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Alice Hooper

BA English Literature Alice HooperCountry you went to study abroad/completed a placement:

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Where you studied:

Study Abroad Exchange Programme, Georgia State University

Duration of Study abroad:

1 academic year (August 2014 - May 2015)

What do you consider to be the most valuable part of your study abroad experience?:

Being utterly immersed in American college culture. It is SO different to English university culture - especially Newcastle/Northumbria. There's far more diversity on the campus - so many different people and courses to choose from. The actual academic set-up is different, giving you more power with your time and allowing you to study subjects you would never get the opportunity to do in Northumbria. The entire culture was a stark contrast to the North East, which, I think, was the most valuable part of the experience. As a result of doing this exchange I know that I would have no problem being placed into many different social or cultural environments - something that will put me in good stead for my working life.

What advice would you give to others considering study abroad?:

DO IT! Absolutely push yourself and get out of your comfort zone. There are no downfalls to the exchange that I did - I was busy all the time so I hardly got homesick, I was presented with so many opportunities - be it skydiving,rafting or hiking with the university, I met people at GSU I still talk to an entire year later, and I got the opportunity to travel after I had finished studying, and I came out with a joint degree from both universities. Not only that, but the exchange actually saved me money in the long term, seeing as the tuition fees were halved and my maintenance loan, one translated into dollars, was 1.5x its original sum.

What did you enjoy the most?:

Travelling. We (the others who were on the exchange along with some American friends we made that were living in the same halls as us) travelled down to Panama City Beach in Florida for a week for Spring Break. The weather was lush, the apartment we stayed in was huge, and we had a great time being together. At the end of the year, we went to LA, and I also went to visit family in Washington DC over Thanksgiving. I got to go to amazing concerts at the Atlanta Amphitheatre to see artists I would rarely get to see in the UK, and at half the price. So many americans offered for me to spend christmas with them, and had I not been going home for Christmas I would to have loved to stay and experience it with them.

What did you do when you weren’t studying?:

Hung out on campus - everyone wanted to be our friend and invited us everywhere. We could also go to the fully equipped gym (the cost of which was included in tuition fees so it was basically free for us), which had three floors, a full gym, sauna, pool, basketball court and running track. The university also had a 'touch the earth' centre, where you could sign up for cool day trips all over the place - we went rafting in North Carolina. Then there was all the parties and events the university put on, including getting a dog shelter to come to campus along with some of their puppies so that the students could de-stress by playing with them over exam period.

Who did you learn the most from during your study abroad experience?:

It's so cliche, but I learned the most about myself from myself. Obviously I got to spend time with the other English kids, which opened me up to their lives and all the American's that we had discussions with told us all about their experiences as Americans (Americans are very open, so they told us everything), but in the end I learned the most about myself.

How did your study abroad experience contribute to your employability skills?:

Well, as I previously mentioned, I wouldn't be apprehensive about studying or working abroad anymore. I learned to respect Southern American culture, which would aid my appreciation of other cultures. I studied and learned differently, and some methods I picked up at GSU I still put to use today. Organising the visa, flights etc all took self-discipline and self-reliance. I was able to view England through the filter of an American lens. This was, for the most part, quite funny (since most of them thought England was in London, and that we had all met the Queen), but I was also able to provide the same thing to Americans. I gave them my view of their culture through the English lens, without being too cutting (tricky when discussing gun laws!), but it gave me confidence to voice my opinion without hurting anyone's feelings. Being 'diplomatic', if you will. The exchange has opened up my willingness to work in America - and having studied at GSU will be attractive to Employers.

How did your study abroad experience contribute to your own personal development?:

As I said before, it made me learn more about myself. It was like the first year of University in England, except more intense, and more beneficial to me. I was utterly independent, I organised travel around America on my own, I had to manage my money like never before (there was no loan from bank of mum and dad because it took days to arrive and cost £15 to send over), and I made sure to make the absolute most of the experience because I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. Honestly, it tore me away from the same alcohol-fuelled night out on the toon, and asked me to sort myself out and make the most of the events that GSU offered. It made me want more out of my university experience, and more out of my life.

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