Hello people. It certainly has been a while since I have posted anything on here, and I can only apologise for this. It was my intention at the beginning of the semester to record pretty much everything that happened, but alas I am not organised enough to divvy out my free time. Next semester, I will make sure to update this blog as often as possible. Hopefully I will be able to update everyone who reads this blog (god knows who, most have probably forgotten about it lul) about what exactly has gone down. Hopefully I can answer such questions as: how did I join a fraternity? How come I am always posing with a dog so often on facebook? What is Thanksgiving like? and where have you been while abroad?
So, I suppose I should start off with a brief run down of what my academic life has been like over the semester. My first problem with studying is one that is apparent over here in the UK as well, which is the cost of the course. If you are an English student you should understand how costly your degree is not in tuition but in ruddy books. You may be a science or maths student and need to buy expensive textbooks, but let me explain. I have 18 weeks of learning at ISU, with about 14 of those weeks needing a book read for each class I take. So as you can imagine, that is a lot of books and the accumulative cost of these books doesn’t bare thinking of. Other than that and the reading list, it is very much like being back in A-levels; assignments seemingly every week, classwork being graded and in class examinations. American University is rather peculiar to me though; it seems like it is more of an extension of high school than what we Europeans would call ‘higher education’. Especially as most students (at ISU anyway) come from in the state of Illinois and therefore have a huge chance of knowing someone from their high school or before. Couple that with the fact that there seem to be family weekends extremely frequently, and the notion of University exposing one to a more individual and self-reliant lifestyle is put in jeopardy. Take my University experience as an example that differs from American University; since being at the University of Leicester, I only know two people who came from my area in Surrey. Two. It made my experience one of my own, and seemed so different to secondary school and A-levels. But I guess it’s just how higher education has developed in both Europe and America and though I have experienced both now, I am always going to be in favour of the European system because I have grown up with it. But both have their merits, despite my bias.
MOVING ON: So I joined a fraternity. Those who know me know how much I detest ‘lad-culture’, so may be asking why did I join something which seems to supposedly epitomise the values of the ‘lad’ (or ‘bro’ in the States)? Well, as a matter of fact there are many different types of fraternity abound. There are business fraternities for the business majors, service fraternities, latino/a fraternities and social ones too. The second one is the type that I joined, the Alpha Phi Omega chapter of ISU. The values of the brotherhood are: friendship, leadership and service, so essentially it’s about bonding with one another while doing service for the chapter/campus/community/nation. It’s a wonderful organisation, and I have met a huge amount of people through it thanks to the fellowship events advocating the friendship element of the fraternity. One of my goals of my year abroad was to make sure that I didn’t simply hang around with international students to better immerse myself in the culture and the people of midwest America (though I still love them all with the fire of a thousand suns). Service events I have taken part in include things like helping out in an animal shelter, helping to build a house for women just released from prison and packing food at one of the biggest food-banks in America. The events vary from menial but no less important tasks to bigger, more practical ones. Overall, I seriously advocate organisations like this, whether in a fraternity or sorority form. SERVICE YEAH WOO.
The next thing I joined: a Badminton Team. For as long as 10 years now I have been partaking in this sport, starting off playing it at the local leisure centre with my pops when I was a little one. I can’t remember the reason behind stopping playing for such a long time between GCSEs and my third year of University but I must say that it feels beyond amazing to be playing once again. And though I took a break from playing the sport, it feels so natural to be playing again and at a level of skill that I face never been before. Thanks to the talent of ISUBC, I have learned to love competitiveness and the fast-paced action that make badminton so damned exciting both to watch and to play. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be good enough to join the University of Leicester Badminton Club!
SO. Where have I been???? WELL I SHALL TELL YE. So last semester I didn’t travel too far, but I certainly went to some lovely places. First place I went to was Washington DC, with my lovelies Helen and Jess, both on their own study abroad’s in Maine and Virginia. It was so so incredible to see them both again after months away from each other. First day, we ran around the Smithsonian campus, nerding out over natural and American history, constantly saying “our professors back home would be so damned proud of us holy wow”. We also looked around a few memorials, mainly the Washington memorial (which I am convinced should be used in Pacific Rim 2 as Gypsy Danger’s sword, by the way), the National World War Two Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. All very grand and as they seem in the picture shows. Unfortunately, and rather unsettlingly, we couldn’t find the memorial to the Japanese Internment campaign. This, unfortunately, says far too much about the neglectful nature of how American historical pride often shades the darker parts of America’s past (think about the treatment, or lack thereof, of Vietnam in American history classes). When I go back, I am determined to find it and pay my respects to those who were mistreated in the horrendous campaign. After looking at a few memorials, we headed down to Georgetown which is a really hip part of the city. Lots of bars, lots of awesome and quirky shops and a strange similarity with European city culture. I couldn’t, and still can’t, put my finger on what made the area so familiar, but it was a pleasant surprise and was a little intoxicating to be such an area. The next day we went to the Air and Space Museum, and had the biggest shock of our lives. There I was, taking a nice picture of the pre-Fall park next to the museum and suddenly I felt someone hugging me aggressively. This stressed me out hella, because my two compadres were off in the distance taking their own pictures. I then decided to face my assailant and who could it be but our beloved Jasmine from Leicester! After about ten seconds of intense hugging and trying to grasp the situation, the four of us fell into a laughing stupor that took up about 30 solid minutes. Speechless summarised how we were, actually. Our friend Jasmine, on her year abroad in North Carolina, bumped into us in DC in the US (not a small country if you didn’t know), outside the Air and Space Museum at the same time we were there. WHAT. Right? I know. Crazy. The chances of it happening were so slim I began to doubt if it ever happened at all. After that, me and Helen went to look at Jefferson’s memorial which is horrendously lovely considering the disgusting things he wrote about black Americans. We particularly liked FDR’s memorial, which expressed the though times that he was inheriting as President like the Great Depression, and new problems like World War Two. More than just a monument, it was like walking through a physical history lesson. Wonderful. D.C is a lovely city, and a weekend is just not long enough to soak up all the culture that it boasts.
Ok so that’ll do for part one of my semester’s escapades, because it’s Christmas bloody Eve and I fancy a strong G&T. Will update the next post with details about Starved Rock, Thanksgiving and other things I got myself involved in over the months in America. Until then, chaps.