Hello travelers! This week, I’m telling you a bit more about my study and life abroad experience at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). When I returned from my exchange year, a friend asked me if I could do a Q&A on my experience for her blog. I know how difficult it can be to move to another country. For those who wish to study/live abroad, I thought it would be useful to tell you about my experience in the form of questions and answers on The Balloon Travels blog.
1. Was it difficult to adapt to another country?
Yes and no. Personally, it was not as difficult as I thought because I had already experienced a change at the age of sixteen and had to leave Portugal to come to the United Kingdom. However, no matter how many times you have moved, moving to a new country is always a challenge. Each country has its own culture, identity, laws, etc., so you will always find some things difficult. For example, the drinking culture in the United States is very different from that of the United Kingdom. You can drink from the age of 21. You cannot walk around with an open bottle or sit near the sidewalk to drink. Surprisingly, Americans in California are very strict about drinking culture. These rules will likely differ from state to state, but that’s another thing I found confusing. For example, unlike most US states, weed is legal in California except for foreigners. If you as a foreigner are caught smoking weed, you can have your visa revoked and deported from the United States.
2. What is it like to study in the United States? Is it more difficult?
To be completely honest…not at all!! I think the education system makes it easier to get better grades in the US than in Europe. Many people have told me that “college is just an upgrade from high school” socially and academically. From a social point of view, personally, I can say that I found it much easier to frame my social life around my studies. Unless I was in exams, I had more time to make friends and party. Academically, I felt the workload was manageable and easier to deal with. I didn’t feel stressed like I often do in London.
3. What are the biggest differences between studying in the UK and studying in the US?
The biggest difference is in the structure of the course and the grading criteria. Coming from a strict education system and culture, I find it easier to get better grades in the US without trying as hard as in the UK. However, that doesn’t mean you should put in less effort, as these things vary on a case-by-case basis. In my case, I studied English, and one thing I liked about studying a humanities course at university in the United States is that they give more importance to your creativity and individuality rather than your academic skills. They are more interested in your ideas and your voice than if you wrote a semicolon instead of a comma or vice versa.
4. What is life in an American university like?
I can only speak from my experience. Studying at UCSB was fun, stress-free, and creative. My daily life was something like this:
Wake up early in the morning, get dressed and have breakfast in the cafeteria. Be greeted by the sun as you cycle through college. Everyone rides a bike at UCSB. The university campus has a bike path, and many people would skate too. I was surprised when I saw people wearing flip flops in class haha. It’s past morning. I usually went to the University Center for lunch (photos below) before the afternoon sessions. My classes ranged from American Writers to Theater and Playwriting. On the way back, I cycled to the cliffs – a place down campus closer to the sea and the nearest beach – to watch the sunset from there.
5. What is your favorite thing about California?
The people. How easy it is to meet people and make friends. How I felt at home from day one. I never felt like a stranger, like an outsider. I think it’s partly because of California’s inherent multiculturalism. You find people from all over the world. Many people come from Mexico, Brazil and the UK, and there is a large Korean community. There’s nothing like the American, and that’s what I loved most about California.
6. Would you encourage people to go abroad?
Certainly you must. Are you in doubt? Nervous? Give that leap forward! I promise you – all the rewards, no regrets. You are growing so much. It’s incredible. You won’t bring home the same person who left.
I hope you found this article useful, and if you were reluctant to go abroad, I hope you have a little more clarity now 😉 I look forward to sharing more hot air balloon trips with you 🎈