New York City – by Jason Vines

Before making the final decisions on my exchange trip, I spent a long time contemplating on how long to go for. Six months, twelve months, six months, twelve months? Every day I was weighing up the pros and cons of both until I finally settled on twelve months–and that decision was one of the best I’ve ever made. With my studies finished for the semester, the holiday season in full swing and the new year just around the corner, I am thoroughly enjoying every day here in New York. While I am missing my family, especially during Christmas time, I am very excited to start the new semester and do not want to leave.

Reflecting on the months gone by, I have a lot of memories I’ll keep with me forever: walking the streets of SoHo and giving out at least twenty dollars to scammers on the street selling blank CDs, which I was told were their demos. Someone approached me and handed me a CD and I just naturally grabbed it–which was the first mistake. As soon as I laid a finger on the CD, a group of people surrounded me and started handing me a whole bunch of CDs. “Cool,” I thought, “free CDs”. They asked my name, and I replied, so they instantly wrote my name on the plastic sleeve of the CD and personally signed it for me. Then they said I should pay a donation to support their music–which I thought was fair enough. One of them said to pay “at least a twenty,” which was almost all the money I had on me at the time. I started trying to hand the CDs back but they said that they’re ruined because they have my name on it now. I ended up giving them all a share of the cash I had because I made another mistake of opening my wallet in front of them. The two people I was with, NYC locals, just looked on from a distance without intervening, knowing I was getting conned out of money with blank CDs. It was my first week in NYC and I was in one of the busiest shopping streets in Manhattan–I wasn’t used to this sort of thing at all. Still hopeful, I kept the CDs I got and put them into a player when I got home. I thought surely there would be something on them, but they were completely blank. Lesson learned. I still have one of the signed CDs and will probably never get rid of it. After that, I became more aware of my surroundings. Walk busy streets with your hands in your pocket and don’t accept anything from anyone–it won’t be free. I don’t mind giving my money to those in need, but I haven’t been scammed out of money since that day.

The study semester is also a big highlight of my exchange so far. I’ve never had such a desire to go to class–and I even had one that started at 9am on a Friday. It might have been pure luck, but I managed to get classes with fantastic professors. Each was really passionate about their course and it got me more involved than I ever have been. The new environment and lifestyle could have also contributed to my willingness to go to class–although the daily subway commute gets tiring very quickly.

The grading system was a lot different to what I was used to, and I wasn’t really told much about it. The cut off for an A is 96%. That’s the minimum. I was frightened. Within the first two weeks I had already had three summative tests and had a paper due in the next week. I searched everywhere online for guidelines on the paper but couldn’t find any. The professor had only uploaded a list of questions to choose from and a minimum amount of pages to write. Page count? What about a word count? How should I format it? What referencing style? Where’s the cover sheet? I didn’t have any contacts in the class and when I emailed my professor about it, I sent it to the wrong person. I just went with how I know, thinking it must be pretty universal–12pt font, double spaced, etc. etc. I nervously handed it up not knowing what would come from it, but the next week it got returned with a big A written on the front. Later on, I talked to an acquaintance I had made in another class and they said that that’s pretty much what every class is like here to their experience. No guidelines are given and almost everything is submitted in hard-copy. I got accustomed to it and progressed through the semester well and made some good contacts with my professors. I liked them a lot that I sought them out and talked to them about classes they’re taking the following semester and enrolled in them, too.

These past five months have been a blast and I would recommend an international exchange trip to anyone–no matter where your destination might be. Although I think of New York as a place I could never live permanently, it makes for an amazingly big experience and it’s this exchange is the best thing I’ve done.

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