Hello my name is Jake and I am an Engineering undergraduate studying at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA and a grateful recipient of the Santander Scholarship. So why choose a study placement and why the United States?
For me personally studying abroad represents a great challenge and is a first step in proving to myself that I can live and work abroad, something that I would like to do. So I’m pushing myself and taking that first step as early as possible. Plus, you’ve got your whole life to work, why not take the chance to do something different.
As for the location of my placement, it is a combination of personal challenge and personal intrigue. The US university system is considered the best in the world and I plan to test myself against it, learn from it and see if it lives up to expectations. Personally as with many people from the UK I have long had a curiosity with the US, both the good and the bad. It has a space program, a beautiful and palpable constitution, plus a sense of national pride and identity, all of which the UK lacks. It is home to many people whose work I admire such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. The nation is also in the swing of the presidential election cycle, which I will enjoy viewing. Overall, the United States can be an interesting topic of philosophical thought and I can now experience it first hand.
The first weeks have been unsurprisingly similar to being fired out of a canon. Fired head on fast paced, not always knowing where you’re going or what you’ll land on. Getting used to the surroundings and city immediately is essential, which is assisted a lot by the helpful grid street system here. The city has much to offer; museums, historic villages and art galleries – more than can be done in one week. Also, imperative is attending as many events as you can, not only for the contents of the events but to realise how many people there are in the same situation with similar aspirations and questions. During the opening two weeks I got a few invitations to some Fraternity and Sorority parties – if you plan to experience US university student life, these are a must. Let’s just say I had a good time.
However, a particular highlight so far has been a simple conversation with a stranger. Sat outside on a bench watching some volleyball a fellow student from Saudi Arabia sat next to me; at which point began a four hour, from daylight to dark conversation. We shared ideas and had discussions on a range of moral and ethical questions; a particular passion of mine, and by coincidence we happened to be people equally as open minded to dialogue. We discussed drugs and drug laws, criminal justice and rehabilitation, education systems, meditation, the universe and space travel, philosophy, lucid dreaming, artificial intelligence, history, religion and cultural differences – all without any wine. All ideas out on the table and both walking away exposed and enlightened to different viewpoints, exactly how a conversation on a university campus should be allowed to be.
As of week two the academic side has begun and the universities quarter term system combined with new learning and teaching practices to get used to has lead to quite an intense introduction. So making the most of the opening week and having as much fun as possible is the best start you can give yourself.