''Just start saying yes, and stop with the shuffling feet and awkwardness…it will pay dividends as you will get so much more out of your U.S. university experience.'' - John from the U.K.
Why did you choose to study abroad in the U.S.?
I didn’t ever think I would be the type to study abroad, in fact the thought of it petrified me even whilst applying – but that’s ultimately what pushed me into the decision. I was attending a university very close to my own hometown surrounded by friends I had known since I was six years old…a venture into the unknown was appealing!
What made you choose Georgia State University?
Northumbria University has a fantastic exchange programme with Georgia State, which I actually wasn’t aware of this until a talk was held in place of a planned lecture. I whispered jokes to my friends as the guy’s talk seemed to list Atlanta’s main draw as the Coca Cola museum and its notorious “sticky floors”…despite this I wrote down his email address – I’m really glad I did.
How has studying abroad impacted your career?
A lot – it’s certainly an interesting talking point in job interviews, but I feel it’s bigger than that. Studying abroad forced me into a lot of weird and wonderful situations, I shared experiences with people completely different to myself, and was humbled to learn that my (then) strong North-East accent is incredibly difficult for the rest of the globe’s population to understand. Confidence in conversation, and the ability to communicate without three precursory “huh, what?” questions have really helped my career.
What were the largest cultural differences you experienced studying in the US from the UK?
I feel I was afforded a special sort of status as a British person in the US – as a result I was able to make friends with everyone that I met, and they were enthusiastic about spending time together. That positivity was fantastic, and infectious… However I was ultra-aware of group mentalities that didn’t seem to allow (for the most part) one group to fraternise with the other, I suppose largely out of naivety I often invited different groups of friends to my own gatherings – and I could feel an awkwardness in the air, and occasionally even a hostility. This made me very uncomfortable, and I still don’t fully understand it.
What was the student life like at your university?
Amazing, I was very involved with a range of different groups and clubs – again pushing myself onto paths I may have not otherwise strayed on to. I have made friends for life, and I am overjoyed that I will be visiting the US again this year…I will be sure to stop by Georgia State University!
Do you have any tips for international students to get involved in U.S. university student life?
Just start saying yes, and stop with the shuffling feet and awkwardness…it will pay dividends as you will get so much more out of your U.S. university experience. How did studying abroad in the U.S. add to your English Literature education? It added a different layer to my education, and a fresh understanding of some of the U.S. writers I had been studying – in the same way visiting Haworth in the UK helps when analysing Wuthering Heights.
John now works as a Social Media & Communications Officer at Niemann-Pick UK. In his spare time he blogs at Storytime with John.