Study abroad at The University of Minnesota, USA

Posted by: Students Worldwide

Published on: 23/10/2021

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Study Abroad in USA, The University of Minnesota

 

For as long as I can remember, I have always thought that going to school in America would be amazing, and so when I found out that studying abroad was possible, I was hooked on the idea. Like many people my age, I grew up watching Disney, and although I knew that my experience would not be like High School Musical, I was determined to get to America and experience school there for myself. I began studying American History at the University of East Anglia in 2018, and their amazing Study Abroad team had so many partnerships with the United States.

After postponing my exchange by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, I finally arrived in Minnesota in August 2021. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is in Minneapolis and St Paul, a great place for anyone who is interested in US city living. Whilst I have only been here for around 2 months, I’ve already had so many amazing experiences, and know that the rest of my year is going to be fantastic.

 

University Life:

Of course, the main reason for studying abroad was to be able to expand my knowledge of American History, and the University of Minnesota has an amazing range of history modules available. This semester I am learning about black protest, American law, Prince, and the history of alcohol! American universities are also not as strict as UK ones with what modules you take (only 50% of mine must relate to my degree back home), so there are plenty of opportunities to try something new. UMN has so many specific departments, such as American Indian Studies, African American Studies, and Gender Studies; great if there is something specific that you want to learn more about.

I’ve found the workload in America to be a lot more, but the actual content of the work is easier than in the UK. There are a lot of weekly assignments, and mid-term exams too, but if you’ve been doing well back home then you shouldn’t have many issues. All my professors are lovely, and they’re always willing to give help or advice.

The University of Minnesota itself has a great student vibe. Comprised of three campuses (two of which are in walking distance of my apartment), UMN has a population of around 40,000 students, which is the big American university experience I had dreamed of. So far, I’ve attended two college football games (which have been the most American thing you can ever imagine), seen sights on campus, and been exploring Dinkytown, the local student neighbourhood where I live. I really love the campuses here because they are a nice blend of built-up areas and lots of greenery, and the greenery is something I really love about my uni campus back in the UK too.

 

 

(Gophers Football game, walk on campus)

 

Social Life:

I won’t lie and say the social aspects have been perfect for me. For my first couple of weeks, I felt very lonely, and really missed my friends at home. But after slowly meeting more and more international students (some English students too!) and being lucky enough to live with amazing American flatmates who are always willing to help me, I now feel like I have a solid group of people who I can do things with. Orientation was a great way of meeting other internationals and getting those cheesy ‘new student’ photos as well!

The University and its surrounding areas are all great, and there are some amazing places for meeting new friends. Dinkytown has a range of bars and restaurants that are all student friendly, and downtown Minneapolis is only a $1 bus ride away!

For students interested in clubs and societies, UMN Twin Cities has over 1,000 student groups, ranging from frats and sororities, to sports, to quidditch! Coffman Memorial is the student’s union where several groups have their offices. It also has the bookstore (where you can purchase course materials as well as all the UMN merch you desire), places to grab food, and a bowling alley!

 

Culture:

Let me just put it out there – culture shock is REAL! I never knew that asking for ‘water’ in a British accent would cause such a commotion, but here we are. I also didn’t realise my accent would make people quiz me on Premier League football teams (as though I have any idea), ask if I like Harry Potter, and have me explain UK geography. I’d say America is easier to adjust to than other countries, as it is relatively similar to the UK, and you don’t have the language barrier, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park.

Everyone I have met here has been super friendly, especially when they find out you’re not from here. In fact, people here are so friendly that the term ‘Minnesota Nice’ exists, which basically means they’re overly friendly, even when most people wouldn’t be.

 

 

There are also so many amazing tourist things to do in the Twin Cities. When I first moved here, the Minnesota State Fair was on – a great introduction to the state, its food, and seeing many cute animals! A friend and I also went tourist mode around Minneapolis – seeing some amazing sights from the Foshay Tower’s viewing platform, and then visiting the Sculpture Garden (and falling head over heels in love with a sculpture of a cherry and a spoon). We also sought out Brits Pub, which had me feeling like I was in a Wetherspoons – not something I thought I would crave. Whilst their ‘curry sauce’ was not our chip shop classic, it helped a Brit in need.

 

(Orientation photo, Coffman Union)

 

Travelling:

One of the main things I was most apprehensive about was flying alone, as it was something I had never done before. I was so nervous, but all the airport staff were so nice and willing to help you, and you can absolutely spot a student in an airport from a mile away! I spoke to several students before both of my flights, and it made me feel so much more at ease, especially as we were helping each other figure out where we needed to go.

For anyone also worried about this, my advice would be to make sure you have too many things to do, rather than not enough, to keep yourself entertained the whole time. My journey from Birmingham to Minneapolis, with a stop in Amsterdam, was 12 and a half hours total, so I made sure I had lots to keep myself entertained. In the end, I watched The Office (US of course, to prepare myself).

 

 

Whilst in America, I am planning on taking many weekend trips away – I arranged my classes so that I have a long weekend. Especially after covid, I am just so ready to travel and see more places. I currently have two trips booked to Chicago, and plan on visiting my friends who are studying in other states. Minnesota was a great choice for me for this reason, as Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport is around a 20-minute car journey from my apartment.

 

(Minnesota State Fair, Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden)

 

General Advice:

#1: The SECOND you decide you want to do a year abroad: save, save, SAVE! Open a new savings account and put money in there regularly. Over the course of around 3 years, I was able to save £15,000, which has been so helpful to me and saved me so much stress.

#2: Say yes to things! If I hadn’t have gone to certain events or on certain nights out, I may not have met people who I am friends with today. But, at the same time, you don’t need to be busy 24/7 just because you’re abroad. You’re allowed to have a lazy day where you just watch TV!

#3: It’s normal to have doubts, to miss family and friends, and to just want to pack your cases and fly home. We all have those moments, as it can be difficult adjusting to a new country. But ultimately, I know that these feelings will pass, and I might have the most amazing day tomorrow.

 

Credit – Charlie Sheargold

3 responses to “Study abroad at The University of Minnesota, USA”

  1. Jan Sheargold says:

    Great article Charlie full of facts and personal experiences

  2. Phil Chettle says:

    Great article Charlie, lots of useful tips for those who are planning similar trips. Keep having a great time and saying “yes” to all those unique opportunities

  3. Hats Bridgwater says:

    nice helpful article, have a lovely year!

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