US Alumni Connections Fund student reports
Fern Adams: Politics, York University, Canada
After getting a place abroad, finances for the year was a concern. I had been given an estimate of how much was needed for my time overseas that was higher than I could afford. I had the further worry as well that on my student visa I would be unable to work off campus and I had heard campus jobs could take time to get and could be hard to come by. Therefore getting a grant has meant an enormous amount to me as it has allowed this year to become a reality. It has helped hugely with the extra costs of a visa, travel expenses, extra living costs and has meant I have been able to participate in ‘Frosh Week’, a week of orientation activities that has enabled me to become familiar with the university here, made many friends and has started my exchange year with a real Canadian experience!I can tell that this year will be challenging, I will learn many new skills academically and personally and meet many people. I am really looking forward to all the opportunities I will get now I am in Toronto and hope that I can get everything possible out of the year. Thank you.
Andrew Flatley: Physics, York University,Canada
I am now just under a week into my year at YorkU in Toronto, Canada. The opportunity to spend a year overseas is one that I view as invaluable as, with the high number of graduates all applying for the same jobs, experience of an international Physics department will give me valuable employable experience for these applications to international corporations. Upon arriving at York, it was instantly apparent that there was a large cultural difference. There was a desire from every person I met to help at every opportunity. The people I have met within this first week have all helped to make settling into the new experience much more tolerable. There are a few differences in the way orientations are run between the two countries, with the first week in England much more inclusive and comforting. However, the large residence sizes and friendly nature make not integrating impossible. Having spent two days within the department I am already confident that my needs will be fully catered for and a great effort taken to ensure that I fully maximise my time here.Receiving a grant from the Alumni association has already helped to open the vast of Canada to me. Having the additional money has given me the means to visit family in Ottawa and will hopefully be spent to fully explore the country. The kind donation from this group will really help to ensure that I do not need to worry about the activities I take part in, reducing a worry from my mind and helping to ensure I settle in quickly, and for this I cannot express my thanks enough!
Michael Dryden: Politics, Philosophy and Economics, UCAL, Santa Barbara
I chose to take part in the exchange to the USA because I had always been interested in American culture, particularly the impacts it had on my degree, Philosophy Politics and Economics. The liberalism put forward by the Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, was a huge part of my reading that caused be to become interested in both politics and philosophy, and these views are still highly demonstrated in the USA today.The University of California, Santa Barbara, in particular, has offered me a chance to extend my studies. The standard of teaching here is supreme, with the Economics department including a Nobel Laureate, Finn Kydland, in its ranks, who I have been able to speak to on occasion at office hours and reinforce my views on consumer utility. The campus itself is very politically aware, causing me to have to discuss what I am learning in the classroom outside in the sunshine a lot more than I expected to, particularly with the interesting developments surrounding the US government.Another huge incentive for me was the amount of courses offered by the universities in the US. It allowed me to really specify what I wanted to do, and get to the areas of the subjects I loved, which wasn’t necessarily available at York.Receiving the grant from the Alumni has meant so much to me, allowing me to excel both academically and on an extra-curricular basis. The problem with taking so many specific classes, as I mentioned above, is that the books necessary to study them are limited and expensive, up to $150 each! Without the grant, I would of seriously struggled to get them, and honestly do not know what I could have done without them.The grant has also allowed me to join the Excursion Club at UCSB, which promotes sports that most people in the world would never get to try (especially in England) such as surfing and waterskiing, and also taking me on trips to explore some of the most beautiful areas of the US, including the Redwood forests and Lake Tahoe.My first impressions were how different my classes were to York, and the size of the opportunity I had. Whilst a lot more taxing, I have felt that the lectures at UCSB are a lot more rewarding, and that I have a lot more contact time with my teachers which has been great. I have also had a lot more homework but this, along with the midterm system, have really reinforced my knowledge, and have not allowed me to take my foot off the accelerator. Realising the size of the opportunity I had was a huge thing for me as well. For me, this is the most exciting and interesting place in the world, and the chance to study and live her for a year is just exceptional. On my first few days, I would just look out of my window at the beautiful Californian coast on one side, and the Santa Ynez mountains on the other, and consider myself the luckiest person in the world to be given the opportunity to see them.I wake up a lot earlier, mainly because there is so much to be doing here. If I’m not in class or doing homework, I am at the beach or playing all kinds of sport! There just aren’t enough hours in the day! (I’m the tall one in the middle)
Dan Hodd: Music, Rochester
The USA has always fascinated me culturally, and the prospect of studying there one day always appealed to me. So when the offer arose of a study abroad exchange there I jumped at it. I was always interested in studying abroad in some manner, and the idea of studying somewhere that spoke English seemed a logical idea, and studying somewhere I wanted to visit made even more sense. What's more, a trip as far as to the USA needs justification compared to a quick jaunt to Europe. When I looked into things further I discovered that the courses I could take would be very interesting, and the experience of studying music in another continent an invaluable experience.This grant will enable me to finance violin and vocal lessons through the year, something I may have struggled to do without this extra money. What's more, it may enable me to travel more than I first thought. I feel honoured to have been given this financial aid.I was bowled over by the cultural diversity of the country, how tall all the buildings were, how humid it was, and how friendly all the people were!I feel very popular at the university - everyone knows me as the British guy, I've been meeting lots of people and having a lot of fun. I am more reliant on friends here, and need them to go shopping and for some travel trips as I cannot drive, and everyone is so reliant on cars in this country.
Jeremy Hatchuel: PPE, UPenn
Since I arrived to the University of Pennsylvania a little over a month ago, the way I perceive the institution and the country as a whole has not ceased to evolve. I decided to apply to the exchange because I saw an opportunity to gain insight on how the course of Philosophy, Politics and Economics is taught at one of the top tier institutions in the United States. The perspective that I am acquiring of my program of the study is one of the prominent features of my exchange experience. From a more personal standpoint, studying in the United States has allowed me to get reacquainted with a part of my family and of myself to which I had grown estranged to. As a large part of my maternal family resides in the Tri-State area and having lived in Europe all my life, I had lost touch with my American cultural heritage. Discovering and exploring it permits me to understand the choice that my mother made to leave the country so early and allows me to live for a year a life that could’ve been mine had she stayed.Life at the University of Pennsylvania is very different from life at the University of York. Academically, there is considerably more competition and pressure than anywhere else I’ve studied. The curvature of every midterm or paper of every class, the tough coursework and large amount of homework creates an atmosphere that is both stressful and stimulating. The university encourages students to form relationships with their professors and it is not uncommon for a lecturer to take one or two students to lunch. Socially, the Greek system of fraternities and sororities is deeply implanted at Penn and it has been a major factor of the culture shock that I experienced when first arriving here. What I thought only existed in Hollywood comedies about US colleges is actually real and alive and I am still trying to understand how it all works. I have not associated with many exchange students as I want to experience what is American university life as authentically as possible and therefore it seemed to be almost necessary that I get involved in one way or another with the fraternity system.The US Alumni Connection Award is allowing me to live this experience to the fullest. I have just gone to visit my cousin at McGill University in Montreal, which despite the twelve hour train ride, has been great. I have visited friends at Yale and Princeton, which has reinforced my interest in pursuing a master’s degree or a graduate program in the United States. I have also been able to go out and explore the city of Philadelphia and all it has to offer, both socially and culturally and have been amazed but what I have seen. I have gone to listen to the Philadelphia philharmonic orchestra at the Kimmel Center, have been to concerts, museums and galleries. Philadelphia is an incredibly dynamic city and the grant has permitted me to take full advantage of what is has to offer. Receiving this award has truly transformed my experience for the better and I am very grateful the alumni without who’s generosity it could have not existed.
Opimepo Akisanya: Course: Politics, Philosophy and Economics, University of Pennsylvania
From my “exchange-tinted lenses”, York’s study abroad schemes are understated, undervalued but highly beneficial opportunities, which separate the University and the participants from other institutions and students, respectively. I say understated because York is one of very few UK institutions that allows students to spend a year abroad without necessarily incurring an additional year of study. Effectively, a typical York student gets the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of studying abroad in three (or four) years instead of four (or five) years as in other universities. As a mature student, who wants to get on with life after undergraduate studies quickly, this is crucial and immensely valuable. It also means I can speak truthfully - perhaps boastfully – of earning my degree from two prestigious universities, one of which happens to be an Ivy League institution. It is also undervalued because it gives those who have the opportunity to undergo the exchange experience the chance to pay less tuition for the same number of years. I paid 50 per cent less than my fellow students in the UK and a tinier fraction than those studying at Penn. In addition, there are various opportunities to earn bursaries and scholarships such as the US Alumni Connections Award and the government’s need-based bursary.Culturally, I was able to experience the US’s and the University of Pennsylvania’s unique liberal arts education. This meant I was able to take a variety of classes I would not have dreamed of if I studied all three years at York. I took courses ranging from Film Culture to American Foreign Policy to the Practice of Law. I also had the benefit of being taught a class on Global Justice by the Professor who wrote the textbook, which is also used at York for the same class. Being in a new environment at Penn, I felt strangely like a fresher again but I was able to settle in really quickly and met some amazing fellow exchange students who later joined me in founding the Penn Exchange Student Club (PennEx for short). I am also proud to have been elected to represent the Exchange student body for the first time at Penn, on the International Students Advisory Board, where I served as the Outreach Co-Chair and led a team on designing and implementing a University-wide survey and focus group on how international students are integrated.Having had a taste of living and studying in the US, I am looking forward to writing the GRE and LSAT examinations in December with the hope of applying to Graduate schools in the US for a PhD in Political Philosophy, with specific interests on investigating whether there is a moral right or responsibility to intervene in other countries. Ultimately, I am hoping to work as a Barrister with an international focus, whilst lecturing part-time on issues of human rights and jurisprudence.I am very grateful for the financial support I received through the kind donations from the York Visiting Scholarship fund. It helped a great deal, especially towards visiting cities around America. Some of the highlights of my travels include an 8-hour long drive from Philadelphia to Buffalo, New York to witness the great beauty of the Niagara Falls. I also got the chance to visit old friends in California and joined my family for thanksgiving in Chicago. And I am also grateful to Charles and Patricia Renfro (York alumni) for taking me out to lunch and keeping in touch with me during my stay in Philadelphia.If I am able study abroad again, I would definitely not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. It has been a wonderful chance for me to make lifelong friends from different parts of the world as well as explore a part of the world I have never visited.
Stephen Hutt: Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, University of California, Santa Cruz
Computer Science is a constantly evolving discipline, each month of each year there is something new, a new smart phone, a new computer that costs thirty pounds, a new TV with built in Skype making contacting family even easier. All these innovations are changing the way we live our lives and they are mostly being led by companies based on the West Coast of America, more specifically, based in California.My exchange in Santa Cruz, a city just on the edge of the Silicon Valley, allowed me to go to seminars with some fantastic Industry leaders in my field. I was able to see the new Outlook.com software before it went live, as well as chat with the Engineers behind it and discuss how it worked. I attended lectures it went live with Recruiters from Microsoft, Facebook and Google and find out about what they are looking for in graduates, how they hire and perhaps most interestingly of all, what not to put in your application.The American education system is very different to our own, and though this was an initial shock to me, I feel that the process of adapting to it was very valuable. I enjoyed the contrast in learning styles, and I feel having experienced both will help me in the next chapter when I have graduated. Also I intend to bring some of the techniques I have used back with me, to aid my learning at York.I am pleased to say that my experience was not purely academic. I had the opportunity to see some of the fantastic things America has to offer. I went camping in Yosemite, a national Park approximately the size of Lancashire, where I saw wildlife, mountains and some phenomenal waterfalls. I spent a lot of time in San Francisco with its eclectic architecture and fantastic Theatrical scene. I also visited Los Angeles, where I spent some time looking around UCLA as well as some more typical tourist activities.In the pre-departure workshops run by the Study Abroad Office, we went through the concept of culture shock and whilst watching these I was never quite sure how much they applied to me; Americans all speak English and it never looks that different to England when you see it in the movies, well apart from the weather, so is the culture that different? I see now how wrong I was to think that. The subtle differences in culture have a huge effect and I now feel that I have a far greater respect for their culture than maybe I had before, that can only be a positive influence on me as a person.After university I hope to pursue a career in research. This has definitely been partly a result of my year abroad and having had my eyes opened to some of the state of the art research that is going on. Not just the amazing new super computer but the research that is more directly affecting people’s lives such as the iPad app for stroke victims to help rebuild neural pathways. I would like to take this time to thank the donors to the University of York in America. My Year abroad was a unique experience that allowed me to grow as a person. Alongside having a fantastic Academic experience and making industry links that I have no doubt will prove invaluable, I made some lifelong friends and saw some truly amazing and beautiful things. I thoroughly encourage studying abroad for a year to all students. It’s not easy, it’s a long way away and opportunities to see friends and family are far less than if you were at York for that year. However I am certain that the result of my year abroad is that I will be a far better prepared graduate in a few years’ time than I would have been otherwise.
Emma Tomlinson: Archaeology, Columbia
The main thing studying abroad has taught me is how to be independent. Arriving in a new country not knowing anyone was definitely stressful at times but it forced me to use my initiative and in turn gave me confidence. After a year in New York I now feel capable to deal with any new challenge that may come my way.I am most proud of the fact that I did not take one second of my year abroad for granted and worked hard to make sure that I made the most of my time there. I not only was actively involved with campus life but also made an effort to engage with other communities throughout the city. After Hurricane Sandy hit a group of us took the train down to Brooklyn to help with clean-up operations there. As a result, I have had an incredible experience, met some great people and made lifelong friends.A year in New York, surrounded by people who sacrificed a great deal to move to the city to pursue their dreams has only reinforced my belief that hard work can get you to where you want to be. I am planning to start another degree upon graduating from York next year and will definitely be looking to spend some time living abroad in the future. Without your generosity, this would not have been possible and so I am extremely grateful for the experience you have given me. Your donations have enabled a variety of students, like myself, to have the opportunity to explore another part of the world and to experience and learn from a culture other than their own. Thank you.
Lily Armstrong: English and Philosophy, York University, Canada
My year abroad in Toronto exceeded all of my expectations. I faced challenges academically, socially and personally, and by the end of the year I felt that I had accomplished a huge amount. It was a very rewarding experience. Having the chance to study for a whole year at a foreign university enabled me to take modules that I would otherwise have not been able to. For example, I decided to take a module in Canadian Literature, which really helped me to understand more about the culture and history that I was surrounded by. I worked alongside a diverse group of students, whilst being taught by fascinating professors who perhaps approached the subjects differently to ways in which I am used to. The general learning environment in Toronto was extremely different, and one that I had to adjust to. The workload was much heavier, and my days much busier but I quickly managed to adjust. Working efficiently and juggling many different priorities is definitely a skill that will come in useful for my third year back in York. Before I left, I was quite nervous about being so far away from home, and fitting in as an international student. I needn’t have worried. Toronto is a hugely multicultural city, with a young and exciting atmosphere. Students and staff at the university did their utmost to make me feel welcome, and I very rarely felt homesick. The Visiting Scholarship Fund helped me out in so many ways. It contributed towards the cost of my textbooks, which are vastly more expensive than here in the UK. It also went towards trips to Montreal and New York – it was great to be able to visit these different cultures and make the most of being on the other side of the Atlantic! Thank you so much for contributing to a fantastic and invaluable year. Going on a year abroad is a fantastic opportunity to experience something different. I made so many friends with interesting people – not just Canadians, but other exchange students from all over the world! I have come back to York for my third year with a fresh approach to university, and a greater sense of independence and resilience. It may feel like a big leap to take, but it’s definitely worth it! The hardest part for me was coming back home.
Mihai Vasile: Philosophy, US Berkeley
Doing a year abroad has changed me in many ways. I have broadened my perspective about a lot of things, from career plans to music taste. The American system is quite different from the one in the UK, and Berkeley is an excellent institution which helped me improve my study skills. This is exactly what I was looking for from such an experience and I am glad I have achieved it. Of course this means that now I should be able to study better and do better in class. Academically, it has been an incredibly enriching year. Ironically, I had to go to California to discover German Philosophy, as I studied there the works of Hegel, Frege, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. It has provided me the opportunity to rediscover Political Philosophy - I initially came to York as a Politics student but after the first year decided to switch to Philosophy, a much better fit for me.I took a course on Political Theory in the Rhetoric Department at Berkeley that inspired me to teach an introductory course at my former school in Romania for young students. That is my greatest achievement so far, and it would not have happened if had I not studied abroad. As a result I am hoping to go back to Berkeley, either to do a PhD or to Law School. Alternatively, I would like to teach Philosophy. A year abroad is a completely different experience than anything you'll do as a student. Different cultures, different teaching methods lead to gaining new habits and new skills, which can only count as an improvement. Not to mention that the limited time you have makes everything so much more intense, which, in turn, makes the memories and friendships greater.Thank you so much for your support. The Award helped me enjoy the Bay Area while I was there and buy all the books I need it for my courses. This experience has changed me for the better and the Award made it significantly easier for me to focus on studying and enjoying my time there.