My American Dream...

The prospect of leaving your home and travelling four thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, to be thrown among forty strangers and asked to share your living space with them is, even for the most zealous of people, a daunting one; and I was no exception. My choice to study abroad arose out of a series of coincidental or, if I fancied myself as a believer in fate, pre-destined events which subsequently led to my spontaneous resolution to go.

stuprof-rcurleynycityWhen I arrived questions that are not even considered in coffee shops in the UK were suddenly as important as remembering to lock your front door. I had choices to make on size, syrup, milk, froth, temperature, strength, sprinkles, marshmallows, doughnuts to accompany, sleeve or no sleeve, straw or lid. Once this overwhelming array of choices was overcome though, I received the kindest and most genuinely sounding 'goodbye, have a good one' from a coffee shop employee ever. No amount of Starbuck's corporate training could teach a British employee to imitate such a warm hearted greeting. I was impressed, and from that moment on, continued to be impressed with the level of sincere concern, pleasure and helpfulness that the American population - or the incomplete cross section that I encountered - displayed when, for instance, merely passing you in the supermarket. I was beginning to become secretly embarrassed by London's 'eyes down, approach me if you dare' mentality.

Levels of enthusiasm I found were also immediately heightened when shop assistants, professors or peers heard the slightest hint of my British accent. A professor once even said to the class after I had answered a question: 'oh doesn't it sound all the more intelligent in an English accent'. People would stop me mid food order to welcome me to their country and wish me all the best in my travels; classmates would start conversations to ask if Prince Harry really was as hot as the pictures and, as a general rule, everybody would react to my 'Englishness' by informing me that they too had a bit of Irish, English or Welsh in their heritage somewhere.

There are inevitable disadvantages to living so far away from your nearest and dearest and elements of everyday life, that I had previously taken for granted. All of these things however, were insignificant in comparison to the incredible time I had making new friends, experiencing different ways of learning, and travelling as much of the east coast of America as was humanly possible at the weekends (I visited New York five times!).

Through immersion into the American culture I have gained lifelong friends, skills and principals. I have seen things that I never thought would be available to my eyes. I have exceeded all my personal expectations and surpassed what I previously believed to be my abilities and strengths. I have been lucky enough to both have an understanding of a completely new culture and also to discover a new-found love and appreciation for my home.

Aside from all the fun, I did manage to squeeze in a few lectures and am proud to say that I left with a wholly different learning experience and one that I believe will benefit me greatly in my future studies. Even within the same institution, the diversity of teaching methods amazed me. I would leave one very conventional class about British and French novels that focused heavily on historical context and involved sitting and listening for three hours to a professor who took herself very seriously, to a class taught by a Nigerian American dressed in full native attire and whose interest was not solely about the set texts but was more concerned with whether our worldly knowledge was up to scratch.

On the surface, I left America having acquired colloquial phrases, souvenirs from an array of cities and the future benefit of the immediate positive connotations that are attached to travel in America. Inwardly however, I walked away from the States having lived my very own American Dream that no amount of endorsement from others could compare to.

Rachel Curley, BA English

University of Rhode Island

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