My Experience as a Study Abroad Student at the University of Mary Washington

girl standing with her arm outstretched looking at a forest and lake with a crowd in the background

I’m Daisy! I’m currently wrapping up my 4th and final year of University at Reading but during my 3rd year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to complete a Study Year Abroad at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, USA.

Studying Abroad is a once in a lifetime experience which I would recommend to anyone who has a thirst for travel or wants to get more out of their University experience! Reading has an amazing Study Abroad programme that is open to most courses, you don’t have to be signed up to a Study Abroad programme when you start Uni either! I applied to Study Abroad whilst I was in my 2nd Year and was lucky to spend my 3rd year at the University of Mary Washington. 

So if you’re interested in Studying Abroad yourself, or just want to gain a little insight into my experience, you’re in the right place. I’m going to tell you my 3 favourite memories from my year abroad, 3 things that shocked me when living in the USA, and 3 pieces of practical advice for anyone thinking about completing a study year abroad.

My 3 Favourite Memories: 

  • Cheerleading at Basketball Game Days for my University – I threw myself in the deep end and decided to join the Cheerleading Society in the USA! I had the best experience living out my American Cheerleading Dreams on the sidelines of our Universities Basketball games!
  • Travelling to NYC! – My University was a 5 hour drive from New York City. My friends and I had a few days off Uni for Thanksgiving, but no plans. We spontaneously hopped on a coach to NYC and had the best time roaming the city for a few days. My favourite spot was Central Park!
  • Giggling with my friends in the food hall – it’s easy to list off the fantastic experiences I had whilst abroad but some of my favourite memories came from day to day life at University. There was a big food hall on campus where we ate all of our meals and some of my fondest memories are eating, catching up, and giggling hours away in there with my besties!

3 Things That Shocked Me:

  • The University Work – University work was very different to the work I did back home. Not only could I gain credits from gym classes, or from classes unrelated to my course/major, but the assessment was entirely different too. At home I write lots of long essays but in the US, University work consists of homework style tasks like filling out comprehension worksheets or completing a reading. 
  • The Culture Shock – Perhaps naively I assumed that because people in the US and the UK speak the same language, that our culture would be the same… I was sooo wrong. It took me a while to adjust to the culture shock, to understand how to interact with different people and the general unwritten protocols of American life that you can only learn by living there. Once I got over the initial shock, I settled right in! But it was definitely unexpected. 
  • You can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket – This one doesn’t need much explaining… as a Uni student, you can understand the confusion I felt when I realised you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket, instead you need to find a liquor store, but those aren’t open on Sunday’s! You get used to it eventually!

3 Pieces of Advice:

  • Expect the Unexpected – Try not to travel to your year abroad with an idea in your head of what you think the year will look like. The reality is you have no idea and that’s half the fun! Expect the unexpected and throw yourself into every experience and opportunity you get!
  • Save up money before you go – It’s a great idea to work the Summer before your year abroad and to go with some personal savings so that you can make the most of travelling and different experiences whilst you’re there! You only get the opportunity once so you want to make the most of it!
  • Take some home comforts – I didn’t suffer badly with homesickness but I definitely found myself missing my home comforts. Cups of tea, my favourite snacks, and hugs with my dogs (I didn’t take my dogs with me, don’t worry!) but I did buy a kettle as soon as I arrived and stocked up on tea bags… it’s the little things. 

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