American College Life Revisited – Miriam Jaffe

I recently started school up again at my home institute of Scripps College for my senior year (exciting, yes, but also terrifying). I was welcomed back with continuous blazing heat (I’m convinced part of me permanently melted off in my first week), but also with many, many warm embraces. I thought it would be weird stepping foot on campus after so long, and in some ways it was, but on the whole, that feeling passed fairly quickly. Many of the faces on campus are unknown to me now, but my friends are (wonderfully) still the same. My first day came and went, and much like readjusting to life back home, getting back into life at Scripps has been shockingly, much easier than anticipated. IMG_7056

 

Readjusting has been a double-whammy for me this summer. First, I had to get used to being back in the States, and living so far away from where I had been. Now, I’m getting used to being back at Scripps, and all the things I missed. It may have been easier than I expected, but that doesn’t mean that I slotted back in as if I had never left. There are new buildings on campus, and new additions everywhere that make it very believable that I was gone for a year. On the other hand, there are things that didn’t change, which make it seem as if my absence wasn’t that long. Everyone continuously greets me with a “welcome back,” but soon that will change and my being gone could potentially become merely a small factoid about myself (let’s face it, it could never be that little though). I’m not sure where I truly fit in on campus at the moment, but part of me does feel glad to be back. Things have changed, both on campus, and in me, but that doesn’t mean that those changes are bad.

Being in London for the year, I forgot about a lot of the little nuances of Scripps. I forgot about the pleasures of having a dining hall, and about having so many club activities that you can’t decide where to start. I missed being able to eat outside at all times of the school year, and having almost everything I could ever need on campus. However, now that I am back at Scripps, there are things I miss about Queen Mary. I miss the constant feeling that something was happening right down the road, and the ease of getting somewhere exciting. I miss being able to go into Central London and being able to get off campus quickly. I miss living right next to the Village Shop, and having easy access to all kinds of food (you can see where my priorities are). I miss the theatre company’s involvement of students. I even miss the fact that for the entire year, I could never swipe into ArtsOne, and had to be stranded outside until someone pitied me and let me in. I, in fact, still use my Queen Mary lanyard for my ID and keys while at Scripps, and it’s like I’m carrying around a bit of my time abroad with me at all times.

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One of the major differences between Queen Mary and Scripps is the actual education side of things. I can say, although I truly miss London, I don’t miss the academic side of things across the pond. If you choose to study abroad in the US, there are a couple of major differences that you should know. For instance, I am enrolled in four courses (plus thesis, the bane of my existence), this semester, and I have classes for four days a week. I’ll write something about “a day in the life” at some point a little later on, but I meet with each of my classes at least twice a week. This means that I have more contact hours with the professors than I did in London (at least three hours per course, if not more). Moreover, professors are more open with their office hours, and are more willing to work around your schedules if you have a big looming deadline (*cough cough* thesis *cough cough*). When I registered for my classes, I was able to in essence, choose my schedule because of all the courses I had to choose from to fulfill the requirements I needed this semester. When I chose my courses for Queen Mary, I had little say over my actual course schedule since that information wasn’t posted during module selection. This is the opposite at Scripps. I’ve known my schedule since I registered in April. Since I have more contact hours, I have less free time during the day. Although my days vary slightly, I start every day at 9:35am, and end anywhere between 3:05pm and 5:15pm, depending on the day. As I’m in class for most of that time, except lunch, my free time is limited to the late afternoons and evenings (which quickly get filled with extracurricular activities). Even though I know my stress level will increase at some point later in the semester because of this decrease in free time, I enjoy this format of schedule better than I did the one at Queen Mary. Additionally, with all my syllabi handed out, I noticed the return of the midterm, something I (ironically) missed while I was abroad. Even though I still have final exams (in December, much more reasonable in my mind), I’ll have ways to check in on the material throughout the semester before that final exam in December. Additionally, these final exams are worth much less than they are at Queen Mary. This makes them slightly less stressful, and allows you to boost your grade through other assignments. I imagine that this might be hard to adjust to if you’re coming from England, but I feel that it is a more intuitive way to teach the material, and leads to a good pacing throughout the semester. As much as I’m never a fan of exams, I’m still looking forward to getting back to my “regularly scheduled programming” when it comes to schoolwork.

Being back doesn’t mean that I’ve left my time in London behind me. I actively recount my time abroad to many of those on campus, and I will happily find any excuse to talk about being in the UK for an entire year (honestly, any excuse will do). I love swapping abroad stories with my friends, and hearing about new places in the world I want to explore. I have decorated my room’s walls with photographs from my time before, during, and after my time abroad and it’s oddly reassuring to be surrounded by all these wonderful memories. I find myself remembering little details from when I was in London all the time, and thinking about everything I accomplished there. My course load is half theatre credits this semester, and whenever we discuss shows, I am reminded of all the fabulous productions I saw in London, and how lucky I was to have experienced that.  Every day takes me farther away from my study abroad adventure, but with every day comes a new memory, and a new sense of feeling like I made the right decision to go abroad for the year. I can accurately say that London made a massive impression on me, and it is not likely to go away soon.

As the sun continues to beat down and remind me that I am not in “rainy, gloomy” London, I feel happy to be back with such great memories from the past year. I am sure that they will carry me through the stressful days, and warm me up on the (relatively/ not really) cold nights… who am I kidding, it doesn’t get cold in Southern California.

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