Dealing with Home Sickness

One of the questions I seem to be asked most frequently since moving is “don’t you get home sick,” or “don’t you miss your family and friends” and the answer is of course I do but it’s something I knew going into this move and something I’ve dealt with before.

I moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to start University just a month after turning eighteen and I survived. I then studied abroad for the first time two months after turning nineteen and was away from everyone (including new friends in South Carolina) for another four months before turning back home. And then at twenty-one I did it all again, moving to London for my Masters. Moving around and learning to adapt are something I’ve become used to by now but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

There are days when I constantly think of home, when I think how simple it would be if I could go to Target and do all my shopping in one place, one store and finished. Or when I crave nothing but a WAWA sandwich or New York styled bagel, but these things all pass. Just like when you’re at home, you get urges and the occasional small thing on the street sparks a memory but you move past them.

These little materialistic things are the easiest to get over because they’re just that, they’re materialist, the hardest thing is when you miss you family and friends. Some times social media can be the worst influence for those who are far away because you’re reminded of all the things you’re missing and it’s a rude reminder that their life is going on without you too.

Luckily for me I have the best support system who is constantly sending me voice notes, pictures and videos to brighten my day and feel like I’m right there with them. Home sickness is inevitable for almost everyone at some point but once you find out the best way to deal with it, whether it be pictures or the occasional special treat to remind you of home, you’ll get past it and enjoy being abroad all over again.

Even at the worst times I’m never more than a few clicks away from newest pictures or videos from both family and friends to help me get through.

From family travels

From family travels

missed moments

and missed moments

roadtrip shennigans

roadtrip shennigans

to sharing the Fourth of July love

to sharing the Fourth of July love

The Differences Between Studying in the US and the UK

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One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome since starting my Master’s course in England was the difference in education systems between the UK and the US. Although I knew in advance not to expect anything higher than a 70 on an essay from my short study abroad experience as an undergrad, I still wasn’t prepared for the postgraduate teaching style.

In the States the typical full-time student takes at least 12 hours of classes (roughly 4 courses), which usually covers five days—three or four if you’re lucky—which is then broken into 45 minute or 90 minutes classes. Personally, as an overachiever who wanted to graduate a whole semester early, I was taking anywhere from 15 to 18 hours (roughly 5 to 6 courses) a week and going to classes everyday. It’s fair to say I got into a very structured routine or going to class, going home doing my assignments and promptly falling asleep to do it all over again.

This is the biggest difference I’ve found in the general structure of these two very different educational systems. To compare, in my first semester of postgraduate studies at University of Westminster where I’m a full student, I only take three courses, each having one, three hour lecture a week (the equivalent of 9 hours). For me this meant only going for two days of week, simply unheard of back in the States.

When I explain this to people the next question is always, ‘then how do their degrees take less amount of time’ or the negative member of the groups rudely says ‘their educational system must be lazy’ when in truth it’s the opposite. The American system is focused largely on creating a “well-rounded” education, but this doesn’t mean it’s ‘better’ or function. Undergraduates are required to take a variety of sources in a variety of subjects in order to graduate with their degree, for example everyone must take (and pass) specific Math, English and Science courses.

This is not ideal for those who know in advance they struggle in these subjects, in fact it often hinders the students ability to learn. I know from personal experience as a tutor during my undergraduate career that students who willing knew going into university that they struggle with say, English, and are forced to take multiple English courses in which they continually fail or receive only nearing passing marks, often don’t see the point in doing their other studies. Additionally these students can become unmotivated to even attend their classes, which only further effects your grade in the US, particularly with required courses. 

For the most part, this doesn’t even become an issue in the UK system because students chose their degree and area of study from the beginning and automatically begin relevant courses. In the US, you can go your whole first year with only taking one course related to your degree because you have so many other required courses to take first. Personally, this drove me crazy from day one, so much to the point that my senior year I was taking courses with mostly freshmen and sophomores because I kept putting them off to the last minute.


Now that I’ve covered the general differences, here’s the finer points of what to expect assignment and grading wise, if going from the US to UK system;

First, make sure your writing skills are top notch and for the love of all things use proper citations and use them often. I say this because during my first study abroad as an undergrad, I was so confident in my writing abilities and after my first assignment (worth 60% of my grade) wasn’t as great as I thought, I realised a few key differences a little too late. Writing in the UK is all about citations and proving your work with research. What I’ve discovered since beginning my Master’s is that it’s just as much about supporting your wiring as challenging it.

What I mean, is that the typically US format for writing is this: generalise what you’re going to say, provide evidence to support, analyse and prove. Typically, a good rule of thumb when writing in the US is your analysis should be 2-3 times longer than your evidence (citation) and then you repeat the process. It could not be more different in the UK. Your evidence and analysis should work together and your analysis can (and should) provide support from a different source to than confirm or challenge your first citation. This is where you really show your research and how well you’ve engaged with the research process.

This might sound really tedious and generally it is, but unlike in America you’ll have one or two large assignments for the whole term so you have months to work and research before anything is due. However, because it’s worth such a huge amount of your grade, you need to make sure you’re getting done right.

Second, when you get your grade, DO NOT read it out of 100 because you will have a panic attack. Instead, I like to think of the grade out of 75 (most say 70, but as I said I’m an overachiever) simply because anything higher than a 75 is over and beyond what is expected, simply due to what is considered recognised excellence. I’ve found two charts to be particularly helpful, the first one shows how grades are distributed by percentage and the second shows a comparison in overall grades between the two systems.

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(Please note this is only a rough estimation based on my previous experiences after returning from study abroad and applying to UK graduate programs, and will vary from University to University. Also, in the US the top mark of A may vary, meaning some University’s may only recognise a 4.0 GPA as an A grade. Additionally, a 2.0 GPA is the minimum requirement for graduation.)

Third, professors are not nearly as keen to hold you hand to help you get the grade you need/want for an assignment. What I mean is, in America it’s very common for professors to review assignments multiple times so you can make the changes they would normally take points off for. This is unheard of in the UK where your marks are pretty much final and minimal guidance given throughout the assignment.

Lastly, your courses are going to be lectures, not the classroom setting you’re probably used to, especially individual desks. Also say goodbye to people wanting to participate in class because it’s like pulling teeth in England to get other students to actually respond. Unless however, you find yourself in a course which includes a seminar, in which case you might hear the occasional student opinion. For those who appreciate a small classroom size and the more traditional approach, I would recommend as many seminar courses as possible because it will give you the most one on one contact, as opposed to the standard lecture format. 


Now for some finer points of what to expect if going from the UK to US system for study abroad or a full degree;

First, expect a lot of busy work in the States. Your final grade is typically made up of class participation (often including attendance), various homework assignments (anything from online quizzes to short essays or response pieces), quizzes, a mid-term and a final exam. This is great for those who see it as a way to study less for their final or put less pressure on themselves, but it all adds up and usually very quickly.

This what I call, busy work, is what I used to hate about my undergrad. You spend hours every night completely these little tiny assignments that don’t really give much value, you do them to do them and that’s it. Then when a big (meaningful) assignment comes around you slack a little because percentage wise it’s not that much of your grade.

Second, be prepared to take classes you’re probably not that interested in (especially if doing a full degree in the States). Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and you’ll get through it.

Third, get used to having a roommate. Although, it might seem normal for everyone to have single rooms in the UK that is a rare and often pricey luxury in the States. Typically, you’ll have between 2 and 4 roommates who you need to spend a lot of time with, so you need to make the best of it.

Lastly, make friends without who has a car because life will be so much easier for you. Having a car at University is very common in America so for those study abroad you might be a bit at a disadvantage in some situations (i.e. large Target shops) but have no fear, you can easily find someone who has a car and tag along to get all your shopping needs done.

Doggies Day Out

In a surprise twist of events, I actually got paid to spend two full days with Rich and Kendall (and Saani) making a delivery to Luton and back, both Wednesday and Friday! And because I’ve been dying to take Kendall to Hyde Park we took this opportunity to take the dogs through Hyde Park both days and stop for a quick lunch at a nearby pup where the dogs were a huge hit.

Little walk through Hyde Park on our way back to work.

Little walk through Hyde Park on our way back to work.

Not only did they get to see Hyde Park but we saw Big Ben, the London Eye and the changing of the guards (which resulted in barking and tourists taking pictures).

I spy with my puppy eyes....BIG BEN

I spy with my puppy eyes….BIG BEN


A little road trip fuel for Friday morning.

A little road trip fuel for Friday morning.


Taking a little break during our walk.

Taking a little break during our walk.


Beautiful Friday for Hyde Park.

Beautiful Friday for Hyde Park.


A very tired pup on the way home.

A very tired pup on the way home.


Make that two very tired puppies after our day out.

Make that two very tired puppies after our day out.

Why Everyone Should Study Abroad

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When I first decided to study abroad my first semester of sophomore year everyone thought I was crazy. The staff at the study abroad office were confused and repeatedly told me I would be the youngest one there, which was fine with me because I was beyond ready to go. Studying abroad truly is an experience that everyone in college should take advantage of because it will change your life.

At first, it was just an opportunity to finally visit London and travel, while still getting college credits (all pass/fail which made life less stressful). I also lucked out because I went to an English speaking country and I didn’t have to worry about taking another language and instead got to take an Intro to Photography course. Even without having to learn a new language it’s a chance to immerse yourself in another culture and learn a different way of life.

Traveling abroad is a great way to develop some independence, you’re now placed in a foreign country (most likely without knowing anyone) and have to stand on your own two feet. This is a “skill” on your resume, you are able to adapt in a new environment, work independently and communicate with people from different cultures and viewpoints.

In case you’re not worried about the practical application of study abroad for jobs and just want to get away, travel, drink and meet new people, study abroad is still for you. Some of the best memories I have are from my time spent abroad and I’ve made friends for life. I still kept in touch with many of the people I met and they continue to be my go-to support team. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone from my undergrad study abroad experience.

You go through so many experiences with the people you study abroad with that it’s only inevitable you’re going to become fast friends. After all you’ve gone through culture shock together and probably bonded over missing home, in addition to all the adventures. Not to mention the fact that you’re going to classes with these people, living with them and going out with them on a daily basis. And if you’re anything like my group, at the end you’re so attached and depressed to be leaving one another that you will actually see how many mattresses you can fit in the a room (or the hallway) so you can spend your last nights together.

These people are more than just friends to me, they’re my family, we’ve celebrated birthdays, organised trick-or-treating for our English friends and hosted an American Thanksgiving. We shared the chores of cleaning, gave sisterly and motherly advice when our family wasn’t there to skype because of the time differences and we became better friends because of it.

In addition to it being all fun and games it’s a unique life-changing experience and I can speak from personal experience, studying abroad has completely changed not only my life but who I am as a person. When you’re forced to live in a new place with a different lifestyle and possible language differences, you find deep down you have a different personality. Typically, this is the cause of “reverse culture shock,” which hit me hard, but when you find a way to combine your new self and your old self to create a “third culture formation” you’re set. This third culture formation will help determine how you deal with situations in the future, be it canceled fights home, relationships, jobs, etc.

Many people (especially parents) have this misconception that studying abroad is a luxury that doesn’t help further your future, unless you’ve become fluent in another language in this ever growing global world. However, studying abroad is so much more and the benefits are there even if you don’t see them immediately. For example, you’re more open to change and willing to adapt when you get a job offer across the country or in a different country because you’ve done it before and survived.

What I’ve learned since going back abroad for my MA and going on different job and internship interviews is that my study abroad has given me a lot of life skills that I’m able to spin into marketable workplace skills. It’s all about perspective,  I might be biased but I think everyone should take advantage of study abroad programs as an undergrad because it’s an invaluable experience.

Life was meant to be lived and how many chances in your life are you going to get to pick up and move to another country for a few months, while still working towards something bigger. Go and find adventure and discover a new personality without yourself (you might like them better) and when you move back home take the experiences back with you. Study abroad can change your life if you give it the chance and stay open to the possibilities.

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A Day in the Life of a Personal Assistant

Wake up, coffee and quick look at emails and get a game plan for the game. IMG_5060

Take some time to myself during my journey to the office with some coffee, yet again.

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And my favourite part of my job? Getting to run errands and deliveries all over London from the comfort and luxury of an executive Uber taking in all the views that brought me back to London in the first place.

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And after all those errands around town, it’s back to the office for paperwork, phones calls and of course emails before heading home to work on my dissertation, play with Kendall and some resemblance of a life outside of work and my course. But it’s all worth it because I love every minute of it.

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And I can’t forget the park and our dog walking of this cutie Saani, a lab/whippet mix.