Student Exchange in the time of Corona

Adam Chinnery, Contributing Writer

After a long wait and a term online, I’ve made it to Union! In-spite of the campus quarantine for the first couple of weeks, things are beginning to pick up. I really do enjoy it here, the classes, the facilities, the people I’ve met and the overall vibe and I thought it would now be a good time to reflect on the expectations and reality of life in the United States.

It is worth noting that in-spite of being across the Atlantic, it doesn’t feel vastly different to back at home. I suppose it’s because there’s no language barrier, us Brits love a good American TV show (may I say it all feels like Quahog!) and of course all those American conglomerates we have back in Britain, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and so on. That being said there are a few differences worth noting, such as how everyone seems to have much bigger houses, how people all bring their lovely big cars everywhere- even from one side of campus to another- and I’m having to get used to a tipping culture that isn’t really a big thing back home. 

I will also never forget heading to Walmart for the first time, honestly, it is a sensory overload. I’ve never seen a shop so big and containing so much stuff for a good price. Trying to find sponges and other cleaning supplies took me around what would be a large mall’s worth of goods back home. I’ll buy a house worth of memorabilia to take back home with me!

Moving on to life on campus, I didn’t really know what to expect: with COVID restrictions, a high drinking age, being catered and a much smaller campus all being key factors. I was worried most about being catered, as back at the University of York, most people, myself included, have a kitchen where they cook all of their meals, no meal plan. However, I have been pleasantly surprised, being able to have declining balance to use at the Store,  the Marketplace, Starbucks and the College Park Hall Cafe, have made the experience relatively easy to adjust to. I also like how small the campus is- I can make it to my 8AM in person class in 10mins from CPH when it could take 20 to cross from East to West back at York. 

The small classes at Union are great too, you can really get to know your professors and having just one instructor per class means it’s very easy to ask for help. In York you would likely have a separate lecturer and seminar tutor. The assessments as well are vastly different, we had one essay due at the end of fall, and an exam in spring per class we took (at least in first year). Having to do assignments all the time here is something it is taking time to get used to and 60% is not ‘very good’ like it is in Britain. But we will manage!

As I continue to trudge through the snow and ridiculous cold temperatures, I am looking forward to spending the next few months getting acquainted with the American way of life, meeting new people and hopefully being able to see a couple of places nearby as well!