Sorry friends. No pretty pictures for this blog. Just imagine the Mediterranean breeze while reading it.
Hello all my friends and followers. I hope you are enjoying the wonderful spring weather (tehe, it’s snowing in MA and sixty degrees in Manchester; had to make that cheap jab). I am going to take a walk down the road less traveled and not talk about studying abroad for once (cue simultaneous sighs of relief and boos). I am going to be sharing my experience in the ACUHO-I Internship program.
Now I’m sure a couple people are asking what the heck an ACUHO-I is. Well, my curious little learners, ACUHO-I stands for The Association of College and University Housing Officers – International. Breaking it down, it’s an organization that supports members of the housing community. For my international friends, accommodation in America and several universities elsewhere is much different than it is where you are. Rather than being moved into your room and not having any interaction with members of the Accommodation Office until you check out, in America, housing at universities strive to create an environment that is conducive to social, educational, cultural, physical, and emotional growth. That is done through programming (we do events in your hall to keep you entertained as well as educate) and bulletin boards. Students called Resident Assistants live with you in the same hall (usually one or two RAs to a floor) and create a sense of community with the goal of having all of their residents feel like their hall is a home rather than just a room. It’s very difficult to explain how much of a contrast it is living at university in the States having lived in housing in the UK, but that’s what I came up with.
Back to ACUHO-I, one of the great things that they do every year is a housing internship program. This allows graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to work at another university for the summer and gain more experience in residence life. It is a really beneficial opportunity for anyone that is going into student affairs. Not even going into the benefits of having an internship to bolster your resume, it allows you to see what it’s like to apply and interview for a position in the field. The program does cost you $30. The great part of that cost is that it gives you membership to ACUHO-I for the next twelve months.
So I was unsure whether or not to take part in the program because I saw that it was geared more for graduate students and I didn’t want to look under qualified compared to other candidates. I ended up having lunch with the Director of Residence Life and Housing at my university, Beth Moriarty, and she encouraged me to take part. I have to say that I owe so much gratitude to Beth for being such a great mentor as I learn more about student affairs and getting ready for graduate school. I would be lost without her help so thank you so much Beth!
I paid my $30 in October and was all excited to look through internships… until I realized that they aren’t released until January. I panicked quite a lot when I found that out… I would be abroad while applying for internships back in the States. I didn’t know if that was going to make me look unfavorable as I had to request video interviews on top of applying for positions. On the flip side, it also let the schools know that I had experience with study abroad, which is a great attribute for anybody to have regardless of what you’re applying for (and provides great conversation starters!)
Fast forward three months and the internship listing opened! My jaw dropped at all the positions that were open. Another thing that relieved me was that the positions were sorted based on what the school wanted in terms of educational background (aka. Some schools specifically wanted an undergrad). I was given advice that while you should always look up and see what the school is like before applying for positions, in this situation where I am at a possible disadvantage for being an undergrad, quantity is better than quality. So I applied to A LOT of positions. The great thing is that 95% of the positions that I applied to were ones that I was genuinely interested in.
The problem with me being so excited about this program was that I applied for all my positions the first day they were available. There was still a week between applying for positions and schools being notified of applicants so there was another waiting game! I became concerned after several days passed without schools contacting me. I decided that it was best to be proactive and reach other via email to the schools I applied to. Best decision that I made. The emails started to pour in with requests for cover letters, resumes, and interview requests. My luck was turning.
I ended up having interviews with thirteen schools. I have to say that I am very proud to have gotten that many interviews. I was expecting to get five at most but I underestimated myself. After going through my first several interviews, my perspective of the program changed. Initially, I was doing this solely because I wanted a housing internship for the summer to solidify that I wanted to go into student affairs. I wanted to make sure that I was in love with student affairs in general and not just my undergraduate experience. After having some great conversations with awesome departments, I realized that I was equally happy being able to gain knowledge from so many schools and how they operate. As much as an internship is going to help me getting to know student affairs intensively for several months, being able to talk with so many schools about what they’re about opened my eyes so much. By the end of interviews, I was content with or without an internship (of course I still wanted one!).
The interviews also gave me a chance to develop professionally. I have been lucky that I have gotten a job with every application I’ve submitted but two in my entire life. This was the first time I was applying for a position in ResLife externally and it really opened my eyes to how it works. It also gave me a chance to work on how to fine-tune my resume and writing cover letters. Additionally, it was the first time I had to research about the position I was applying for as well as the institution the position was at. This really has helped me prepare myself for when I apply for live-in positions or graduate school.
Then there was another waiting game. Positions were not able to be offered until the day before Valentine’s Day. This was even more of a problem for me because I would be in Paris as offers went out! I was afraid that I would be offered a position and could not respond in a timely fashion and would lose out (I am really good at analyzing and predicting obstacles).
Finally, after four days of no correspondence, I got a message on Skype from one of the schools I applied to. They asked if I had received their voicemail. I did not even think that offers would go out via phone. The number that I had listed on my resume was for the phone that works in the US that charges an absorbent amount overseas. Even worse was that I was in Paris and had left my phone back in Manchester so I had no way of checking my voicemail. I told them that I had no way of accessing my voicemail. They then skyped me in my hostel and offered me a position. I was so excited. I officially had an internship for the summer. I told them that I would get back to them as I wanted to make sure that I had time to reach all my other schools to see if they’d offered me anything as well. It ended up that I was offered two positions and an alternate position.
After four months, I finally had landed and accepted an internship position. I am happy to say I will be the ACUHO-I Intern at Frostburg State University in Maryland, working in their Conferences Department. I ended up choosing Frostburg because I needed to look at what was going to best support me when I got back from England. I knew that I was looking at credit cards having to be paid off and needed to go with what was going to be best financially. With this position, I am able to get paid hourly without a cap amount of hours, so I can be the workaholic I am while being paid for every minute of it!
I am so excited for the summer. It is going to be a great experience working at Frostburg and getting to learn intensively for three months. It’s so crazy how the things that are in the distant future have you wanting time to move fast. Even though I am having the time of my life studying abroad in Manchester, travelling throughout Europe, a part of me wants summer to come right now so I can come home, see everyone at Bridgewater, and start my internship. I am truly blessed to have such great things happening in my life right now.
I want to say thank you to ACUHO-I for having such an amazing program that gives undergraduates and graduates the opportunity to develop throughout the application process as well as connecting us to wonderful departments across the country and internationally. I’d like to thank Frostburg State for giving me this opportunity to share my strengths and make this summer great for both the university and for myself. Also, thank you to all the schools I applied to. This experience would have been nothing without interviewing with every single school I had the opportunity to learn from. I would be lucky if I ended up at any of your institutions full-time in the future. Lastly thanks to the student affairs professionals at Bridgewater State, especially Beth, for being such a strong support system for me through this process. Even though I am an ocean away, I felt supported at all times and am so thankful to have such amazing people to learn from on a daily basis. I hope I can come back from this summer and be able to share my experience so that others can benefit from it.
It’s sad this blog is almost two thousand words and on the short end of my blogs over the past two months. I think this is going to be my last blog for a couple weeks. Other than a concert I am going to tomorrow (TYLER WARD AHHHHHH!) and a football game the weekend after (Go Manchester City!), I have nothing going on until March 5th, when two of my closest friends are visiting me for their Spring Break! We’re going to Dublin, Manchester, and possibly a third location. So excited to see a piece of home!
Alrighty friends and followers, I’m out!
I’ve really enjoyed the past two weeks in Manchester. I can finally say that I am settled here. It was funny this weekend when I was getting home sick. Except I was more homesick thinking about Manchester than about the US. I’ve gotten really comfortable in the city. I still have moments when I have an out-of-body thought and say “How the heck am I living in the city?” when I’ve lived in the suburbs my entire life. It’s just really convenient living in a big city because you can do just about anything and get just about anything. I think that means I’m going to have a much tougher time with reverse culture shock come return. Oh well, there’s only so much time I have here so I got to live it up!
One of the most impressive things I’ve done so far is really learn how to budget myself. One of the things that I am most proud about is the fact that I have worked since I was 14 and how that’s given me a very strong work ethic. That also means I’ve had a steady cash flow since I was a 9th grader. Being in England also means it’s the first time that I haven’t had a job since I was in high school which also means I am on a finite budget. The first two weeks I was in Manchester, I really splurged. Without giving any figures away, I spent more the first week here than I did the whole rest of January. I’m realizing that I need to save the majority of my money for travelling and groceries. That means sandwiches instead of meals at pubs, forgoing nights out, and curbing the liquor purchases. I just keep thinking in the back of my head that I can go to restaurants, clubs, and buy booze back in the States. Being able to travel to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Prague, and Berlin are things that are completely impossible to do once June comes. I’m just lucky that I’ve realized this now instead of in April when I would be on the streets asking for fifty pence!
So last weekend I got to go to Glasgow, Scotland for the weekend.My first piece of advice when travelling is to not to have a bottle of wine the night beforehand… especially when it’s a five hour bus ride that leaves at 9am! I almost didn’t wake up for my bus because I didn’t wake up for my first alarm. The bus ride was not as bad as I was expecting, though. I love travelling to new places so I didn’t even really sleep on the bus so I could see the Scottish countryside. Seeing green hills was a stark contrast from the past month and the tops were covered in snow! The rest stop that we went to was always amazing. The sun came out while we were at the rest stop and the dining area had full-length windows overlooking the Scottish countryside. The best part was that the stop was on a pond so there were ducks wading right against the window. It was really pretty. One of my American friends from MMU has a friend from her uni back home who is studying in Glasgow and it was her birthday so we visited her.
We got to Glasgow at 3pm on Friday. I was actually pretty surprised how old-fashioned the city was. Manchester’s architecture was much more modern compared to Glasgow. We then went to the University of Strathclyde where our friend is going to uni. We walked around the city centre for a little while and grabbed dinner at a Brazilian pub that was really delicious. I was so excited because I ordered a caipirinha, which is THE Brazilian mixed drink. The reason why it got me so excited is because there is a song that is played at my Zumba studio called “Caipirinha.” Yes, feel free to judge me.
After that we headed back to uni and got ready to celebrate our friend’s birthday. We all headed out to a club about five minutes drive from the uni. We were all having a good time. There was quite a long queue but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the night. When we got to the front of the queue, the unthinkable happened: the bouncer wouldn’t let ME in. My friends were wicked confused because the bouncer was saying that I was too drunk to enter when I hadn’t had much to drink (as in, I was stone cold sober). The bouncer said I sounded drunk and for me to take a walk around the block and have something to eat. I asked if I’d be able to come to the front of the queue to get in when I was finished and he said that I’d have to wait in the queue. I don’t know about you but if it’s cold out and you’d just waited fifteen minutes in the queue, I wouldn’t want to wait another thirty (the queue had gotten huge) to get into the club. I decided to just go back to uni. My friends told me that they think the reason he didn’t let me in is because my accent is strong and it could come off as if I’d been drinking… I hope every Bostonian collectively laughed at that.
I woke up the next day wicked late. A lot of my friend’s friends really felt the night before when they woke up to say the least. It was decided that Saturday would be a lazy day and we would have a movie night rather than go out again.
I was okay with that. I guess I am strange in that I don’t necessarily need to see every inch of the city to enjoy the experience. I care more about getting the essence of it, seeing the important things, meeting some of the locals, and having some of the local food (more on that later). All of my friend’s flat mates and us went into the city centre to grab lunch. The problem is that there were a total of nine of us and every place we went was too small to seat us all. We ended up going to a Mexican joint. Yes, I had a quesadilla in Scotland while studying abroad in England. Go figure. We then went back to the flat and had ourselves a movie night. The common room was filled with mattresses and everything. It was actually quite enjoyable.
The next day we had a flat dinner. They decided that since all of them were international students from around the world, they would each take a turn on Sundays cooking the flat a dinner. My friend volunteered to do the first meal: Southern comfort food. The meal was delicious. We had double baked mac & cheese, roasted potatoes, and baked chicken. I am usually not a fan of chicken, never have been. But I really enjoyed the meal; even though I’m not from the South it made me feel like I was back in the States. That night my friend had a date with a boy she met at the club on Friday. Being the great friends we were, me and two others followed her to the pub she had her date to be there if it tanks. Luckily enough, it didn’t. Their date went three hours actually so I have high hopes that there might be some international love!
Monday was our day to leave but luckily our bus didn’t leave until 11pm so we had another full day in Glasgow. We decided today was going to be our tourist day. We went to a Scottish high tea, where I had my first cup of tea EVER! It was alright but I will definitely stick with coffee, soda, and milk. We walked around the city centre of Glasgow for the afternoon. I have to say that the city centre really reminded me of Downtown Crossing in Boston. It was a huge walking plaza with shops everywhere. The best part was that musicians were playing in the streets most of the time and I got to hear bagpipes infused with guitar and drums; it was the first time that I really enjoyed listening to bagpipes.
The best part of the afternoon was when we spent an hour at Lush. Lush would be a organic version of Bath & Body Works. The only difference is that their stuff is, yes, organic, and the employees love to help you test out their products. We spend a good 45 minutes having one of the workers put on hand lotion bars and all these other products with us. It was really awesome. I left with my arms smelling absolutely amazing. The store even gave our friend a free bath bomb because Monday was her actual birthday (if only she had a bath at uni!). I found out that even though it is a very popular store in Britain, there are stores in Massachusetts! If you’re on Newbury Street or at the Natick or Burlington Malls, definitely make an effort to check it out. If anything else, you’ll walk out smelling awesome!
That night we had a farewell dinner. We went to a small Scottish pub, the flat and us. I realized that this dinner was going to be my last chance to have anything Scottish so I decided to go big. I bought haggis! Now for those who haven’t watched Rocket Power and seen the episode where Squid and Tito eat haggis, it’s sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs encased in its stomach. I know; sounds delicious. To be honest, I was expecting to hate it and starve on the bus ride now. Now I will say it’s not something that I plan on buying on the regular, but I could tolerate it. The consistency of it was very weird, like the meat in sloppy joes. It did upset my stomach a tad after I ate it but only for a couple minutes. I can say that I had haggis in Scotland, which is all I really care about! After that, we went to pub trivia for the remainder of the time before we headed to our bus and back to Manchester.
Glasgow really surprised me. I was expecting it to be this very Scottish area with people walking around in kilts and playing the bagpipes up the wazoo. I was surprised to see it was quite urbanized. Yes, there were kilts here and there (we even went into a Kiltmakers shop… and took a picture of it) but it was mostly another busy city. The city is busting with shopping areas, including one of the largest malls in the UK and the largest Ikea! If you’re looking to get a true Scottish feel of Scotland, I would suggest trying Aberdeen or the Highlands. However, if you want a taste of Scotland and be able to enjoy the city as well as many attractions, make a stop in Glasgow!
This week has been focused on my internships for the most part. I am very happy to say that I have accumulated twelve interviews so far! Seeing as this program is geared more towards graduate students, I’m very happy to have gotten so many interviews. Every single interview I’ve had has really made me want to get into student affairs that much more. I am learning so much from each school that I interview with. There are so many amazing programs across the country that it makes me excited to truly begin applying for grad programs. Offers for internships start going out on the 13th and I am crossing my fingers that I get at least one! I am very hopeful that I will but I hope everyone can send luck my way! It’s strange that I might be coming home from studying in Manchester and within as little as a week, be going off to an internship that could be in Texas, California, Chicago, or even Ireland (obviously I’d stay in the UK in this instance!).
Yesterday was probably one of the most exciting days that I’ve had and none of it involved me leaving my dorm (yes, dorm. As much as I HATE the term, it would be an insult if I called the hall I am living in a residence hall since there is no community, as sad as it is). It started off with me waking up to an email from my best friend and former floor partner at BSU. She asked me to look up flights because she might be coming to visit me for Spring Break! I legit shrieked when I read it… again, feel free to judge me. The only thing that I upset me about study abroad was that I was not going to get to share the experience with the ones that I love. Getting that email made me the happiest person in the world. I am crossing my fingers so hard that they might break in hopes that she gets to come.
To top that off, my friends and I finally booked our trip to Paris! I had gotten quite nervous about it because my friends were telling me that travel had gotten so expensive that it was out of our price range. It got so bad that they had even planned a replacement trip to Bath & Nottingham. Now, as much as I like Roman-style spas and the story of Robin Hood, it could never duplicate the experience of being in Paris on Valentine’s Day. So I decided to do some hardcore research and found roundtrip buses for 75 pounds. Then I found a hostel ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower for fifteen pounds a night. In total, 135 pounds ($213) for five days and four nights in Paris the entire week of Valentine’s Day! I am so lucky that I am able to do this. This trip is truly going to be something that I can have with me for the rest of my life. Regardless of how harsh life might be in the future, I will be able to say that I spent Valentine’s Day in center of Paris!
I am only a month into my study abroad experience and I have memories that will last me for the rest of my life. Thanks for reading about my experiences. I know that I am extremely long-winded and my posts are a lot to take in but I’m glad that you’re vicariously living through my experiences! I can only hope that through my experiences, some people will take the initiative and try to study abroad. It’s truly an experience that cannot be duplicated. It’s the one thing most graduates regret not doing while in college. So I hope that people will be able to take advantage of the situation they’re in and see the world! I’ll have another blog up after Valentine’s Day to share my experience in Paris and to report on how the internship search ended up! Cheers