Hurrah Hurrah Pennsylvania!

3 April 2020

In her final blog, Marianne reflects on her time at the University of Pennsylvania.


Today is my last day at the University of Pennsylvania. Time to cram the memorabilia from an incredible year back into those suitcases and head back across the pond.  It’s hard to describe all the fullness and experience of a year abroad in one blog, but for those of you thinking of heading out west, here are a few final thoughts…

You won’t understand it all, but you’ll love it

Americans can feel like a different species at times. There’s new slang to learn, new senses of humour, new perspectives on the world. I’ve met die hard, gun wielding republicans, free-spirited libertarians and everything in between. There are those who have never left their country, those who still like to taunt you with their victory in the revolution… But for all the differences in opinion, in experience and in values, meeting such a diverse and different crowd really does open your eyes to a whole new world. I have made friends that I trust I will keep for a lifetime. I have been challenged to think differently and embrace that championed FREEDOM that they love so much. It can be baffling and bewildering at times, but the more open you are to diving straight in and getting stuck in this different culture, you’ll find there is so much to learn and see and appreciate. The time flies, so make the most of every opportunity to explore!

Some things will go wrong.

I’ve missed buses back from New York, I’ve forgotten that the staple of British sarcasm doesn’t always sit too well over here, I’ve been stranded in an unfamiliar state and forgotten about the tipping culture (much to the disdain of the waiter)… but with every mistake I’ve had the chance to sit back, laugh about the situation, and appreciate how wonderful it is to have the chance to be in these spaces and places. Being relieved of the academic pressure for the year allows you to make the most of the courses without feeling like you have to be cooped up in the library all day. It gives you a freedom to try things, and if sometimes they go wrong, you’ll find that there is always a community that will have your back. You can’t always plan for every eventuality but know that whether it’s the UCL Study Abroad team, the Penn Wellbeing Center, the friends you make here, or even the ones you’ve left at home, you’re surrounded by a support system that will get you through.

You’ll miss some things, but you’ll discover so much more

There have been days where I’ve really just needed a proper cup of tea or a chat with friends who have known me longer than just a couple of months. It is a big move, one that should not be underestimated. There’s real culture shock, even without the language barrier. But I have found that the best remedy for homesickness is to go out and find something new. Every time I would find myself wallowing, I would try to get out into the city, try a Philly Cheesesteak or Rita’s Water Ice, sit at Penn’s landing and enjoy the view of the river, take a hike through Wissahickon park... There are so many things to see and do. Now that it’s coming to an end, I wish I had more time to enjoy the people and places that have shaped this home. For one last time  - Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania.


By: Marianne Swain