Semester Abroad USA 2013

All good things come to an end.

Rewind…! I am finally catching up with my blog; I thought I would start off with rounding up the last few weeks I had at CSBSJU (which were amazing if I might add).

December was a very busy month as we wanted to fit in so many things before we left. We had a chance to watch the Minnesota Vikings vs Washington Redskins game at the Mall of America Target Field, the atmosphere of being in such a huge stadium and the buzz from the crowd was imense!

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In my halls of residence we had a “culture night” where we had to make a small something from our culture, I ended up making banoffee pie. It wasn’t the same as how you would make it in the UK, but I had to make do with the ingredients I found in the supermarket. We also did some arts and crafts that night, which I thought was really lovely just chilling and creating.

I cheated a little and bought a ready made base ( I couldn’t find digestive biscuits). Then added toffee/caramel sauce, cool whip, bananas and chocolate chips. Lastly put it in the fridge to set.

We made melted crayon art and I added one of my favourite quotes to it: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. I felt extra creative and painted “Gye Nyame” which is a traditional Ghanaian symbol meaning “Except for God”. It represents the omnipotence and omnipresence of God.

We took pictures by the lake, saw Santa and got piercings!

I also went to my first roller disco, tried eggnog for the first time and went to see the Saint Cloud State vs Union College ice hockey game.

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I also performed at two events with my lovely friend Rie. We sang an acapella version of ‘Last Christmas’ and I had my last dance performance with Element at the Archipelago Winter Gala and sang ‘Footprints in the sand’ at the farewell dinner for the exchange students. As my friends and family know it takes A LOT to get me singing in front of people, let alone singing on stage in front of a crowd! I also had a cold at the time of both performances, but I thought to myself I’m not here for much longer, I told myself to step out of my comfort zone and my friend wanted someone to sing with, so in the end I plucked up the courage and did it. After the performances I was shaking like crazy but it was well worth it. Everyone’s reaction and support was amazing, I was encouraged, believed in myself that little bit more and now I cherish those memories and experiences that I had at CSBSJU.

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When I’m feeling brave I might upload the videos of my dance and singing performances. Overall (as you can probably tell) I had the most amazing time, I tried to make the most of it and do as much as I could. I love America, the friends that I made are all so special and I wouldn’t change this experience for the world! Shout out to my Uni and parents for making it happen 🙂

To anyone thinking of doing a study abroad, I say GO FOR IT!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

 

 

 

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Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

For the past week or so we have been living in below zero temperatures & have had so much snow. Specifically -15 to -26 degrees celsius! I didn’t even know that kind of weather was humanly possible. I really don’t know how people live here & everyone says it only gets worse! But the worst is in January & February, which i guess I’m lucky as i go home end of this month.
The whole campus is covered in beautiful, white, fluffy snow, not like snow in the UK. The campus looks so pretty, but the cold is too much at times especially when the wind chill hits. It literally feels like burning on your skin. You have to be wrapped up from head to toe. When i get home i’ll probably feel warm in UK winter!
I have never experienced this kind of cold weather in my lifetime, but I’m surviving & soon i’ll be back to “normal” winter/cold weather.

2 weeks to go…

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Thanksgiving Break: Day 5

I woke up feeling so tired from being in the mall nearly all day on Friday. Danyal’s mum had another thanksgiving meal planned for us & the immediate family members. It was a struggle getting out of bed, but the family members were scheduled to arrive soon, so we had to hurry before they came. I was happy to have a part 2 for thanksgiving before i left as ive never had one & her family are so lovely it was nice to see them. Once again there was a lot of food. Soul food 🙂 i really love how Americans make their mac n cheese and the sweet potatoes were so good!

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After the food we all talked for a while and played a game called buzzword. I’d never heard of the game before, but it was quite simple. You have 2 teams and you have a set of cards with the ‘buzzword’ and your team members have to guess the buzzword from the set of clues on the card, all within a 30 second time limit. The game was so funny because after all the food we ate our brains weren’t focused to answer questions at that point. Some of the cards were really simple & no one could guess the word. There were so many funny moments in that game, it was a lovely afternoon full of family, laughter & more memories made.

All in all i had a great time relaxing in the cities, i got to meet a wonderful family who welcomed me & treated me with such love. I got to have my first Thanksgiving & eat delicious food. I got to experience black friday shopping which was great! I’m glad i got to have this experience.

Thanksgiving Break: Day 4

Two words. Black Friday! This event is like marmite, “you either love it or hate it.” Some people absolutely love Black Friday & will start lining up at stores to be the first inside at midnight or earlier. Some people cherish sleep (like me) & will wake up early but at a more reasonable time to shop & some who don’t care for it & would rather stay in their homes in comfort. I don’t blame them, because some of the stories i’ve heard & videos that i’ve seen would make a person want to stay safe indoors. But being the shopaholic i am, i had to experience what the fuss was all about & buy friends & family some presents!

Me & my friend Danyal decided not to go to the Mall of America because we knew how packed it would be, so we decided on Rosedale Mall, which reminded me of The Bentalls Centre in Kingston, London, just a lot bigger, but not as big as Westfield.
To my surprise there wasn’t actually a lot of people around, but looking at the car park you would think the mall would be flowing with people everywhere. It felt like a normal shopping day back in London. My friend kept saying how packed it was to her, but for me it was normal, or quiet to how i assumed Black Friday would be. I really thought i was going to whiteness something crazy happen from what i’ve seen online, but it was a calm day. I managed to get nearly all the things i wanted to get for people & bought a couple things for myself (as always :P). The deals were quite good, so i did go a little crazy, but i kept on thinking I’m not here for much longer, i might as well get as much as i can during the Black Friday sales. That was not the best mentality to have because now i’m scared to check my bank account!

After shopping, we took a break & got some bubble tea! Then headed home to relax after shopping. All in all, my first Black Friday was a success & an interesting experience.

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Thanksgiving Break: Day 3

Thanksgiving is a national holiday mostly celebrated in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK so this was my first one here in St Paul, Minnesota. My friend has an big annual Thanksgiving meal with her family & i was kindly invited to spend it with them on thursday. I was nervous to meet all her family but they were so loving & welcoming & they even sung me their family theme song… “We welcome you to Dawsonville…” It was so cute!
There was about 30 people that attended the meal so as you can imagine there was a whole lot of food. Soul food. It was so good & there was a lot of things i’ve never heard of, but as i am, i had to try a bit of everything.

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After the food we moved onto talking & games. It was so funny when some of the family tried to imitate the British accent, but it was better than other ‘British’ accents I’ve heard. We played cheat (screw) your neighbour, which is similar to the UK card game called cheat. The aim of the game is to have the lowest value card. I didn’t have beginners luck, & we were playing with quarters, so i lost mine 😦 note to self l, don’t gamble! After spending the afternoon with my friends family my cheeks hurt so much from all the laughing and smiling!
Everyone was so lovely to me & said that i was part of the family & whenever i come back to America i have a home 🙂 This was a wonderful first Thanksgiving experience, i’m so glad i got to spend it with such lovely people. I have so much to be thankful for! God has blessed me with a wonderful family, amazing friends & opportunities i could never imagine would happen! I am so thankful i got a chance to come to the US & meet so many amazing people! Thank you to my friend Danyal & family for welcoming me into your home this holiday.

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Happy Thanksgiving x

Thanksgiving Break: Day 1&2

My friend from college invited me back to her home for the Thanksgiving break in St Paul, which is in the cities. It feels good to be back in a city, i do love the quietness of the countryside, but I’ve missed city life to be honest.
We got picked up early in the morning by my friends dad, the journey took about 1-2 hours. We decided to stop off at McDonald’s (my first American McDs). I had a ranch chicken burger with ‘small’ fries, it basically tasted the same as the UK one but they had more variety on their menu.

 

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The next day we took a trip to Walmart! I was excited because it was my first time going to Walmart since there is only a Target at the nearest mall to my college. Walmart to me was just like Tesco or Asda in the UK. I managed to pick up a few things at amazingly cheap prices!

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I also went to TJ Maxx (in the UK its called TK Maxx) i bought a couple nice gifts for people & myself 🙂

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After shopping we stopped off for some food.

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After shopping & browsing we went home & were so tired we just chilled for the evening & watched movies (Medea & Think Like a Man).
My friends family are so welcoming & friendly, i’m glad i got invited to stay for the holiday.

Festival of Cultures

Earlier this month there was a celebration of the different cultures at CSB/SJU. The university here is not that diverse (compared to Coventry) so having a festival celebrating all the cultures on campus was really lovely. Me & the Coventry girls had a booth for England.

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There were about 30-40 booths of all the different countries & cultures from Hmong, Bahamas, Japanese, Indian & the list goes on! Each booth had 2-3 people working with games, information & food/drink testers. There were also many performances from the students which was amazing to see. I wish my university back home would do something like this.

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I love learning about different cultures & it was so fun to have a day filled with fun, friends, food & culture!

Clubs & societies update

As many of you know or from previous posts i mentioned that i signed up to quite a lot of club/society groups: Alpha Kappa Sigma service sorority, Element, KJNB Radio, Joint Events Council, intramural volleyball & Black Students Association.
There have been many changes & updates since my last post. Firstly me & Alix finally got our radio show going back in October, our show is Wednesday 8-9pm USA time & Thursday 2-3am UK time. Our show is based on the UK, so we only play music from UK artists & talk about various things about the UK & culture differences & experiences. Its a lot of fun & i never thought i would ever have my own radio show. If you are ever awake tune in at http://www.kjnbradio.org/

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I haven’t got much to talk about AKS because over the last few weeks I’ve been so busy with homework and my internship i couldn’t go to the meetings :/ Its the same with BSA, I’ve been so consumed with work & sometimes the radio show would clash with the timings of their meetings, but i was able to help organise a Soul train dance. I didn’t even know what soul train was (hides face)… But i guess it was more of an American show. Everyone had to dress up in outfits from the 50s – 90s, i enjoyed myself & it was so much fun to see an event you contributed to come to life.

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Bad news with volleyball… We got kicked out! Our team missed too many games & so they emailed us saying we cant play anymore. Its a bit annoying because it was really fun, but it was tough as we all have different schedules & some team members are Seniors which is hard for them to always meet up for games because of assignments. In the end it was a bit of fun, but a shame we can’t play.
I have been more involved with the JEC with the planning & working at events. A few weeks ago they had a retreat where all the JEC committees came together & had to come up with ideas for new events, create a new mission statement for your committee & start organising the events set up for December. Because i am part of the cultural committee i had to read out the mission statement because of my accent. My committee have already started planning our December event which i think will be one that everyone will love.

Finally Element! Probably my favourite club i joined. I am not a dancer, so I’m pretty average, but i love to dance & wanted to do something to keep me fit & also meet new people here. I started in September and we have been preparing for performances, one of which was yesterday! I have only performed a dance in front if my Church a few Easters back, which wasn’t a big crowd. But yesterday the place was filled because there were 29 other teams showcasing their dance. I was so nervous & made a couple mistakes but we did well! I am so happy i decided to join because i have met so many lovely people & had a lot of fun, i feel sad i wont be able to dance with them next year but i will continue to support them. We also have 2 more performances of the same dance coming up in December so I’m looking forward to that. Here are some pictures from the show…

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Mississippi River

On the last day of our Mall of America trip we took a detour to see the Mississippi River. At first i wasn’t too bothered because of the cold weather, but once we arrived it was beautiful. Yes it was freezing, but the view was lovely & had a romantic essence about the place. As always, i took pictures so here are a few…

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Mall of America

A couple weeks ago i went to the Mall of America in Minneapolis with some people from my Cultural Orientation class. Our lecturer booked a lovely hotel & organised the travel for us to get there and back (thanks Mallory & Lisa).
We left in the evening and it takes an hour and a half to get to the cities from campus. When we arrived to the Hotel we checked in and went to our rooms; we all split up in groups of 4 & had 2 queen size beds in each room.

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After setting our things down in the hotel we all got hungry & decided to have dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was the first time some of the Chinese & Japanese students tried Indian food.

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The food was delicious & the service was really good!

The next day we finally made our way to the Mall of America! As many of you know i love to shop, so i was very excited to see what was on offer. When we got inside i was amazed! There is an aquarium in the entrance if the mall & when you continue forward there is a theme park inside the mall!!!

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I felt dizzy, there was just way too many things going on & so many people. It was crazy!

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We all split up & went to shop. Me & beth thought we would work our way from the too, going down. We soon realised it was a bad idea because we got lost so many times and didn’t even get to see some of the other floors because the mall is that huge! I did get to go in a few stores like Victoria Secret, Sephora, Forever 21 & other American stores. I bought a few things for myself & some gifts for people too!
After a few hours of walking around & queuing up in shops, we met up with some of the others & headed for lunch. It took us so long to decide because i am quite indecisive & the group i was with, were indecisive also. Finally we just went to one called Tony Roma’s, which was a steak, seafood Italian style restaurant.

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The food was also really good & service was great! After food, the whole group reunited & we made our way home & stopped off where Mississippi river passes through.
I am definitely going back to the Mall if America before i leave because there was just too much to see in such a short time & i didn’t get a chance to go on a ride at the theme park.
Till next time MOA…