Why did you apply to study abroad? I never planned on going abroad - I always kept it as an option. Then, I discovered the wide range of partner schools around the world coupled with being locked down at home during Covid-19 for so long. It came at the perfect time to take a year out of my studies and explore and discover a new random part of the world and more than just that, actually live in a completely different country for the year.
What made you choose this destination? I didn’t want to go to Miami - I had the offer to go to Australia which I was incredibly excited about. Miami was never even in my top 5 options but after my first choices fell through due to Covid-19 restrictions, I wanted to go somewhere I knew would be open and unrestricted, so I chose Miami. It turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.
What do you most enjoy about your exchange? The opportunity to use Miami as my base and explore all of Central America and the Caribbean on my doorstep and being a student at Miami allowed me the perfect backdrop for meeting students my age and making friends from all across these regions. I practically had local tour guides in every place I visited. I managed to get out to 11 different countries and 18 different US states during my time abroad, experiencing things I would have otherwise had the chance to.
Did you get much time to explore the new culture and country you studied in? I hadn’t done much research into Miami before heading out there and although I knew there was a Cuban presence - being surrounded by it was incredible. 70% of Miami’s population is Hispanic and 60% speak Spanish as a first language whilst only 5% of Miami’s population was born there, it is the biggest melting pot of Hispanic culture I’d ever experienced and it was beautiful.
How will the time you spent abroad help your personal and professional development? My year abroad was the personal reset I needed to find my motivation again and take a break and focus on my well-being without the pressures of having anyone I knew around or any personal previous baggage. From a professional point of view, no matter where I go in the US or Latin America, I know somebody everywhere. I have contacts all across the Americas and that will undoubtedly prove invaluable.
What is it like studying abroad? What are the major differences from the UK and how did you adjust? Studying abroad gave me a lot of freedom in terms of classes I could take - which I loved. In the US, I took 4 modules a term from 4 different schools, and I was able to reconnect with other interests.
Would you encourage future students to study abroad and why? 100% it is the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to go live abroad in a random brand-new country for a year and throw yourself into a new culture, and way of life in your early 20s, it will stay with you forever and you’ll never have the freedom you have now. Two big hesitations though, it is expensive. I worked part-time at university for the year leading up to this exchange but without financial backing from my parents, I would’ve never been able to afford or throw myself into this opportunity. Secondly, don’t go to the US if you’re not 21, whether you’re a big drinker or not, you won’t even be allowed into most venues past 10 pm anywhere.
What advice would you give to students going abroad next year? Say yes to everything, throw yourself into it, don’t hold back, and talk to everyone you meet. It is a year for you to be yourself, don’t come back with any regrets.