Settling In.

So I’ve been here roughly five weeks and I don’t think I’ve stopped once!

I left the United Kingdom on the 23rd of August, travelling via London to arrive at JFK at about 6.30pm. There’s a five hour difference between the UK and the USA. I had twelve hours to kill before my connecting flight and there was no chance I was going to waste my time in the airport. On the first floor of terminal 7, there is a 24hr luggage hold. Its $11 for a big case and $5 for a bag. Then I got the underground, or as they call it, the subway. You need to buy a metrocard, which is available in vending machines around the airport. I took the E train to Midtown Manhattan.

New York City is everything you think it’s going to be. It’s noisy, dirty and busy. Don’t bother with your i-pod because the bustle of the city makes for great background music. There is steam coming out of grids on the road, venders line the streets with hot dogs and nuts, the sound of the subway beneath your feet, flashing lights everywhere. As I walked around, I heard the Scouse accent begging for change and then the bagpipes, being played by a man in a kilt! Yellow taxis fill the roads and think they have more priority than pedestrians and the emergency services. Rather than moving to the side for the ambulance, they nip in front to get ahead! The city is built on a grid system, with criss-crossing avenues and streets. Its pretty easy to get the hang of it.I did some shopping and then headed to Chelsea, where I went to a bar and met some people and then we moved onto a club. You have to be 21 to get into clubs over here and they i-d everyone. Also, clubs shut at 4am, rather than 3am, which I didn’t realise and almost resulted in me missing my flight. I got out of the club at 4am, grabbed a taxi to JFK and ran for my flight. Taxis charge a flat fare of $50 from the city to JFK, and vice versa, plus tip. Then it was a 3 hour flight to Albany International.

I arrived at 9am and took a taxi to my student accommodation, which cost roughly $25. I had been assigned a room at Waterbury Hall on the Alumni Quad; they alert you via your Albany student mail address. I got my first look at Albany, which is surprisingly quaint. As far as cities go, don’t imagine anything like a British city. It’s fairly quiet, with cute houses that have porches. There isn’t a city centre but there are a few malls which have eveything you need. There’s uptown and downtown. The campus is uptown, alumni quad (the typical home for international students) is downtown.

I checked in at the main office and got my assigned room. You have to share a room with another person; a bed, desk and wardrobe is provided. You have to share the bathroom and toilet with the entire corridor. You also get a key for you own mailbox, located in the lobby. The best thing to do from there, after unpacking and showering etc, is to head to the campus and get your SUNY card.

Your SUNY card allows you onto the 10, 11 and 12 buses for free, and these buses take you everywhere you need to go in Albany. It costs $1.50 single to get to the campus and from there you go to the SUNY card office in the campus centre to get your card. Make sure you’ve brushed your hair as they take your photo then and there! From there, I joined in with the orientation.

Having particpated in the orinetation in the USA, I think the Uk Fresher’s Week really comes into its own. Though it is a week of drinking and clubbing and late nights etc, you also get to meet so many people on your adventures and many meet long term friends during that week of fun. Orientation over here, however, is a week of lectures about safetey and getting involved and health insurance and blah blah blah. Yes its useful but it also makes it hard to meet people. Thankfully I met a group of British people and we all bonded so I spent the week hanging out with them.

SUNY at Albany is a large and beautiful campus with loads of fountains and light and greenery. Its a lovely place to spend time. There are about 20 000 students and millions of student clubs and associations. There is a website http://www.myinvolvement.org which lists all the clubs available at SUNY.

You sign up for classes via the internet (before you leave, they will send you an e-mail telling you how to do so) and must take 5 classes, as that the equivalent of the credits needed at Glasgow. Books are really expensive over here but all are available at the campus bookstore. Alternatively, there is a bookstore called Mary Janes which is on Western and Quail, and it sells the books slightly cheaper or you can buy used copies. Plan when you are going to go as at the beginning of the semester, the queue goes all the way down the street. Classes start at the end of August and yes, you might have a class at 8.45am which is just ridiculous. Again, allow plenty of time for the bus in the morning as it is packed within three stops.

So far, I’m having an amazing time. Albany was once voted number one party town in America, which is quite the claim to fame. There aren’t that many clubs really but there are house/frat/sorority parties every weekend and yes you drink out of red plastic cups like you see in the films and people do keg stands and all the underagers run when the cops appear outside. Yes there are fraternities and sororities. I’ve met so many people and joined a few associations so I feel involved. Everyone I have met has been so nice and they all love the British accent! If my year continues as it has started, I’ll have the best year of my life!

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