The final few weeks

Only 3 weeks left at Western!! It’s getting to crunch time with one more week before what is known as “dead week.” It’s pretty much when final presentations, papers, group projects – everything is due before finals week. No teachers are allowed to assign any homework but a few of my professors have sneakily added quiz dates before we went on Thanksgiving Break.

I’ve just come back to Western after a week off, and experienced two family Thanksgivings in Chicagoland, and also ticked off a few bucket list items that I didn’t get to do during my first visit. It’s funny because usually when I have a break like this at home, I will use the time to do assignments or prepare for exams etc. I did none of that. I was a busy bee, going up 103 floors to Sears Tower, or driving to neighbouring states, doing Black Friday shopping.

It’s crazy how the time has flown. I keep reflecting my time at Western and one of my biggest regrets is how long it took for me to establish myself in this new environment. I was feeling homesick, and I would go out with my friends and think of my friends back to home. But now, I want the days to go slower, I want to savour every moment, write down every minute detail, because I know in a couple of months I’ll forget everything.

Whilst the next few weeks are going to stressful in terms of workload, nothing is more stressful than knowing that you are going to have to say goodbye to some very special people that have impacted your life so greatly.

My advice for anyone considering an exchange program? Home is always going to be there for you, no matter how far or long you are away from it, so whilst you’re away from 4, 6, 10  or 12 months, make sure you are living in the moment and saying yes to every opportunity. The first couple of weeks are always the hardest, but before you know it, you have three weeks left and you have to start to say goodbye to your teachers, your classmates, your friends, your boyfriend/girlfriend, and you’ll be left wishing that you could stay longer

2 months in, 2 months to go

It certainly holds true that time flies when you are having fun. I am almost at the halfway mark of my time at Western Illinois, and I am certainly starting to feel sentimental – thinking about the amazing group of friends that I have made, knowing that I will have them for life, and how they have made my journey in America so extremely special. What I love about being over here is that I am not only just learning about American but about Spanish and Latino cultures and their prominence in the States.

So much has been going on here – I’ve participated in Mud Volleyball in one of the first weekends that I was here and joined Swing Dancing, the Marketing Club and the acapella group Invoxicated. Through these groups I’ve had a chance to attend an AMA Collegiate Conference at Aurora University, as well as venturing to Springfield, Illinois to  go to a Swing Dancing event called The Groove (think Footloose).

But whilst it has been great to explore parts of Illinois, college and classes have been an interesting experience. Before I came here, I was advised that college is very different to University in Australia and boy, that still resonates. The first couple of weeks, it felt like I was back in High School in terms of the schedule. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve had homework so it was a major throwback when I started attending classes. Exams are more like tests and are multiple choice, so I am definitely not complaining.

It’s hilarious that whenever I talk to people, they look at me, wanting to ask where I am from but are too afraid to ask. When I first arrived, it took me a while to get used to the American accent, expecting the Australian accent whenever I started talking to people. Fortunately I have maintained my accent, with many of my friends wanting to learn specific phrases or try and demonstrate their attempt of the accent, to a somewhat success… It’s funny after being here for the past two months, I am starting to understand how Americans get Australian and New Zealander accents confused – something I never thought I would understand.

Next week we have a three day weekend and looking forward to exploring downtown Chicago and seeing the Chicago Blackhawks play ice hockey against the Edmonton Oilers!


Let’s start my Wild Wild Midwest Journey

You can watch so many TV Shows and movies about American college, research campus life and American culture. Have so many people that come up to you suggesting to do this, or try this food – but nothing can prepare you for that moment you step off that plane, drive into the gates that say “Welcome to Western Illinois University!”

Currently it is 4pm on a Wednesday, approximately 7am Thursday in Australia and I am over looking the north side of the campus from room in Thompson Hall on the 14th floor… The view is absolutely stunning in it’s simplicity. There is a baseball field and a softball filed behind it that reads “The Fighting Leathernecks”, the school’s team name and a water tower with the school’s name on it, amongst dense bush and wide sparse roads. It’s one of the first things I noticed when I entered out of Chicago city – every town’s name is printed on a 10 foot water tower no matter what area. The campus is perfectly groomed as well – no matter what corner I turn, beautiful purple and marigold yellow flowers are featured in gardens, in front of lecture buildings, not to mention statues of “Rocky the Bulldog” the University’s mascot, painted in various purple and gold patterns.

It has taken me a while to get over the feeling of being overwhelmed by just how larger and wide the campus is – directions are not my forte and rely solely on another exchange student from Bulgaria to guide me to where the international orientation activities are. Knowing me, I will most likely just get the grasp of different buildings just in time before I have to depart…

Slowly people are starting to move in which is daunting and exciting as it means that this exchange experience is becoming real, with classes starting in 5 days. I have already met a few American students with some confusing Australia with New Zealand, and believing that Australia is quite isolated from the rest world in terms of pop culture- I was asked if  I knew what Forrest Gump was…

I am excited to start this journey, see what I learn and in 6 months reflect on who I become over my time in America. Let’s go, Western Illinois!