It’s the night before the beginning of the spring semester and so it feels appropriate, now that the dust has settled after the whirlwind of finals and the slight jolt and joy of a visit home, to reflect upon the fall semester.
True to the words of every exchange student, the time has flown by – as well as friends flown away, needing to return for the spring to their home universities. But though the time has gone quickly, it has had an effect. Though I was greeted back in Norwich by friends congratulating me on having ‘escaped’ the accent, I did feel at times slightly more ‘American’ at home – a little more outgoing and assertive, perhaps, than those around me who were more reserved. Not to mention needing to go cold turkey on caffeine for a while, after my first finals experience.
Going to a country that shared my native language and that had a culture which closely mapped onto my own, I had been doubtful about how much an exchange would affect me. However, it has.
For example, I have had to become much more efficient and organised – in Edinburgh I never had a diary but here you can’t survive without one. I also now appreciate my university’s city much more, being excited to return and play the tourist there, as I am doing here, and not take it so much for granted. And I have grown in confidence in myself and my ability to relate to others because, contrary to my initial fears, America 2.0 couldn’t have been more different from the first version.
In terms of academics, my exchange so far has had a great positive effect, introducing me to many new ideas and writers as well as forcing me to become much more time-efficient in my writing due to finals (10 essays, 7 days…). However, I feel I have also become a little lazier with my essays, spared from having to adhere strictly to a word count as in Edinburgh, where laboriously cutting down the words is half the battle.
Though I couldn’t have imagined a better first semester of my exchange, there are still some lessons I will be bringing into the spring term. One of them is pacing: something that I feel I should have applied to more than just my Thanksgiving meal. There is the temptation – spurred on by all those you see around you – to try and do everything at once, and though trying new things outside your comfort zone creates the great experiences (and in terms of the less great ones, ‘good stories’) of an exchange, sometimes saying ‘no’ would save future stress down the line. Hopefully I’ll remember some of this wisdom a couple of weeks from now.
So much of my enjoyment of the first semester is down to the care taken of us by our exchange coordinators and for that I am very grateful.
Anyway, to get to bed and start this new semester with its new adventures –