By Alec Swatton, Politics with International Year
St. Norbert College, Wisconsin (USA)
August 24th, 2021 – 4 am. I left my dad at Heathrow’s departures lounge, having spent the night sleeping in the car at the McDonald’s Car Park just outside of Heathrow. 24 hours, 3 flights and a lightning-storm later I was treated to a magnificent sunset whilst on approach to Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport, which made the long journey to America absolutely worth it.
One month earlier, I was in London attending my visa appointment. And a year before that, my dream of studying abroad in the US looked to have been put to an end, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Having persevered and deferred my year abroad, planned and changed these plans a million and a half times, I had landed on American soil and greeted my host advisor in the arrivals lounge. I arrived not knowing anyone, not knowing how classes would go, and I was a nervous wreck.
One week later, I was watching fireworks 3802 miles from London, and having a great evening meeting all of my roommates’ friends and their friends. The culture shock had been enormous, America was not just England with the funny accents. It was more humid that Britain for a start, the roads were far larger (and they drive on the wrong side). Americans are a lot more open, friendly, and less scary than I thought.
After the opening week, classes began in earnest. All of which we were eased into, the lecturers (mostly) explained everything and gave a lot of slack to international students, who were at this point still getting their bearings and finding their way round campus. I took 4 modules/classes in my first semester, and all have gone well, insofar.
One thing to note about America is that they call chips, fires and crips, chips – I know, its maddening. Americans also play “Football” with their hands. This sport is a lot more physical and violent clashes than actual “Football” and it is more akin to Rugby. One must-attend event for any international student in America is a home game of American Football. I watched my first one (which St. Norbert – my host university – won!) with my roommate and a few friends.
St Norbert is situated on the Fox River, in De Pere, Wisconsin. It is a beautiful campus, and it is so relaxing and comforting to sit on the docks and read books or chat with friends. Talking of which, I met with a majority of the international students on my first full day in the States. And we are all now great friends. A few weeks ago, we all took a day trip out to Bay Beach Amusement Park with said international students, along with a few other friends. This was a great day trip; the weather was super nice, and we had a super time on all of the rides!
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Chicago, with two other international students – Yuna, from Japan and Erin, from Vietnam!
We walked down to Navy Pier, went round the Art Institute of Chicago, chillaxed in Millennium Park, and took the lift to the top of Willis Tower in the evening. The views from the observation deck on the 103rd floor was truly breath-taking, and truly showed the true scale of the city of Chicago.
After spending approximately two months in America, so far, my experience has been thoroughly enjoyable, and I would recommend studying in this vast, diverse, and unique nation.