What do you hope to gain and how much research have you done on your host country and culture that will better prepare you for this experience?
From this experience, I hope to gain a better understanding of British culture and history (for my first term at least) while I’m at the University of Essex in Colchester, a town about an hour east of London. I have done research into some aspects of culture like the soccer/football team called Colchester FC (currently sitting at 4th in the fourth tier of the English leagues) as well as the history of the area, learning that it is considered one of, if not the oldest, recorded town in the UK after being mentioned by Pliny the Elder in AD77. Additionally, I’ve done some other practical research into Britain’s current complex political situation in the midst of Brexit so that I understand the things happening around me in the present.
It’s worth also noting that I’m only going to be studying in Britain until winter break, when I will switch schools to somewhere else in Europe (I hear back about placement late September or early October), but this process will be very similar for my second host country.
What are you most excited about? What are you most scared or nervous about?
It’s really hard to choose just one thing I’m excited for. There are so many things that I want to experience and learn about (once again the overall culture and experience of being a student in Britain and the history of the areas I visit are a good starting point). With that in mind, I think meeting the people that I’m going to be living with for the term, both British nationals and international students, is what excites me the most because they’re likely what will define much of my time in Essex. Being able to watch Premier League games without needing to wake up extremely early will also be a plus.
I’m nervous about a lot of the paperwork. Because I’m doing an exchange program, there’s a lot more independence and consequently more responsibility to get everything in order as opposed to having an organizing group do some of this for me. I still need to make sure that all of my modules (classes) get approved correctly and I have the right papers to register at Essex, to get my short-term visa for the UK, to make sure my travel insurance is sorted and I understand all of it, to register at the health center at Essex, and so on. It’s stressful because I don’t want to be missing papers that prove to be problematic when I’m halfway across the world. Additionally, because I’m doing a dual placement (where I switch schools after my first semester) I know that I’ll have more paperwork in the future with more visas and forms.
What strategies have you implemented that will allow you to overcome these challenges and take full advantage of your opportunities?
It sounds simple, but making a list is the best thing I can do right now. When you think about all of the things that you need to get done before you depart it can seem really overwhelming. But if you make a list (for example writing down all the papers I have to collect or what I need to pack) it can seem much more organized and you can start working your way through it. Once I got started with a list like this everything became much more manageable and in the long-term the paperwork and preparation is a momentary (but still important) stress that’s nothing compared to the excitement that I’m going to be able to study in Europe for an entire year. As for the second set of future paperwork, I know that I’ll have done it once already and that I can figure this out too. I also know that I have the support of my family, the Western EdAbroad office, the University of Essex, and ISEP, the group coordinating my exchange. So for right now, simply getting organized and not getting overwhelmed while I get my final preparations in order are the major steps to overcoming these challenges.