Hi Manchester on the Road! I’m Jake, a second-year student currently studying English Literature and American Studies. I’m spending my second semester studying English Literature and Political Science at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.
I’ve been at NCSU for one week now, and with classes underway the holiday period is starting to feel like it’s coming to an end, with the real work beginning.
Some advice I would have on travelling to the U.S. would be to look carefully for flights and try to achieve a balance between affordability and practicality. I went for the cheapest flights to Raleigh-Durham Airport – this meant I left Newcastle at 6am UK time and flew via London (1hr30min flight) and Miami (9 hours) before I eventually landed in Raleigh (another 3 hours). With some delays landing in North Carolina, I arrived at my dorm room at 1am U.S. time, and had spent an entire 24 hours travelling.
I also landed at a weekend when the weather was particularly bad. Temperatures dropped as low as -12c and there was plenty of snow, only I hadn’t packed for cold weather. This wasn’t too much of a problem as NCSU is very much a campus uni so all of the restaurants are within a 5 minute distance of halls, but it is still worth considering to pack for all weathers. We did manage to get a snow day on the first day of term though!
The South is simply not used to snow, and on a trip to WallMart all of the bread shelves were empty, and everyone had bought enough eggs to last a month.
Which brings me onto my next piece of advice: meal plans. They are incredibly popular at NC State – the majority of students have one, and there are a number to choose from depending on your budget and needs. There are per-week options – 10, 12 and 14 meals, and per-semester options of 130 and 180 meals, and of course an unlimited option. We were advised to get 12 meals per week, but as I intend on travelling some weekends I wasn’t sure if I’d make the most of it so decided to get 130. Kitchen facilities at NCSU are great, but it isn’t always easy to get to the supermarket when you don’t drive. Also as an exchange student, buying cutlery and cooking equipment just isn’t practical, and the sheer variety of choice on campus makes the meal plan worth it.
Most exchange students at NCSU live in Alexander Hall, which is part of the Global Village. The great thing about Alexander is that you’re paired with an American roommate, which makes it a half-and-half mix of exchange students to Americans. This means there is more than likely someone with a car, making trips to the shop much easier. It’s also a very sociable hall, meaning you’re unlikely to get bored during your time here.
The academic system in the US is very different to at Manchester. I’m used to having an essay deadline and an exam for a typical module, along with reading for my course. At NCSU you’re expected to remain on top of your work for the full semester, with homework set each week for in class discussions. Your graded work is spread throughout the semester, which means less pressure for the final exam but also means there isn’t really a break. You’re also expected to challenge your professors a lot more, and there is a large emphasis on class discussion in lectures – one of my modules has a 40% participation grade. It can feel slightly awkward at first, but class discussion is something which is very much encouraged if you want to do well in a class.
One more quick thing: if you’re only studying abroad for one semester, you’ll be assigned Alternative Assessments from your course in Manchester instead of exams. I’d really recommend to try and get at least some of it done over Christmas – otherwise you’ll find deadlines coming around quicker than you can say “fries with that”, and work can really start to build up once term here starts.
There’s plenty to do at NCSU, even in the first week I’ve been so busy that time has been flying by. A few of us have got tickets to the men’s basketball against Georgia Tech on Sunday, so we’ll be out supporting the Pack before MLK Day. With the huge emphasis on college sport, campus is never more buzzing than when NC State represent the Wolfpack.
I hope that’s covered some of the basic introductory things you can expect whilst studying at NCSU or American universities more generally. I’ll be writing another update just after Spring Break after I’ve invested my student loan in a couple of flights.