It’s been nearly three months since I last wrote, and since October a lot of things have happened including: A pumpkin patch, Wicked on Broadway, Thanksgiving, Chorus Concerts, Finals Week, New York with friends, and a quick trip to Massachusetts.
I’m currently typing this at home in Nottinghamshire whilst my dog snores on the sofa and my mum watched some sort of crime drama. It’s almost as if I haven’t spent the last five months in the US because since coming home nothing has changed and it’s like I’ve never been away. Only the jet lag that meant I didn’t go to bed until 3am for week and the constant questions of ‘how is the US?’ are evidence that I’ve been living on another timezone for five months.
Not to digress, but trying to answer ‘how is the US’ is probably one of the most difficult questions I’ve had to verbally answer in my life. How is the US? Well. My go-to answer is ‘it exists’ because my opinions on the actual country are quite jumbled and questionable. American nationalism is the most confusing (and arguably terrifying) thing I’ve ever witnessed, the President is Donald Trump, and consumerism is so aggressive. Nationally the country is problematic and I’ll probably write more about it at some point, but personally the friends I’ve made, and 80% of the people I’ve come across have been wonderful and the issues I’ve found nationally don’t really effect my everyday life constantly.
So how is the US? It’s a big country with a lot of issues but I made great friends, so I don’t really know how to answer your question Grandma/Uncle/Aunt/Friend/Stranger please ask me a different question such: “are you having a good time?”, “Do you like your classes?”, and “how’s the food?” These questions are asked eventually but it doesn’t stop the panic and stress I feel after being asked ‘how’s the US?”
Since coming home for Christmas I’ve also been told I ‘sound American’. No one has actually told me how I sound American except for “it’s HOW you say the word like”, but I can’t even imagine how Americans say “like” differently to a British accent. So instead of trying to fix my new found Americanism, I’ve just repressed the accusations.
Now, back to the past three months. Trying to recollect what happened in three months is a task. If I had any sense I’d wait until next week when I return back to Wilkes but it feels wrong to write a post about last semester whilst I’m in the midst of starting a new one.
First of all, I did go to a Pumpkin Patch and it was exciting. It was literally just a field of pumpkins, farm animals and cheesy tourist food and activities like a dog show and a jumping pillow (an inflatable rectangle which young children and potentially twenty-year old college students jump on and is exciting for the first 20 seconds and then you spend the next five minutes questioning your life choices until the teenager running the attraction finally tells you to get off and you can put your shoes back on). I will admit, getting to watch dogs do fun tricks was the highlight, mainly because life at Wilkes lacks dogs and for some reason the trainers had named them “Cha Cha Cha” and “Shazam!”. Here is where I a big question, were the dogs actually called these ridiculous names? Or do these dogs have stage names and in real life are just called Spot? It will be a mystery forever. We also walked through a corn maze and I’m not entire sure we did it correctly because we ended up leaving via the entrance (we had a dog show to watch okay? We had places to be and dogs to see).
In the last three months I also found myself a friendship group? One day I accidentally had breakfast with them and next thing I know I’m watching Moana, getting invited to Walmart and Wendy’s, and having people to hang out with on Family Day instead of becoming depressed about the fact the Starbucks barista had pitied me because my family were not coming to Wilkes to enjoy the family festivities. I still have no idea why family day exists by the way, but it does. Family day included an American football game, creative activities, and rock climbing. Are these American family activities? It would seem so.
We also celebrated Bonfire Night by setting fire to a tiny man made out of kitchen paper. A highlight of the event was Gracie asking us if ‘this is normal’ and all the Brits in the room responding ‘yeah’. I may think Americans do strange things but it goes both ways.
In November I went to New York for the second time to watch Wicked on Broadway. After seeing the price of Wicked tickets back in August, I had come to terms with the fact I wasn’t going to see my favourite musical on Broadway where it originated. Little did I know Wilkes University would offer a trip to NYC to see Wicked for only $15 for both travel and ticket. I basically saved £100+ that day and what a wonderful time it was. I’ve actually seen Wicked three times, twice on the West End and once on Broadway. This December I’ll see it in Manchester on the UK Tour. I might have a problem but Wicked is wonderful so it could be worse. In New York we mainly stayed in the tourist hotspot of Time Square and I had my first Five Guys in the US (pretty similar to the UK, who would have guessed?). It was a short stay in NYC and a long bus journey, but it was a chilled Saturday before the stress of essays and exams hit.
Thanksgiving came next and I was invited a friends house to celebrate ‘friendsgiving’. Over thanksgiving I made a lot of Yorkshire pudding. I made a batch for Beaconsgiving (The Wilkes University’s newspaper’s Thanksgiving) and I made some for friendsgiving. Friendsgiving involved new people, my Wilkes friends, nice food and a sleepover on the living room floor and falling asleep to the second Scooby-Doo movie.
After Thanksgiving came the Chorus Concerts and I basically fell off the face of the earth as I tried to write essays and sing for three hours in the evening. I saw no one apart from the other chorus members and roommates for about a week and sang around 20 hours worth of Christmas carols. Carolling is one of my favourite aspects about Christmas so I wasn’t too bitter about this. We performed in Wilkes and Scranton (a near-by city and the setting for the US version of The Office).
Then came finals week which for me included three essays, three exams and an assessment which made me write up my entire notes from the semester for one class. The latter was definitely the hardest and I’m still bitter because it took me 12 hours. I tend to over-stress my American exams and essays, forgetting the standard is lower and includes a lot of multiple choice. I ended the semester with a 3.8 average so all in all a successful time.
Something wonderful happened during finals week, it finally snowed. As an avid lover of all things wintery I had been waiting for this snow for months. It had snowed in the UK, it had snowed elsewhere in Pennsylvania but it didn’t snow in Wilkes until finals week. It did mean I couldn’t enjoy it but I could take photographs. However, with snow also comes below freezing temperatures which meant I had to walk to breakfast in -10°C, I don’t know how to dress or act in those kind of temperatures but the other weekend the US was at -29°C so I’m glad I missed that.
Before my flight home, I had a week of time to kill and explored the US a little bit more. I returned back to New York, except this time I went with friends and saw areas of New York I wouldn’t have even considered going to visit. Connie showed us ‘her New York’ which sounds incredibly cheesy but it was wonderful. We tried Korean Chicken, Rose milk tea, and ate so much ice-cream despite the fact it was the middle of December. We went to the Louis Vuitton exhibition and played pool (I know nothing about fashionable luggage or pool but I had an excellent time during both of these events). Connie even tolerated our request to go see the Rockefeller Tree and Christmas Lights – let me tell you that was the biggest mistake of my year abroad to date. The crowds to see a bunch of lights on a plant were not worth it, the Christmas spirit was not alive in those crowds. The highlight was as a man twice my height telling me off for pushing him, as if a 5″3 girl, smaller than 90% of the people in crowded street, being pushed into him was the worst part about this situation. I don’t quite remember how I responded to him, I probably just stared at him as if he was insane – I was just trying to keep close to my friends sir! New York City at Christmas is presented as a dream (if you love crowds then I guess it is a dream come true), personally I prefer New York at any other time of year. That being said, I did enjoy my three days in New York, especially the small artsy markets in SoHo, Bryant Park (I enjoy Bryant Park during both summer and Christmas), and China town.
After New York, I took a bus to Massachusetts to stay with Maddie and Tim. Massachusetts included a lot of sport. I met Maddie in a poetry seminar and actually asked her to confirm that the Super Bowl was an American football thing, to say we went to Gillette stadium (home of the American Patriots) in December illustrates my knowledge of American sport has increased dramatically. We also went to an ice hockey game and I realised there needs to be entertainment at every moment and had to spend twenty minutes watching children play bubble soccer on the ice during the break. I also went to my first American diner and had blueberry pancakes.
Going to Massachusetts for literally one day meant that my journey home took approximately 28 hours. I discovered I can’t sleep on flights, and instead fell asleep on the bus from London to Nottingham which meant I woke up to the bus driver apologising for a delay because the brakes weren’t working. It was a tiring and stressful time but I made it home in time for Christmas.
I go back to the US in two days and I’m excited to go back to Wilkes and see all my friends. I’m not emotionally ready for the travelling, I’m going to try and sleep as much as possible so it goes as quickly as possible. I’m excited to see what the second semester brings, I’m taking journalism classes and hopefully going to travel and do as much as possible – I already have potential plans to go to Washington and Boston. I’m already getting excited about all the history and stuff I’m going to learn on all the adventures.