I’m in Maryland!! (I’ve actually been here for nearly two weeks and I’ve been meaning to write this for ages but I either forgot or was tired…or only remembered when I was too tired to write. It’s a bad combination!)
Arriving in the US.
Anyway, I’m sure you’re all interested to know what I’ve been up to and how I’ve been getting on (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this). I arrived in Maryland and the first thing I noticed is how green it is. I really was not expecting that! I knew that Baltimore County (where both the BWI Airport and the university are) wasn’t going to be massively urban but even as I was looking out the plane window, I was shocked by how many trees there were.
I got a nice welcome into the US as the friendly security guard who checked my passport asked me all about why I had picked UMBC and why I was interested in Colonial history. As I’d arrived in the early evening, I also had nice sunny weather to greet me when I left the airport. I also got to see a bit more of the local area than most international students as family friends who just so happen to live ten minutes away from UMBC picked me up from the airport. This meant that I got to see where they lived in Ellicott City, a very nice town filled with trees, deer and rabbits. The whole scenery reminded me of the UK. The high street crammed with American flags was a little different though.
Arriving at UMBC.
I arrived on the UMBC campus the next day. Keeping up with the local theme, it is completely surrounded by trees, which look gorgeous in the sun and, I have no doubt, will look even better when the leaves change in Autumn (or Fall, as I need to start calling it now). Almost all of the buildings are made of red bricks and separated by large pathways, grass and …you guessed it…trees. There are also black and gold paw-prints everywhere, which makes more sense when you consider that the university’s mascot is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I definitely think this is a really nice touch, as is the (very cute) statue of True Grit himself. Apparently before exams, you’re supposed to rub his nose for good luck.
The campus is a lot bigger than Swansea, but is definitely manageable. As all the accommodation and the academic buildings are grouped together, it’s very easy to find your way around and get from place to place. I walked the ring road around campus the other day and it only took about half an hour to get all the way round.
Just like Fresher’s, Welcome Week is a chance for new students to adjust to life on campus (expect it’s less relaxing as classes start halfway through it). Nevertheless it was fun and I got to know a few other people living in the apartments. I went to several of the activities on offer, including an outdoor film screening, an early morning yoga class right next to the university’s pond (which has to be the prettiest place on campus and is also my new favourite place to sit in the sun), a bus tour of the local area and a hypnotist performance which was hilarious and he’s definitely someone I would recommend seeing if you go to UMBC as he’s there every year. One thing I would suggest though is, if you do plan on doing study abroad, you may want to consider getting there early. If you’re like me and struggle both with jet lag and sleeping in a new place when you first get there, arriving beforehand could definitely be something to consider. I only arrived in Maryland the day before Welcome Week started and for the first two days I was unable to make the evening events as I was too tired. This was a shame as both the parties sounded like great ways to meet people and really fun events. The Involvement Fest is on Monday and I’m looking forward to joining new societies.
I’ve had lectures for over a week now and so far they’ve all been really interesting. The teachers are all very friendly and approachable and new students are encouraged to meet with professors and get to know them. I’ve noticed that students here like to ask questions and feel perfectly comfortable asking teacher’s questions I would not have considered discussing in Swansea. Not that anyone’s asked anything really personal, but in a way student-teacher relations here seem less professional. For example, I would never consider arranging a meeting with a professor in order to discuss anything other than work, whereas here it’s completely fine to request an entire life story.
I’ve had more work assigned than I did at Swansea, which I expected. So far it seems manageable but I’m definitely not looking forward to midterms or finals week! (Although I don’t think anyone is).
Last week I caught the free university bus (yes, that’s right…FREE!! Take that £4.20 day tickets in Swansea!) into Baltimore. It only took about twenty minutes and I had a great view of the city as we approached the downtown area. Maryland’s most famous city’s most famous spot is called the Inner Harbor, a recently redeveloped tourist area where restaurants, shops and attractions circle the water. My favourite part of the Harbor was Federal Hill, where you can get a great view of the city. I also walked past the National Aquarium, which is supposed to be amazing; a huge number of flags (Maryland, a very cool state flag which features the crest of the Calverts, the family who founded the state, and the Star Spangled Banner); and boats – not all that surprisingly. It seems a really nice city and, as I’ve only seen a tiny section of it, I definitely want to explore more.