Name: Holly Maunders
Degree scheme: American Studies (4 yr)
Studied abroad at: SFSU
Graduate: July 2013
The main thing the year abroad gave me was more confidence in my ability to be self-reliant. In the first year of university you move away from home. In the second you have to find your own housing. On your year abroad you juggle these challenges alongside fitting into a brand new and exciting culture. No matter how thorough your research prior to arrival (and believe me I was one of those people!) it is not until you’re physically out there that you can fully adapt to your new surroundings. Certainly it helps to know that the Adelaide hostel in downtown San Francisco is the most popular for those about to start their year abroad, that you really should stay clear of an area called the Tenderloin, and that a website called “craigslist” will save your life when it comes to housing (the only way to find rented accommodation out there in fact). But it’s also very important to find things out as you go along, make mistakes, learn from them, and upon their correction recognise it as a life skill learned.
If any second year AMS students are going off to San Francisco State University I strongly recommend participating as an officer in the IEEC (International Education Exchange Council). If you’re anything like me, when I found out that actively joining this group was part of my visa requirement, I felt very reluctant. However, having been an officer for 6 months, I found that it made my experience all the more enjoyable. I got to organise the end of year Gala for everyone, gaining valuable experience in event management through weekly meetings, visiting potential venues, and organising a budget to name but a few things. My CV benefitted from voluntary experience that required me to organise fun events with my friends. The group is not just for visiting international students but also included many Americans who either had or were about to partake in a year abroad of their own. As a result of taking on this role I met certain people which enabled me to do the following: sail the San Francisco Bay on a yacht, visit Hawaii, stay in a mansion in Los Angeles, reunite post-year abroad in Paris for Thanksgiving, and the day after writing this very article I am off to the south of France to see two of those American friends who are currently on a year abroad adventure of their own. Though it is very cliché, it was the year of a lifetime and I’m very envious of my peers in the second year about to begin their own adventures! Ultimately, what I have learned is that the more experiences you partake in, and the more involved in American culture you become, by the end of your year abroad your ability to deal with great change will enable you to feel more at ease with the dreaded concept of graduation.
In terms of future career plans the year abroad enabled me to explore and discover what I value most: help in local communities and social development. Having volunteered for the majority of the year for Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, I realised how important it was for me to focus upon these values whilst searching for jobs. As a result I am currently looking to start a career which reflects my strong interest in facilitating social mobility with a focus upon the importance of higher education. An example of an organisation I have volunteered for and will be looking to work with again is the Sutton Trust.