Back to reality

Classes have begun at Glasgow again and summer can be deemed officially over. Sad times. It’s been almost 4 months since I returned to Glasgow from my exchange in Boston and since then the summer has flown by. I can’t say that I really experienced any ‘reverse culture shocks’, or at least not yet anyway. June flew by, catching up with friends and enjoying the sunshine whilst July and August were mostly filled with my summer internship. I wrote in my last post that I was seriously considering a trip back to Boston at the end of summer, and that’s exactly what I did. In late August I flew out to Boston for a 3 week visit to see many of the friends I made out there on exchange. I had an absolutely fantastic time, and managed to get a bit more travelling in. As well as Boston, I did the obligatory NYC trip and then spent a week in Cincinnati, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee. The entire trip was incredible and getting to see people again so soon after leaving was great. I managed to spend all my money from the internship but I would do it again in a heartbeat. In some ways saying goodbye a second time was harder, as I don’t have any certain plans to visit again in the near future like I had when I left in May. I guess I always knew I was returning to Glasgow and that those 3 weeks were just a holiday, but sometimes you feel so comfortable in a place, or around people, that it begins to feel like home.

Since being back in Glasgow Freshers has finished and classes have begun. It’s strange coming back to lectures here as they are actually lectures, not highly interactive class discussions as they were at BC. I find myself wanting to speak up every time the lecturer asks a question and am mystified when I don’t see dozens of hands go up in the air. I suppose this counts as a small piece of reverse culture shock. The university system is changed somewhat now too, with colleges instead of departments and there have been refurbishments to the Hub and the Library which look really good! Otherwise I have managed to get back into the swing of things fairly easily and am ready to take on my final year at university. I have decided to take a gap year after I finish, hopefully to do some travelling and see people who I met at BC as well as picking up some more work experience before I start a full-time job the following August. I’m really looking forward to that year out as there are now just so many things I want to take on and achieve having studied abroad for a year. That’s one thing I’ve really taken away from the experience, apart from  a great group f close friends, is an increased desire and self-motivation to achieve and explore every experience and opportunity available to me.

I had an unbelievable year abroad and can’t recommend it enough to students considering a year abroad, and especially at BC. Main tips would be to research it early and speak to your advisers. Think carefully about where you want to go and why, what is it you want to get out of the experience? If you are clear in your mind over these questions then get your application up and running, you shouldn’t have too many problems. It really is a once in a lifetime so take the chance if you’re lucky enough to get it. It will be the best decision you ever make.

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My final swan song

I decided a few months back that after exams were over I was going to stay a couple extra weeks in the states before returning home. A couple of friends from Glasgow booked flights to come visit and with my lease ending 5 days before my flight home it was a perfect time to do a spot of travelling. After a week-long of partying and goodbyes to BC students and internationals alike it was time to hit the west coast, San Francisco to be precise.

With my friends form home and another, Pippa, an English exchange friend for company we arrived in San Francisco on a Thursday afternoon and immediately began exploring the city. As a child I had lived about 45 minutes outside San Fran for a few years so had a general idea where I was going but my skills as the designated tour guide for the group were a touch limited. We were there for 5 days and it felt like 10 with the amount of walking we did. Alcatraz, Lombard Street (crazy winding road), Golden Gate bridge, Sausilito, Pier 39, Golden Gate Park, Coit tower, Italian district and China town, Union square, Monterey, Pebble beach and Carmel (17 mile drive to tour those was cool, a couple of hours south San Fran), shopping and eating out, a few nights on the town and endless walking up and down the crazy hills that San Francisco is built on made for a full on 5 days. I would highly recommend a visit here if you have the time. There’s loads to see and do in a short time period, although we were there for 5 full days we could have probably even condensed it to 4 if we wanted, so if you are going to the US on exchange next year consider San Fran as a destination for a wee break.

Afterwards my Glasgow friends and I flew to New York, leaving Pippa to explore the rest of the US. We met up in New York with another of my friends who had just graduated from BC. We managed to get a good deal on a hotel right in Midtown (the middle of Manhattan near Times Square) and were able to do a lot in the two days we were there. After an overnight flight from San Fran (trying to save on accommodation) we were welcomed with near record high temperatures. 91 F or about 33 C, a little too hot for my Scottish skin. Still it meant prime conditions for bathing in Central Park and having a wee walk along 5th avenue. The second day we visited the statue of liberty, Wall Street, ground zero, Soho and grand central station. There was a crazy thunderstorm right when we were checking out of our hotel to get the bus which made for an interesting walk down to say the least.

The bus back to Boston was the first time I really felt like I was leaving for good. That would be my last night in the US with my flight home a little later the following evening. My final night and day were fairly tame. I spent nearly all of it with Steph, the girl who joined us in New York having just graduated. It was hard to say goodbye to her. Someone I had grown very close with this year, especially this semester. Hopefully I’ll see her if I go back at the end of summer for a visit. After some tearful goodbyes we parted ways, with her nearly missing her flight home to Cincinnati. It was a sad way to leave it but I’d hugely enjoyed my last week or so at BC and have fantastic memories of time spent here.

Currently I’m on a train from London to Glasgow with all my luggage from the past year. Why? Because I decided to book the flight for yesterday. There goes £150 and here comes a 5 hour train ride on a packed coach. Oh well lesson learned. I’m completely drained and sleep deprived so I don’t think the whole returning home and leaving America thing has hit me yet. I still feel as though I will be returning to BC next semester, maybe that’s because I plan on visiting at the end of summer. I can’t imagine what my year would have been like without this experience, or even what my life would have been like. It’s really opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. Sometimes it’s hard for students to look beyond Scotland or the UK for study or work opportunities but having done this exchange year I am now so motivated to travel and experience all the things the world has to offer. There are no boundaries, no limits to what you can do or where you can do it. This year has changed my perspective on life and how it should be lived. That maybe sounds a bit strong but it really has. Doing an exchange year was something I always wanted to do. Whether it’s something you have wanted to do or not, you should seriously consider it. And please seriously consider BC. It’s a great school with awesome people, many of whom I met will remain friends for life. I lived the experience, now it’s time for you to do the same. GO ON INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE!

The last month…exams, partying and goodbyes

I have now reached the end of my stay at Boston College and already I feel sentimental. The last month followed like the rest of the semester and flew in before my eyes. At times you struggle to see where the time goes but when you sit down and look at all the things you’ve done, all the friends made and memories shared you begin to realise that the year didn’t just passed before you. I just enjoyed it so much I didn’t want it to end so soon.

Since my last post I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. After returning from Montreal in Easter the last few weeks of class came in quickly, with my final lot of midterms passing without too many problems. My parents came to visit which was nice to see them and show them around, especially since the weather had started to get really nice. I learned fast though that a week of 25 degree weather can be swiftly followed by a week of 5 degree weather. Winter likes to hang around obviously.

One of the best days of the year was the day of the Boston Marathon – ‘Marathon Monday’. It’s a school holiday and the festivities begin early. BC campus is on the marathon route at mile 21 so the students go out to cheer them on around midday after having been drinking since breakfast. Everyone gets really into the spirit of things and its one last big blow out before people start to get serious for their final midterms and exams. Definitely one of my best days at BC, even if I was in bed by 4pm. The Fray came to BC for spring concert which was cool. I was pretty impressed that throughout the year BC managed to get Akon, Mario, Girltalk and the Fray to perform on campus. Kind of puts UK Unis to shame. With the weather getting better people began to fill the green areas around campus with games of ultimate Frisbee and American football. I even joined an ultimate Frisbee team. My abilities were mixed at best, but still good fun and I would encourage future Glasgow students going abroad anywhere to get involved in some intramural or club teams if you’re into sport. It’s definitely a good way to meet people.

Exam week this time around was a little less stressful. Having now known what to expect from first semester I felt more prepared to take on all my exams in just one short intense week. Again, we hardly got any study days. I think it was a measly 3 this time, marginally better than the 2 we got in December, and that was only because it was a weekend! Because you do midterms etc through the year the exams are only worth 20-35% on average so its not as big a cram and panic session as Glasgow exams are. We have already been given our grades and I managed to do fairly well over the course of the year. The quantity of work was certainly more, but the standard you had to achieve for good grades was manageable as long as you apply yourself. And trust me, there is still time for loads of fun!

The end of exams meant the end of the semester was just around the corner. I had friends coming over from Scotland to travel with me for a couple of weeks before I returned home. I had mixed feelings, both looking forward to summer and sorry to be leaving BC where I have had so much fun this year. Parties were plentiful and it was a great way to blow off steam after exams and end the year on a high. All BC students staying on campus have to be out of their accommodation the day after the last exam. A little harsh I felt. Seniors get to stay another week – ‘Senior Week’ – and they have loads of activities throughout the day and night before they graduate. Its sad to see the seniors leave BC and say their goodbyes to each other. A lot of my close friends were American seniors, especially this semester. The exchange students can relate to them as we are both ending our time at BC and so there were a lot of goodbyes exchanged between us. It was certainly strange saying goodbye to people this semester. I did it at Christmas but then I knew I was returning to see a lot of them again in January. This time, while I know I will see people again, whether sooner or later, others you may never see again. People you spent every day with for the last 9 months. People who made me feel welcome and a part of the BC community. These people made my time at BC what it was.

Whilst goodbyes are sometimes hard, it usually only means you have a lot of great memories of time spent with those people. I’m already planning to go back for a visit before next term starts at Glasgow. That in itself should be reason to persuade anyone thinking about an exchange, especially one to BC that it’s the right decision. I remain hugely passionate about the international programme, both at Glasgow and especially BC. Please go so you can experience all the things I was fortunate enough to do, and so that you can form your own memories of a one of what I guarantee will be one of the best years of your life.

Canada, St Paddys and a whole whack of fun

Merry Easter everybody!

I trust everyone is enjoying tucking into their chocolate eggs and what not. I meanwhile have just crossed the American border after a few days up in Montreal where the very generous Andy Davidson put me up for the small fee of a few beers – I was more than happy to accommodate! I have a 5 day holiday from BC life so I decided a venture northwards was in order. Had a great time sampling the Montreal lifestyle, which incredibly featured 25 degree temperatures, meaning shorts, flip flops and a smattering of sunburn were all in attendance! Montreal is a definite recommendation for anyone going to be at BC next year. Return bus tickets were only $125 for a 7 hour journey door to door. The city is very walk-able, with some great places to eat and have a few drinks outside. The nightlife was really good with all the bars on the main streets packed, especially with the good weather meaning all the beer gardens were brimming contributing to a great buzz about the place. McGill itself was a very scenic university, resembling some sort of a Glasgow uni feel in some parts. But I can let Andy fill you in on the details of all that Montreal business!

Back at BC the semester is flying by. Week 10 is in the books and there are only about a month of classes left before exams begin, meaning I’ll be home in less than two months. I really feel at home at BC so it’s going to be hard to leave the place behind, as well as some great mates I’ve been lucky to make along the way. It’s testament the students at BC, as well as the international programme and all those who help out with it. I honestly can’t speak highly enough of them.

Since my last post after Spring break things got back to usual with a few more midterms and the usual camping out in the libraries. March madness (the national college basketball tournament) took America by storm, and I have found myself watching about two games day, completely hooked on the stuff! BC didn’t make the tournament but their hockey team is in the national semi finals on Thursday so let’s hope we get that national title back! The weather has been a lot better though and I’ve managed to get out for a few games of golf, which has been great, and I also have my first ultimate Frisbee game on Sunday. So we’ll see how that one goes.

There continue to be loads of events on every week. Last weekend I attended a dance group showdown in the basketball stadium and it was incredible. The talent of some of the groups was really impressive, and it was just such an American thing to do. With pretty much the whole school come out to show their support. St Paddys day was also great fun, especially with Boston having such an Irish contingent. The ‘celebrations’ started fairly early doors and there was a great buzz about the whole campus, which of course had everyone clad in green clothing. I also recently found out that the Fray are coming to BC for the spring concert and Girltalk came a few weeks back too. Back in August we also had Akon with support from Mario so they certainly know how to put on a show for their students!

This week my family is stopping over for a visit so that will be nice to see them and show them about the place. I’m also expecting to see a mate from home the following week and just learned that a couple of mates are coming over after exams, so we are heading to California and New York for a week or so which will be a good send off before its back to Glasgow for summer.

I don’t really even want to think about leaving yet though as I have had such a brilliant time, meeting so many great friends and experiencing things I never could back home. I will always remain a great advocate of the exchange programme and especially with Boston College. For anyone who is thinking of going on exchange, or especially to Boston at some point in your university career PLEASE DO IT! And don’t be hesitant to send me an email with any questions or concerns.

Hopefully all my other exchangees are having as much fun as I am and I will see you all back in Glasgow soon!

Craig

Spring Break = FUN

Hi everyone,

One week on from Spring Break and I’m just about at the end of the road to recovery. Ended up going to Costa Rica with about 15 people, mostly Americans, but a couple of internationals and a few of the Americans from the exchange programme. We got a huge villa 5 minutes walk from the beach that backed onto the rainforest, was pretty awesome. Weather was ace, the house was great and the people too. We managed to get away and do a few day trips too and not restrict ourselves to simply the ‘traditional’ spring break activities – at least during the day. We did a rainforest tour and saw some cool animals, did a boat tour through the jungle where monkeys climbed onto the boat and we got to feed them fruit, went to a waterfall and some people did a canopy zipline through the rainforest, although by that time I was keeping a bit of an eye on the money front.

It was a great week and a really good break from the stresses of midterms, projects and countless activities at BC. As much as I love the place it does take a lot out of you and it was good to get away for a wee while. I would highly recommend going there for anyone in the states next year. Wasn’t a massive tourist spot but its unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, the beach runs into the rainforest and the neighbouring towns are full of bars and places to eat with a great buzz about the place. Basically Costa Rica is just a fun place.

Before all that fun though 6 weeks of class have flown by. Much the same as last semester, work is tough and you get a lot, but everyone here is on the same schedule so we get through it together. By this point in the year even all the exchange students are used to the work load, and it doesn’t even seem too bad anymore. Anyway, there are countless activities to act as distractions that take your mid away from it! Parties all weekend, things running mid week, and the weather is improving so there’s no need for those big winter coats any more thankfully. I even managed to get 18 holes in yesterday! I was also graced with a visit from Andy, one of Glasgow Uni’s other exchange students in McGill, Montreal. He stopped over for a weekend during his spring break, so was cool showing him a few things and people about campus, albeit briefly. Hopefully I will make it up to Montreal soon – maybe in the easter break in a few weeks time.

It’s a bit scary now to think that there’s only a little over 2 months of class time to go and by the end of May I will be on a plane back home to Glasgow. Time here has passed so quickly and I hope I can make the most of what I’ve got left. Currently a trip for easter break is in the planning process and then hopefully a week or so in California after the summer exams before it’s time to face reality and fly home for the Scottish summer.

I hope that many of you are considering or have applied to do an international exchange, and especially one at BC. For me, it’s been an incredible experience and one that I would repeat every year if I could. Everything here I cant recommend highly enough; from the classes and professors, to the sports and extra curricular, and of course all the people involved in the international programme at BC, who have made my time here what it has been. Awesome.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions about any part of the exchange or about anything at BC.

Cheers for now

Craig

We are…BC! It’s good to be back

Hello to everyone from a chilly Boston!

I’ve been back in the land of the American dream now for just over 2 weeks and it feels like I never even left the place. Work has begun in full swing already and it has been very busy catching up with everyone and answering the age old question ‘how was your break?’ I don’t know why they insist on calling it ‘break’ but hey, it seems to rub off!  I can definitely say I’m very happy to be back. I went home at Christmas time for a few weeks which was great seeing people and spending time with family, but as I’m sure many of you feel the same way, a couple of hours after the bells on hogmanay and you really cant be bothered with the whole thing any more. I was lucky enough that a few of my friends from Boston came to visit in Scotland for a week, and so I got to show them all the sights and of course how to drink a real pint as well as a few other things! Beer pong is one thing but they just don’t compare to the true British games! After some gallivanting I returned to BC, minus a few close friends who were only here for one semester which is a little sad, but the good thing is we get a whole batch of new internationals to meet this semester too…so far those I’ve met have been great. Not quite as extravagant an orientation this semester for them mind, so I’m very pleased to have come in the summer and gotten the full weeks worth before classes began back in august.

The weather here is definitely not warm, but I have to say, for the middle of winter I had expected a lot worse. Not too much snow at all and not a lot colder than Glasgow was over Christmas. I hope that eases some of your concerns about the climate here should you be thinking of coming in the future, but maybe the worst is just yet to come! This semester promises to go by very fast. There are a couple more breaks than last time, including of course the infamous ‘Spring break’ when I am due to go to Costa Rica with a group of about 15 in a big costal villa! Rather looking forward to that. Of that 15 by the way, there is only one other international student and the rest are Americans…so again for those doubters who say you won’t meet any Americans so what’s the point, it’s simply not true! You just have to make a bit of effort to break the international student mindset. I personally think the more Americans you know the better as they have all the knowledge and know all the good spots. In saying that, I already have plans to go to Australia next Christmas to see my mate Joe from first semester. Unfortunately he is not returning but that’s the great thing about the program, you truly will meet friends for life and they live all over the world…so all the more excuses to go and see these places! Anyway, I digress.

This semester I’m aiming to do a little more travelling, hopefully a trip to Montreal, maybe over easter, of course Costa Rica and then hopefully something at the end too. And hey, New York is less than 4 hours drive so you can do that in a weekend! A lot of people are staying out over most of summer to travel, but I’m due back at the end of may…that should still give me 10 days or 2 weeks to do some travelling after finals though before its back to what will hopefully be a glorious Scottish summer (lets be optimistic)!

Not sure what else I have to say. I hope all the other exchange students are enjoying their time as much as I am. To all you people still undecided whether or not to apply or which university to choose, I genuinely couldn’t recommend the experience more to anyone who remotely has a thought about doing a year abroad, it’s been an incredible experience and Boston College is a fantastic place to do it. It’s one of the best colleges in the country, with the students and lifestyle to match it. COME TO BC!

Cheers

Craig

126 of the best days of my life

As I sit here in the departure lounge at Logan airport, I cant help but think about all the incredible experiences and awesome people who I have met this semester at Boston College and as much as I am looking forward to a break back at home for the holidays, I cant wait to get back over and do the whole thing again!

 From start to finish it has been a fantastic experience. I can’t speak highly enough of the international program at BC and all those students who help out with it. They have made my time here so far unforgettable and I can’t recommend coming here enough. The past month or so has flown by, with thanksgiving coming at the end of November where one of the international assistants kindly took 4 of us internationals down to Long Island, NY for 5 days. It was an awesome way to relax and get away from all the stress of midterms. Thanksgiving is a nationally celebrated holiday, bigger than Christmas they tell me. At our friends house there were 30 of us having dinner, all of whom were eating far too much turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes…amongst other things! We got a chance to go Manhattan for a day and went out in Long Island a few times but really it was just a welcome break away from the regular routine and work that was ongoing. Most of the international students went to someones house for the break but it’s an opportunity to travel as well if a traditional thanksgiving doesn’t take your fancy. Some of my friends went to Las Vegas, California and the Bahamas to name a few and it’s the best chance you will get to go traveling in the autumn term as there aren’t really any other breaks.

 Since thanksgiving it has really just all been about final exams, projects and presentations. There were 2 weeks back after the break before the exams began and classes run up right until finals…ie no exam leave. I have to say I found that a bit unfair and stressful but everyone is in the same position and  we all get through the exam week. Sleeping patterns go a bit crazy, doing 15hour days in the library and trying to make sure you still make your 9am class the following day but it’s a short intense week that’s over with fairly quickly and also because you are being assessed and tested throughout the year, by the time it gets to finals they invariably only count for 20-40% of the final grade which is pretty good.

 My finals finished just less than a week ago so I had some time to relax, do a bit of Christmas shopping and have several parties before time came for me to jet back to the UK. The weather has been a bit crazy here lately, with average temperatures the past week about -7celcius and about 18inces of snow but people here are used to it so life goes on as usual and all the students just get to have lots of snow fights. The weather had been getting colder for a wee while now but overall it has been a lot warmer and a lot sunnier than I had expected after hearing what people were telling me. One day in December it was even 20celisus, although the next day it snowed. That’s just Boston I have been told.

 The past few days saying goodbye to people who aren’t returning is a little sad, but its amazing to think how you can make such incredible friends in such a short time. You are with these people every day, going to classes, getting food, going to parties or traveling and I have met and made some friends for life here already. I cannot recommend the experience enough, and especially at BC. Its simply something you 100% have to do if you get the chance. Best decision of my life coming here, and I’m look forward to boring all my friends with my countless stories over the next few weeks!

 Enjoy the holidays everybody!