Last year I went on an exchange year to America. I spent a whole (academic) year living in Fargo, North Dakota. My world geography has always been pretty appalling and my knowledge of the American states was very limited before the exchange because I’d never visited America. So when I was told to shortlist ten American colleges that I would like to attend (out of a list containing hundreds) I pretty much just chose a few at random. The result of this very technical process was an email informing me that I’d been accepted to study at North Dakota State University. Immediately I went online and began researching the college and town that would soon become my home. When I told people that I would be living in North Dakota the most common reaction was “Oh, it’s very cold there.” Most people expected me to be going somewhere with golden beaches and beautiful sunshine; stereotypical America, just like it is in the movies. I assumed they were just exaggerating and as I’d survived living in almost permanent drizzle in England for over twenty years I thought I could cope with any bad weather. I definitely hadn’t prepared myself for the extreme conditions that I would live in, but with the help of my beloved snow boots I survived the five months of snow and blizzards.
I seem to have an extraordinary talent for creating a home no matter where I am in the world. Whenever I have travelled, I have found it very easy to settle into my new environment and think of that place as home. I think this is part of the reason I have such a huge desire to travel, but it can also be a negative trait as it makes leaving a place all that much harder. The day I left America I cried more than I had ever done before. When people ask me now whether I am used to living in England again, I still reply that I am not quite settled back into English life yet. Although I have been back for eight months already I don’t think I will ever be quite settled whilst still living in this country. I had such an amazing time living in America and now have my heart set on living there permanently once I have graduated and have a career. Until this dream has been fulfilled, a part of me will always feel unsettled.
Although North Dakota may not be an obvious destination for an exchange to America, I had an unbelievably amazing year. I discovered donut cake and Kraft Mac and Cheese, I had my first experience of skiing in the Turtle Mountains, I spent Spring Break on a beach in Florida, I danced around in a blizzard, I ate a real Thanksgiving dinner, I crossed the country on a bus, I played beer pong, and I made the best friends. Amazing.