Final year BA (Hons) English Language and Media student Cecily Edwards tell us all about how she “internationalised” her degree with some time studying in San Diego…
San Diego is the healthy dose of sunshine that everyone needs and its fantastic beaches are a magnet for surfers. It offers miles of coastline, while Balboa Park and La Jolla were the perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of Californian life. The San Diegans whom I befriended were proud of their vibrant city, and were eager to show me why. The Gaslamp Quarter, downtown, is described as an urban playground. It was always busy, and I discovered that Americans are always finding reasons to celebrate and party! The best Mexican food north of the border is always found in San Diego.
The summer when I arrived was warm and arid, with ‘flip-flop weather’ expected all year-round. I was living off-campus with eight American girls in a house that had air-conditioning and a pool in the backyard. Unfortunately, California isn’t the most public transportation friendly state so getting around wasn’t always easy, but fortunately the campus itself was within walking distance of where I was living.
The host institution can justifiably be described as “part university, part Greek temple” and boasted a recreation centre and aquaplex, of which we took full advantage. The format of the lectures is similar to the ones I was used to in Swansea, although I was taken by surprise when I discovered coursework could consist of attendance, pop quizzes, class worksheets, homework and multiple-choice exams to conclude the semester. The classes themselves were very teacher-oriented, and the group work so familiar within the degree at Swansea was not an activity they seemed to practice much at SDSU.
The exam format there was far more relaxed, and they take place in the classroom with belongings placed under your desk. The workload throughout the term itself was quite demanding – there was homework after every lecture! The teaching staff at SDSU were always on hand to help if you were having difficulties adjusting and the International Student Centre sent out weekly newsletter to let students know about upcoming events and important deadlines. That was of real help as I became accustomed to American college life.
The experience taught me a whole new kind of independence and gave me an international network of new friends. San Diego opened my eyes to the way the world works and made me far more aware of different cultures and customs that I had never previously encountered. Being under 21 years old of course, does have its limitations as there is no alcohol in public places. You will also experience some culture shocks, but these can all be overcome. I also took some time to explore other cities and states. Whilst the distances are considerable, air and bus travel is cheap, regular and easy. I had all too much fun in Las Vegas, Texas and Mexico, and was enthralled by the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Hollywood … the list could go on … !