the fortnight that we have known each other we have grown so close and I can definitely see us being friends for life. She has invited me to Seattle for a few days in December and I have made her promise to come and visit me in England once the study abroad experience is over. We have made a bucket-list of adventures to go on whilst we’re here, so quite soon we are hoping to get a group of us together and go on a hike at night to look at the stars and watch the sun rise over the mountains, which sounds really amazing.

There is quite a lot of work compared to back home, but none of it is too much, and it’s quite nice to know how you’re doing. The teachers are all really nice and are willing to help out with even the smallest thing. I can’t wait to spend more time getting to know the people and the state and am looking forward to going on different adventures!