An Intern in Chicago by Jo Goldhawk

jo chicago 2

I was one of the few of us who decided that we’d go the “unusual” route for our year abroad and apply for the internship program just to see what happens… Before I knew it I had a place to work for the British American Business Council in Seattle (Yes, it says Chicago in the title, wait for it…) and was so excited, Seattle is the birthplace of Boeing and Starbucks and Nirvana and how can this be a bad idea? To bring this fairy tale to its abrupt end my BABC placement fell through. (A few choice swear words were used at this point…) My second placement was brought together very quickly for a small orchestra called Baroque Band in Chicago. I knew nothing about Chicago, except that the Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Dark Knight were filmed there and Al Capone was once a big deal there. I figured it’d be decent weather (lies, currently snowing as I type!) and since I’d never been to Chicago or Seattle I figured it was a good decision, much better than trying to reorganise my whole year abroad.

I’ve been in Chicago for just over 6 months now and I adore every second of my city. Of course there are days when I’m tired of it and wish I was back in Bristol, but that’s probably because I’m bored of the constant questions about my accent – for the last time America, I’m not Australian!

My internship is so much fun, I can be creative and organising an orchestra is no small feat. I work hard and sometimes think I work harder now than I did in my first two years at Birmingham… Being unpaid is probably the worst part. American companies don’t generally pay their interns and Baroque Band couldn’t afford to pay me anyway but I’m doing ok! My weekends in Chicago aren’t ever boring, I’ve been to drag show bars, free comedy shows, the zoo too many times, visiting different neighbourhoods, soaking up the baseball game atmosphere, art galleries, museums and admiring the views of Chicago’s epic architecture. Chicago has great transport links within the city itself and outside I’ve been to New York on obscenely cheap airfare and to Memphis on a very long, long, bus ride. (Lucky enough I had a rather good friend with me to enjoy it with!) There’s nothing like standing on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and knowing that you’re stood in a spot where something happened that changed the course of history.

I won’t lie, it’s hard being in a city where you don’t know anyone. It is so much harder than our first year in university where there were plenty of events and alcohol fuelled nights to make your best friends for the year, whereas here I have to make a real effort and talk to anyone. It’s even harder being away from my friends and family at home but I wouldn’t change my decision for the world – I’ve made some great friends here, made some great memories and feel more grown-up now than I did before I left. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’m more passionate about my degree and my future as well as dying to travel some more! If you’re wondering if you should do something different with your year abroad and do the internship program, do it. The cities we got are epic (New York, San Francisco and Chicago) and none of us can say we’re not having the time of our lives!

Jo Goldhawk is back at University of Birmingham studying American and Canadian Studies (SH)


BABC Intern Hannah Keen talks San Francisco

  • by Hannah Keen

Ocean Beach, California

People don’t ever tell you how hard it is to move to a city by yourself and not have a soul you can call a friend. When growing up, your friends are pretty much ready made through school, college and clubs – as kids you have that thing in common, and you’re steadily moving through life at the same steady pace, going through the same processes. But as an adult it’s different. People have chosen their routes, their paces of life vary and each person has created their own life – preoccupied by work, bills or their own families.

As I watch the world go by from a Starbucks window here in San Francisco, you watch people’s varying pace of walking, styling of dressing, but all hold a façade of togetherness – even if it is under their sunglasses which Californians wear religiously even on the subway (which in SF we call the BART line).

I’m new, have no friend or family to hold my hand on the lonely trawl called house hunting, and I also have learnt that hiding behind my sunglasses is the best way to mask my fear.

But, if you remove your sunglasses and turn to the person next to you in SF, either on the tram, in the caféor standing on the pier watching the Pacific, you’ll find they’re the friendliest bunch of interesting people you’ve ever met. No one’s story is dull, no one’s day is normal – to an English girl like me anyway – and each encounter, conversation and person slowly reduces that feeling of loneliness that every newbie feels.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough and tiring to constantly put yourself out there, but what’s the worst that can happen? They ignore you? That won’t happen, people here in the city openly chat to the tramp on the street.

Moving to San Francisco maybe the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and these first few days have been a massive emotional roller-coaster – A ride I won’t be off for a while – but there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be right now. This is the biggest opportunity of my life so far and I intend on grabbing it with both hands, and enjoying every (currently sun filled) moment.

San Francisco is the city at the end of the Rainbow. San Francisco does not care who you are, what you’ve done, what you do; your race, gender, sexual preference, choice of poison or ‘air’…‘Cisco only cares that you accept all of the above and maintain your open mind. I am yet to meet a true San Franciscan – someone born and bred here – everyone I’ve met so far has been drawn here by the rainbow. No one cares about the past, it’s all about the future you can make.

Hannah is in her final year at University of Birmingham studying ACS and Business

Joe Kerry on Ole Miss

Joe Kerry on Ole Miss

Unfortunately there are no places available at Ole Miss this year, but Joe’s reflection on the University of Mississippi provides a unique insight into life in the South.

When I first arrived in Mississippi, I was struck by the famous ‘Southern Hospitality’ that the state is known for – walking from the hotel, suitcase and guitar in hand, no less than three people stopped by me in their cars and offered me a ride. People are friendly to a fault here. I managed to get a job at the Starbucks in the Ole Miss library, thanks to my J-1 visa. My Yorkshire accent has meant explaining to excitable American customers that, no, I’m not from Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa – I told one poor girl I was French, and she believed me – but I’ve met some great people through working there, and I’ve learned that the people here are genuinely excited to have an international student amongst them.

I live on off-campus accommodation at University Trails. It’s cheaper than living in Selly Oak, and has a free gym and a swimming pool. Most of the international students live with other internationals, but I ended up living with three American law graduates: one from Alabama, the other two from Mississippi. Sometimes, I feel a little like the odd-one-out – they’re graduate students, they’re religious, and we position ourselves at the opposite end of the political spectrum in some respects – but they’re all great guys, and it has been fascinating and eye-opening to talk to and live with people who are so different to me.

American FootballThe university’s American Football culture is fantastic. For every home game on a Saturday, students and locals alike head to the Grove in their thousands and take part in ‘tail-gating’ – the beautiful, green heart of the campus fills up with colourful tents, and even more colourfully dressed Ole Miss fans, who are more than happy to offer you a beer in a red cup, or a plate of delicious Southern food likefried catfish. I’ve watched the Ole Miss Rebels defeat Central Arkansas and get crushed by the University of Texas, and both times the 60,000-strong crowd has never relented in its chanting of the team’s ‘Hotty Toddy’ rallying cry. The great thing about being in America, in any of the states, is the prospect of travelling and experiencing new things. Oxford is close to Mississippi’s border with Tennessee: the international students travelled Joe Kerry at Gracelandup there to visit Graceland, Elvis’ mancave-come-mansion. Last weekend, we travelled up to Memphis again, stopping on the way to see the mighty Mississippi River, and spending the day exploring Beale Street, the blues Mecca of America: we finished the trip by watching the Memphis Grizzlies extinguish Lebron James‘ Miami Heat. Me and my fellow ACS student, Sophie Hay, will soon be piling into my American friend’s tiny car with two other international students and heading to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then onto Mobile, Alabama for Thanksgiving break. It’s also relatively cheap to fly between states. Last month, I flew out to visit my girlfriend Nula, who is studying at Pitzer College in California. I went from having a coffee in a small town in the South, to walking down Hollywood Boulevard in the space of 3 days!

kerry-miss-3Oxford is a small college town, so there’s nothing like Gatecrasher (thank God) or Snobs to be found anywhere, but the bar scene is fantastic – the Square comes to life on a weekend. The music scene here is great, too. From indie to alternative, back to country and blues, there’s guaranteed to be live music on the Square on any given night. I regularly play guitar with local musicians at open mic-nights. Mississipi is of course one of the birthplaces of the blues – B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker were all born here – and I’ve even played the blues at a bar on the Square with one of my lecturers, the respected harmonica player and blues scholar, Dr. Adam Gussow.

The University of Mississippi has a real claim to being cemented firmly in American history. Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union, hot on the heels of South Carolina. Its entire student body volunteered to fight for the Confederacy: the University Grays, as they came to be known, had a 100% mortality rate.

kerry-miss-4The Lyceum Building on campus was used as hospital during the War – a hundred years later, the building would feel the bullets of federal troops and angry locals during the infamous riot of 1962, when James Meredith, an African American, was integrated into the university. Early in the semester, I got to see James Meredith speak at a book signing, and I feel lucky to have seen a living, breathing figure of Civil Rights history in the flesh.   The university is celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s integration, but the ghosts of the past still haunt the university. Mississippi is traditionally a Republican stronghold; disappointment and political protest was to be expected from Romney’s supporters after Obama’s re-election. However, some took it too far. There were reports of a small number of students burning Obama-Biden signs, chanting ‘the South will rise again’ and even making racial slurs at students on campus. Media reports of a riot on campus were hugely exaggerated, and there was a candlelit anti-racism vigil outside the Lyceum the next day, where student turned up in their hundreds in response to the ignorance of a few. Still, the shockwaves of America’s dark past are still felt today on the grounds of Ole Miss.

One of the reasons why I chose to study here is that I thought Mississippi would be a whole world away from my second home of Birmingham, and even further away from my native Yorkshire. I was more right than I could possibly imagine. During my time at Mississippi, and in America as a whole, I’ve done and seen things that I’ll never forget. Some things have been new and exciting; others have been enlightening for both good and bad reasons. I may be ready for home right now, but I know that come January, I’ll be eager to get back on a plane out to Mississippi and have another amazing semester.

ACS President Joe Kerry is back at University of Birmingham studying ACS and English Literature

New Brunswick (Fredericton University)

  • by Sam Wood

Students Going to Canada: Get this at the top of your TO-DO LIST!

THE STORY: FIRST AND FOREMOST, the  processing time for a Canadian study permit can  vary tremendously! I had my flight booked for 25th  August 2012, having only applied for my permit 2  weeks before. After I applied I noticed for the first  time on the Canadian government website that  study permits usually take 6 -10 weeks to  process:squeaky.bum.time.

I had applied for my study permit 14 days  before I was due to travel (and there was no way I  was going to cancel my non-refundable £700  flights), meaning I needed those 6-10 weeks to be  more like 6-10 days! Although I had filled out my  permit immaculately, every detail 100% correct,  every question answered perfectly, my aspiration to  study in New Brunswick for the year was looking as  bleak as a weekend summer escape to Hull (sorry  Walnut!).

I had heard tales from the storytellers,  mythmakers and legend-creators of old that some  permits could take 3 months to process, some 3  hours. I was father time’s bitch. However, a  miraculous event occurred (perhaps the most  miraculous event since the outcome of the Michael  Jackson court case in 2005) in which my study  permit was authorised within 5 days! No words can  describe how lucky I felt and how joyous I was. It  felt like I had scored the winning penalty against  Germany in the World Cup Final! CLOSE ONE! I am  now starting my second term at the University of  New Brunswick, Fredericton having the time of my  life! Anything and everything is possible on your  year abroad and the opportunities are endless!  Canadians are just the warmest of people, especially  here in the Maritimes. But I know I speak on behalf  of all the third year students studying in North  America at the moment when I say that everyone  (Canadian and American) is just so incredibly nice.

ADVICE: apply for your study permit as  early as possible! Do it before you book flights and  finalise your living arrangements! HOW? I applied for my study permit online using the Canadian  government website ( and went  through the necessary steps. The format has  changed slightly this year for online applications,  but the concept is the same.

First, you will be asked to register for “GC  KEY” which creates you a preliminary account for  applying for visas and study permits.

Second, you will enrol in “MyCIC” which is  the formal start of your study permit. The steps to  do this are easy and can be done quickly, but be  sure to remember your username and password  though!

Third, you will do the bulk of the permit in  the same way as an online interview. A number of  personal and security questions will be asked and  you will be timed to answer them (like when you  book tickets for an event online and it times you).  Don’t worry though! You can save your details and  come back to it another day, so the timing on your  computer screen isn’t really an issue!

Fourth, you will complete your online study  permit having double-checked your details and then  submit it to the embassy in London. The cost in  2012 was $125 CAD (£80) so get your cards ready,  and make sure you keep 2 copies of the receipt, just  in case!

Fifth, you are at the mercy of father time,  just like I was! Do yourself a favour and don’t do  what I did. In fact, the perfect way to apply for a  study permit is to do the opposite of everything I  did really. Don’t let the study permit get away from  your to-do list or put it off like I did. But at the same  time, don’t worry about it so much that it gets you  down. It really is an easy process! Once you fill it  out and get it submitted, all you have to do is get  unbelievably excited about all the fun you will have.  So don’t let the dreaded study permit get in the way  of one of the best years of your life!

Sam Wood is back at UoB studying ACS and History  (JH)

A Year Abroad in Kansas

  • by Samantha Tinsdeall

Samantha Tinsdeall in Kansas‘Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! KU!’, sunflowers and a sea of red  and blue aptly covers the most memorable motifs of my  year abroad in Lawrence, Kansas. The Midwestern  College is as invested in ‘school spirit’ as the portrayals  of US uni life lead us to believe on screen. The sprawling  campus (hills included – the complete flatness of Kansas  being a myth) is home to three sporting grounds for  football (American of course), Basketball (pretty big deal  at KU) and Baseball. The nature of these sports naturally  leads to tailgating, cheerleaders and subsequent Frat  parties, all of which are incredible things to see and  partake in -especially being British; the accent goes a  long way across the whole of Lawrence as well as campus. In particular the basketball games at KU are, in a word; insane. The stadium is routinely sold out and the Jayhawks make it the loudest stadium nationally, just to give you an idea of how incredible the experience is! No matter how involved with sport or like me how little you even registered it happening around you, at Kanas you can’t help getting excited about game days, even if your  excitement simply comes from standing in a crowd of ten  thousand with red and blue stripes on your face rather  than excitement for the actual game.

College basketballAs well as ticking many of the ‘all American  school’ boxes KU is also home to Massachusetts Street  (Mass Street), the main high street in Lawrence. The  street is made up of lots of little one-off shops that are  quirky and quite ‘hippyish,’ as well as a ridiculous  amount of small restaurants that are there to feed you  dishes from around the world (personal fave being a  Mexican restaurant). Along with a whole host of bars  each offering something a little different – from live  music, classic cheese (cocktail with beads included), a  take on both Irish and English pubs and also a few  ‘clubs’! On the whole KU is a College that is made up of  a lot of students from both in-state and out, surrounded  by one of the friendliest towns I’ve been to. The whole  experience for me was so laid-back and to re-emphasise,  unbelievably friendly. This is a simple gloss of my year  abroad in Kansas, so please if you have any questions  feel free to ask!

Sam is in her final year at University of Birmingham studying ACS and English  Literature

Halifax Lovin’

  • by Bethany Wells

HalifaxReading week is usually seven days of procrastination, napping, and not  feeling guilty for acquiring a hangover on a school night. However  forgetting that thing called a dissertation I traded this week of duvet  bliss in for connecting flights, jet leg, a spot of snow, and most  importantly a return to the maple-syrup-loving-land. I was in need of  washing away my year abroad blues. Yes this sounds pathetic but you  future year abroaders will experience this indefinitely on arrival back in  Selly Oak. Naturally the only way to do this was to return to the place I  called home last year: Halifax, Nova Scotia – located on the edge of east  coast Canada, but the heart of the Maritimes.

Rather than write a “dear diary” entry and bore the socks off  people I want to explain why Halifax has become one of my favourite  cities that made me return at the first chance I got and why you should  visit this Canadian wonder.

HalifaxHalifax has the promise of a big city with a small town heart.  Offering a slower pace and ridiculously warm hospitality, the Nova  Scotia City makes you feel appreciated and welcome rather than an  anonymous urbanite. Absolute gems of places can be found in the nooks  and crannies — you just have to look a little harder, my Lonely Planet  book didn’t always pick up on these hidden treasures. Downtown is  spoiled with the glories of cheesecake restaurants, vintage stores, live  music bars, delicious sea food places, and more coffee shops than you  can shake a stick at. A must visit place is “The Black Market”. The little  store sitting on Grafton Street proudly attracts attention with its  colourful hand painted exterior. However it is not the eye-catching  external making this place a must see. The inside looks like Aladdin’s  cave. The walls and ceilings are dripping with lots of little twinkly  wonderful delights. An endless collection of handmade jewellery, wall  hangings, lanterns and lots of other things that make the perfect gift or  selfish treat. Everything one of a kind and equally delicious.

After walking through all these culinary and crafty wonders  you are met by the wonderful waterfront. Whether snow, rain, or shine  the boardwalk and the harbour always offer a picturesque view. Down  this part of town you are welcomed by more restaurants, having the  added bonus of looking out over the water. The summer compliments  the waterfront best. There are ice cream shops galore, you can take a  dip in the outside multi-tier swimming pool, and often a baby seal or two can shuffle its way on the boardwalk and show some moves.

halifax-2Is unlikely you will ever be able to say “I was in the area” in  Canada as it’s so bloody huge, but if you ever do get chance to visit  Halifax it won’t disappoint. Going back as a tourist rather than a student  enhanced my vision of this even more. With a maple syrup farm a  stone’s throw away, a hockey stadium located at the heart of the city, the promise of meeting the friendliest people in the world, and a bus ride to the airport costing a single dollar, what are you waiting for?

Beth is in her final year at UoB studying ACS and English Literature

Trent University

  • Alice Froudby Alice Froude

Ok so Trent…. Where to start?! I will try and make this as useful as  possible for anyone considering this University. The uni is located in  Peterborough, a very small city about an hour and a half outside of  Toronto. The city doesn’t offer a huge amount to do though there are some  great bars and restaurants, and a couple of clubs (what else could you  possibly need?). Peterborough, and Trent’s real attraction is its physical  location. Trent is situated either side of the Otonabee river (two colleges  on each). During the end of the summer months and then the beginning of  fall it really is a beautiful place to be. It gets a little harder when the snow  starts to fall around January, but it’s safe to say the Canadians are a little  better prepared than the Brits when it comes to the white stuff.

Being so close to Toronto is fantastic. Firstly, you get to enjoy  Toronto as a city which is really a smaller, friendlier version of NYC.  Second, once you’re there it is quick, easy and cheap to travel around  North America. I booked a bus to Chicago, flights to San Francisco and  back to Toronto for around $300 (approx. £200). A return to NYC is  around $80, and you can get there in approx. 10 hours by bus (or for $150  you can fly in an hour and a half).

Peterborough itself is also easy to travel around and from. You  will receive a free bus pass for city transit at the beginning of the year.  There is a pretty big mall, a hockey rink and other places to explore  around the city. You can get to Ottawa on the bus for a small fare in  around 6 hours, which is just down the road to those who are Canadian  born and bred. The music and art scene in Peterborough is pretty big – a  lot of bands travel to Pete to perform.

Trent UniversityBut back to the beginning of the story! If I was in your position  at the moment the thing that would really make up my mind is TIP Camp.  Trent’s International Program organises a trip to a traditional Canadian  camp. This means log cabins, camp fires, water sports, hiking and other  recreational activities. You will meet most of the international lot who are  on exchange like yourself, and those who are starting their first of four  years at the university. The location is absolutely breathtaking, and so is  the company. Run by a mixture of Canadian and International students,  everyone is so very keen to make you feel welcome. You will make fast  friends with the most amazing people, and they will become your family  for the next 9 months. I am still in contact with so many of my wonderful  international Trent friends. During TIP you also prepare for starting at the  uni. You will talk about grade conversions, courses, enrolling, living on  campus and off, medical insurance; pretty much everything that might be  on your mind will be addressed.

I lived in a house downtown with five other Canadian girls. It  was first of all a lot cheaper than living on campus – I paid £3000 for 10  months, and that included all of my bills. I LOVED it (capitals intended).  One of the girls has already been over to visit me in the UK. They were all  so welcoming and excited to have an international student in their house! I  visited two of their homes. The first was in Gananoque, a little Canadian  town, where I went quad-biking on Thanksgiving through the woods with  my friend’s family. The second was a trip to Fonthill which is just outside  of Niagara Falls – we went to America for wings one night, need I say  more?

TrentOne of my favourite Canadian experiences was the Hockey. The  rumors are true – they’re totally mad for it. The Peterborough Petes play a  few times a week at the local stadium, or you can take a trip to Toronto to  see the national teams play. It’s definitely something you have to  experience. I saw the Rangers play at Madison Square Garden and the  atmosphere was electric (until they lost).

My classes were fantastic. You don’t have to study Canada at  all, they have a number of classes on American literature or history that  are run by the most amazing professors. Saying that, Canadian history and  culture is incredibly interesting and Trent has a very strong Canadian  Studies department. You could do a class in Indigenous Dance if you  fancied it! Often professors set up their courses so a percentage of your  grade is “participation” – which are easy marks. The university also offers  an A+ grade. Which, if you’re after a good academic grade to boost your  first and second year marks at UoB, can really help. The work is generally  easier but there is a lot more of it.
There is also a free state of the art gym on campus. It overlooks  the river with floor-to ceiling windows, making the whole gym-experience a  bit more enjoyable.

It might be important to note that Trent’s campus is not located downtown.  It is a free 20-minute bus journey. The buses run every five minutes.

A quick list of places to go:
-Spanky’s bar. As the name would suggest, it is amazing
-Hot Belly Mummas – food is amazing –
Petes game – always amazing (not necessarily the team, but the overall  experience)
-New York City – it’s amazing, and so easy to get to
-Junction club – kind of like Liquid. It is amazing when you’re horribly  drunk, and definitely worth a visit or a hundred.
Ooo- as I am sure you  know, the drinking age is 19 and “liquor” from the “liquor store” is very  cheap.

I could go on for a while but I suppose you need to discover it all for  yourself!

Trent in winterDuring my second semester I also completed a four month internship for  Arthur newspaper, a student run publication. They love it when  internationals contribute, so if you’re a budding writer or journalist (or like  production and design) drop them a visit. The editors are great and very  friendly; they became some of my best friends on my year abroad.

On one final note, to those of you with boyfriends or girlfriends  at home: I was with my boyfriend when I left for Pete and we’re still  together now – he only visited once, and I went home Christmas, but it is  doable. Don’t let this aspect of your year abroad worry you too much. It  was the one thing that I was truly nervous about when I left for Canada,  and I quickly learned that there’s no reason to be frightened of leaving  someone at home for a few months (or so).

I could blabber on about my year abroad forever but I’ll stop  here. If you have any questions or worries or concerns let me know – my  uni email is, or you can email more general questions  to, where I can pass on any inquiries to other  fourth-years.