Studying Abroad: My Experience At The College Of Charleston

Studying Abroad: My Experience At The College Of Charleston

I decided to try studying abroad on a whim, and it has been one of the best experiences of my life.
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Having family over here and having spent a few vacations here in the summer means this isn’t the first time I’ve visited the United States. However, this year was going to be unique: I’d be working and studying here. I had to do things.

This trip wouldn’t just be me experiencing the U.S. for the first time as a legal alien; it was personally a test for how much I appreciated going there. Typically, you go somewhere for a vacation or two and you think “Wow, I would love to live here!” That’s a strong statement. I wondered how I would feel after having actual obligations to fulfill; studies as well as work and whether I would actually want to stay afterward. As it turns out, it seems to have made me want to live in America even more. Maybe it’s the weather, or the people or the fact that you get free refills in fast food restaurants, but something really grabs my attention here.

I think a lot of this came from my studies this year at the College of Charleston. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was going to succeed, but after some hard work and copious amounts of caffeine, I did. It introduced me to the so called ‘workaholic’ culture the United States possesses, and it’s something I found myself liking. I'm not sure how healthy that is, and I’m not overly pleased that the country now has a sentient Cheeto for a president-elect or a vice president-elect that may actually be the reincarnation of Lucifer, but that still hasn’t put me off.

Because of my excellent experience so far, I wanted to highlight some particular points about it; the things I loved, and the things I didn't quite expect to find, such as...


1. Wow, you guys do a lot of work.

I think some have the impression that Americans are quite lazy, among other stereotypes. Honestly, they couldn’t be more wrong: I was shocked by how much people actually do. 2016 was the first year I visited the states on a visa, working at a camp in the summer. It let me become aware of a culture that is arguably more workaholic than anything else. I know those with part-time jobs, working as Resident Assistants on top of studying five courses while maintaining a GPA, and I'm sitting there trying to work on an essay like:

Guys. Y’all have to chill.

It was quite jarring for many of us international students to find out how much work went into the course. A month of work here felt like we had covered at least what three months would be back at home. Homework was given so often, so there was always work needing to be done. Never had I spent so many hours working on assignments and homework. The library became my second home during exams and midterms.

Let me talk a little more about midterms. It’s not something the Brits are used to, where we have our coursework and perhaps some quizzes along the way, and then an exam or presentation towards the end. Finding out that I had three midterms to study for was unnerving for a lot of us. Studying for an exam halfway through the course? SIN.

However, despite the extra addition of stress and the increasing imprint of my butt on the library’s chairs, I actually found midterms to be incredibly beneficial. Being tested on material ahead of time no doubt contributed to how much I learned from my courses and helped me succeed in my finals. While the amount of work received was at times overwhelming, I have to be grateful for the grade it gave me. This is a system I kind of think we need back at home, in the UK.

2. Charleston is so beautiful.

The city houses an incredible array of architecture and scenery. Every street is lined with stunning flora, and beautiful buildings span its roads. Each district appears to be so unique, hosting different construction styles from Georgian to Colonial homes, each reflective of Charleston’s fascinating history. The huge trees and their branches towering over The Cistern Yard stand out in their phenomenal size; the drapes of Spanish moss reminiscent of something out of a swamp in New Orleans (my friends and I agreed that it reminded us partially of the scenery in Scooby Doo on Zombie Island).

We arrived in the summer, in the midst of the intense Southern heat. Initially, we couldn’t handle it, finding it a chore to walk even a mile. But we got used to it, and when we did, we could fully take in the beauty of walking down a road in Charleston. I couldn’t stop taking photos wherever I walked, it was all so picturesque. The sunsets were also a sight to behold, a group of us heading to the Battery to watch the night fall.

While the beaches are further away, especially for us internationals without vehicles (so all of us), visiting Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island, beach via friends with cars or Uber. Initially, the Brits went there to get tanned (it’s part of our culture, it seems) but also because lazing in the sun felt incredible. The ocean was always a fair temperature for swimming, and there was always a blue sky.

To wake up every morning to the sun streaming through the oak trees or watch the immense flora glisten in the rain as I walked to my classes was such a motivation. Even when winter fell, they stood tall and evergreen.


3. Southern hospitality is real.

From off the bat, everyone was very approachable. The staff at the CIE were patient and kind, telling me about Charleston and making me feel welcome. The cougar ambassadors went out of their way to make the events for the internationals as fun as possible, dedicating their time to us and even taking us to Target. The colleagues I met and continue to talk to are all so friendly and social, and we get along so well.


I think this is another thing unique to US culture: benevolence and openness. Go to England, and unless you know someone, people can be a bit shy. You won’t always get people striking up conversations with you. In London, you’ll experience the polar opposite of Charleston; no one will be as receptive.

This affection is ever so inclusive, and it made me feel right at home in Charleston.


4. The food is awesome.

My diet is a little restrictive, so finding they had so many vegan options available was a lifesaver. Customizable meals, a sauté station, the sandwich bar and even an entirely vegetarian/vegan/kosher restaurant; just a few of the food options available.

The to-go containers? My college at home needs this. The ability to have food you can just take home or out is super useful for working at the library, or simply if you want to avoid any social obligations.

I also think it’s great to hear about the college’s sustainability program, composting food and utensils to prevent waste products. The staff and managers were also incredibly dedicated, making sure they answered any questions one may have, providing assistance when needed.

Also, the vegan sauté? Oh my goodness. Teriyaki sauce just makes everything taste amazing.

5. The college does a lot for its international students.

The Centre for International Education went out of their way to make us all feel welcome, bringing us to football games and fairs, taking us on yacht trips, showing us around Charleston and giving us free college merchandise among other things.

We were all introduced to each other off the bat so we could make acquaintances, and this helped us get to know everyone. The college actively encouraged this, and it did inspire us to make our groups which we maintained throughout the semester. Because of this, we've all made some excellent friends.

The Cougar Ambassadors were also there to make us feel welcome, becoming great friends and helping us when needed. For me, the whole team made us feel a part of the college, and not just there for a year abroad. I feel like a College of Charleston student, not a study abroad student.

6. I kinda don’t want to leave.

It’s inevitable I will have to leave. I have a degree to complete back at home, and I’m here on a visa, and the U.S. government doesn’t tend to like people overstaying their welcome.

But, if I could, I’d totally stay.

My experience here has been incredible so far, and it’s only been my first semester. I didn’t arrive with particularly high hopes that things would change for me: my grades at home weren’t the best, and I had been losing the motivation to continue on with my degree because of it.


Coming here changed that. My ambition reignited for philosophy: I learned so much here, and it helped me remember why I studied the degree in the first place. At times, yes, I wanted to give up; the work felt overwhelming at times, even when I didn’t have many obligations other than my school work. But, in the back of my mind, I thought I could do it.

So I did it. A’s in all but one of my courses was a total surprise for me, but reflecting on the effort I put into it, the time spent working until late at night, and the burnt hole in my wallet after drinking a inordinate amount of Starbucks; it kind of made sense that I did better than last year.

My experience at the College of Charleston has been incredible, and it’s not just its facilities or its gorgeous surroundings or the abundance of sweet tea that I am slowly getting addicted to. It’s the people that make it that way: the professors who dedicated their time to ensuring our grades were the best they could be and the friends I have made along the way. I am so grateful for it bringing back my motivation to pursue my degree.

It’s also why I suggest that if you can do some form of study abroad, do it. Sure, it’s going to benefit your resume and maybe enhance your degree also, but if you’re like me, it may also be a little more life changing than expected.

Cover Image Credit: flickr

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To All Incoming Freshmen, When You Get To College, Please Don't Be THAT Freshman

I am pretty sure we all know who I'm talking about.

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As we are all counting down the days to return to campus, students are looking forward to meeting new people and reuniting with old friends. And then, there is the freshman.

We have all been there. The eagerness and excitement have been slowly building up through months of summer vacation, all waiting for this moment. I understand the anxiousness, enthusiasm, and insecurities. The opportunity to meet new people and explore a new area is very intriguing. But let's be real, you are here to make memories and get an education. So here are a few pieces of advice from a former college freshman.

1. Don't be that freshman who follows their significant other to college

This is the boy or girl who simply can not think for themselves. The 17-year-old puts their own personal goals and interests aside to sacrifice for a six-month high school relationship. This will more than likely end at an end of semester transfer after the relationship has been tested for a month or two in college life. So if you want to really enjoy your freshman year, make your own decisions and do what is best for you.

2. Don't be that freshman who lets their parents pick their major

"You are not going to school just to waste my money."

This is a statement you might have heard from your parents. As true as it might seem, this is definitely not a good way to start your college years. If you are not majoring in something you can see yourself doing, you are wasting your time. You can major in biology, go to medical school, and make the best grades. But if deep down you don't want to be a doctor, you will NOT end up being a good doctor. When it comes to picking your major, you really have to follow your heart.

3. Don't be that freshman who gets overwhelmed with the first taste of freedom

Yes. It is all very exciting. You don't have a curfew, you don't have rules, you don't have anyone constantly nagging you, but let's not get carried away. Don't be the freshman who gets a tattoo on the first night of living on your own. Don't be the freshman who tries to drink every liquor behind the bar. Don't be the freshman who gets caught up being someone that they aren't. My best advice would be to take things slow.

4. Don't be that freshman who starts school isolated in a relationship

I'm not telling you not to date anyone during your freshman year. I am saying to not cut yourself off from the rest of the world while you date someone. Your first year on campus is such an amazing opportunity to meet people, but people are constantly eager to start dating someone and then only spend time with that person.

Be the freshman who can manage time between friends and relationships.

5. Don't be that freshman who can't handle things on their own

It is your first year on your own. Yes, you still need help from your parents. But at this point, they should not be ordering your textbooks or buying your parking pass. If you need something for a club or for class, YOU should handle it. If you're having roommate problems, YOU should handle it, not your parents. This is the real world and college is a great time for you to start building up to be the person you want to be in the future, but you can't successfully do that if your parents still deal with every minor inconvenience for you.

6. Don't be that freshman who only talks to their high school friends

I know your high school was probably amazing, and you probably had the coolest people go there. However, I believe that college is a great time to be on your own and experience new things. Meeting new people and going to new places will allow you to grow into a more mature person. There is a way to balance meeting new friends and maintaining friendships with childhood friends, and I am sure you will find that balance.

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8 Mistakes Auburn Freshmen Always Make, Without Fail

You do NOT want to be guilty of #6.

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With the summer coming to a close, the anxiety of incoming freshmen heightens. You wonder if you've bought enough stuff for your dorm, you worry that you won't have enough room to fit all the things you bought for your dorm, and there's always that thought in the back of your head, wondering if you'll be "freshmeat" to the upperclassmen all over again. While they might not look down on you as much as they did in high school, here are a few mistakes you need to know to avoid making yourself look like a total noob.

1. Only studying 1-2 days prior to a test.

We're all guilty of this one. The first test of freshman year is always a slap to the face because freshmen aren't accustomed to the vigorous studying that has to come before a test. They think, "I usually studied the night before a test in high school and did just fine, so if I start studying two days before a test I should be good." Nope. Professors know that freshmen don't prepare enough for their first test, but that doesn't mean they make it any easier. Use it as a learning experience to figure out what study habits work best for you (obviously not this one).

2. Doing laundry on Sundays.

Ahhh, Sundays, the day everyone collectively decides to get their crap together. The library is packed, Starbucks is sold out of venti cups, and freshmen migrate to the laundry rooms. It's annoying enough to have to break a $20 just to get quarters for the washing machine, but nothing is more frustrating than finding all the washers full with damp clothes, ready to be dried with no one around to pick them up. My best advice is to do laundry on Saturday morning when everyone's asleep till noon recovering from the night before.

3. Bringing every single thing on those online packing lists.

Universities don't release packing lists for a reason, because everything on those lists is basically useless after the first month. You're not gonna keep up with filling your Brita water filter, you'll probably just end up buying water bottles at the C-store. You'll most likely only use your mini ironing board once until you realize its pointless since everyone wears their clothes wrinkly anyway. Figure out the things you use on a daily basis at home, and only bring the necessities.

4. Going home every weekend.

This might seem tempting, especially after the homesickness kicks in, but you can never fully adjust to college if you're spending every weekend with your parents. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with seeing your parents while in college, just limit the contact to once or twice a month in order to make friends and feel comfortable being away from home.

5. Never utilizing the library until finals week.

The library is basically my home now, but nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find a table during finals week because they're all filled with freshmen trying to cram a semesters worth of information in a week. The library is always there, 24-7, but people forget how useful it is until the last week of the semester. Work as hard as you work for finals week every time you have a test. It'll make the stress of finals week a little less since you'll already have a grade you're comfortable with and won't be killing yourself for an A on the final in order to pass the class.

6. Wearing your favorite shoes to a frat party/downtown.

Even if you're wearing the cutest dress known to man that goes with nothing but your OTBTs, you're gonna have to sacrifice the outfit and switch out those wedges for converse if you want your shoes to survive. Between drinks getting spilled and people stepping on your feet, you're gonna be saying goodbye to the $125 you spent on those shoes. Bring an old pair of converse or vans with you to college that you wouldn't mind getting a little dirty.

7. Only studying with friends.

Studying with your friends sounds like a good idea until you find yourself gossiping and watching youtube videos, getting nothing productive done. Lots of freshmen are scared to go to the library alone but don't be. A good 90% of people there are studying alone, and you'll get waaay more done this way, giving you time to hang with your friends after.

8. Not going to the UPC events.

Welcome week is when UPC throws the biggest events of the year, such as Paradise on the Plains, Aubie Fest, and the Gameday Experience. These events are held to welcome you to campus, so take advantage of all the free things they have to offer! Free food, free games, and most importantly, free T-shirts. Don't miss out on these events because you're nervous to go to things alone (like I was), this is a perfect opportunity to make friends and get to know the campus a little better.

Freshman year is a rollercoaster, but hopefully knowing these few things to avoid will make it a little easier. Good luck and welcome to Auburn!

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