What is it like to study abroad?

One of the main reasons I applied to UCL was for the opportunity to study abroad. I chose to go to the University of Michigan for my year abroad because of the contrast to London I thought the experience would provide. Situated in the leafy traditional college town of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan has a beautiful campus and immense facilities. 

I arrived in Michigan in late August 2013, excited and of course nervous at what the year ahead had in store. I was quickly made to feel welcome by the exchange student community and the University rugby team. Academically my year abroad was incredibly diverse and challenging. In my first semester I took courses on the expansion of the American West, American wars in the 20th century, and one focused on September 11th. During the latter we had the privilege of listening to and subsequently quizzing various guest speakers. This included an FBI Agent who in response to my question regarding the balance of the ‘special relationship’, embarked on a rant along the lines of ‘people with British accents think they’re very intelligent but can only host dinner parties.’ Fortunately the Professor laughed and refuted his accusations on my behalf. 

Alex at the University of Michigan

Alex at the University of Michigan

My educational horizons were further broadened in the second semester by taking courses such as ‘Sex, Spies and Science Fiction’, which concentrated on Cold War cultural production, and another on the ‘History of Hip-Hop’. Perhaps the greatest contrast to seminars on Gordon Square were in class performances by rappers from Detroit and visits to a Hip-Hop community centre. 

Michigan was great for opportunities to travel and experience more of the country. On University organised trips I was able to visit the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan. I also visited New York with the Michigan Sports Business Association for a conference. After exams I was able to do a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. 

It was fantastic to be included in such cultural traditions as Thanksgiving, for which I was suitably fed by the family of one of my rugby friends. Attending American Football games at ‘The Big House’ which has welcomed over 100,000 people for every home game since November 1975 was truly an unforgettable experience, especially as one of 115,000 for the night game vs Notre Dame last September. The ‘tail-gates’ hosted by the Frats on Saturday mornings before the games were an institution in themselves. Aside from sports, Michigan offered a wide range of music and drama on a regular basis. It was especially entertaining to see ‘2 Chainz’ perform in the Hill Auditorium, the same venue the Glee Club used. Regular plays and concerts by students and touring groups were more than sufficient for anyone missing the cultural hub of London. 

At an American football game

Supporting Michigan at a match

I was very fortunate to finish my year by representing Michigan Rugby 7s at the Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia. We managed to make it to the quarter finals beating the Texas Longhorns, Navy and Ohio State en route. It was testament to the close friendships I made throughout the year that I enjoyed this experience so much and will continue to be in touch with them for hopefully many years to come. 

In every sense; academically, socially and culturally, studying at the University of Michigan for a year was the best decision I ever made. I could not be more positive about studying abroad, especially at the University of Michigan. I began the year seeking a contrast to the bustle of London, I’ve returned with friends and memories to last a lifetime and yet I’m really looking forward to returning to UCL for my final year.

Alex Davidson

Alex Davidson is about to start his final year at UCL, studying BA History with a Year Abroad. Students on this course can currently choose from the following Universities for their year abroad: Catholic University of Chile, University of California, USA,  University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA, the University of Texas in Austin, USA, or the University of Toronto in Canada. Alex opted to apply to the University of Michigan through open competition (places cannot be guaranteed). 

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