Hello dear reader and welcome back to my blog, this entry will focus on my arrival and first two days at the University at Albany, enjoy!
We pick things up early Monday morning (22nd of August) where the day that I’d travel on my own to Albany had finally arrived. We took a taxi from the hotel to Pennsylvania Station where (after a little difficulty finding it) we got in the line for my train to Albany. After saying a sad goodbye to my mum, I made my way onto the train with my two suitcases and my backpack and sat awaiting the departure of the train to my next destination.
Following an event free 2 and a half hour train journey to Albany Rensselaer train station (apart from the guy sitting next to me who wore no shoes for some reason), the next part of my trip however DID have some issues. After calling for a taxi which was paid for by the University, myself and another exchange student from the Netherlands, had our first look at Albany and I thought it looked rather nice, I don’t really know how else to say it looked nice, because it did.
I was first to be dropped off (after telling the driver the wrong name of the apartments, oops!) and when I say dropped off, I really mean stranded with no idea what to do next! Thankfully the groundskeeper could tell that I was lost and confused, and told me where I could go in order to get my keys. After checking in and obtaining my keys I returned to the flat in which I was dropped off at, feeling a little bit reassured. This lasted for about 10 seconds, as when I tried opening the door none of the keys worked! After several attempts at trying to jam the keys into the lock, and probably looking ridiculously suspicious, the same groundskeeper came up to me and asked me what I was doing. As it turned out, the keys I had were only for the apartment itself (not the building), my room and my post-box, what I needed to get in was my SUNY ID card (why did no one tell me this before I got here!!!). After the groundskeeper kindly helped me out for the third time in the space of under 10 minutes and let me into the building, I dropped off my bags and headed to the main campus to get my ID card and do some other tasks.
It takes roughly 15 minutes to walk from my quad (Freedom Quad) to get to the centre of campus, which has a really cool fountain in the centre and several other ones scattered all around the campus.
After walking onto the main campus I found some signs that pointed to an orientation check-in, I put it together that in order to get my ID card I needed to complete the orientation check-in. Upon walking in the building I needed, I was struck by how many people there were from Asian countries on the exchange programme. As I was in the queue to get my ID card it felt like everyone already knew each other or at least one other person, which in all honesty made me feel rather lonely and isolated. To make matters worse, I’d been messaging my mum during this time which only made me feel even more lonely.
After reaching the end of the queue I was greeted by a desk with name tags of all the international students, but would you believe, mine wasn’t there -_- , so instead I had to write one myself with my horrible handwriting. After receiving my ID card (at last!) and some other goodies that were on offer, I went outside and sat on a bench and decided to FaceTime mum. Before, during and after that FaceTime ended, was probably the saddest and least hopeful I’d felt since arriving in America. I was missing my family and friends and was wondering how on earth I was going to make it a whole year here without them.
After dragging myself off my seat, I headed towards the front of campus which is called ‘Collins Circle’, as there was an organized bus trip to Walmart (you’ll probably hear me talk about Walmart a lot, just a warning!). I once again had to get over my shyness and decided to go over to a little group of 4 people and asked if they were waiting for the bus trip to Walmart too. Here is where things start to get better, as I met Oda from Norway, Hugo from France, Caitlin also from France (originally from the UK) and Christina from Germany (Yay for Europeans!).
My first trip to Walmart was pretty cool as I’d been looking forward to going to one of the big American stores I’d heard about. It had basically everything you could want/need, it was amazing, the closest comparison I can think of would be a Tesco Extra. The trip to Walmart was a great bonding experience, as we were all in the same boat and learning everything together. My favourite part of our trip to Walmart however had to be the escalator specifically for the trolleys (sorry, or should that be shopping carts) as I’d never seen anything like it before and it looked so funny (as you can tell I’m easily impressed). After making my rather sporadic purchases, (bread, flavoured water, Sunny D, some sort of peach drink, cereal, pasta, pasta sauce and a glass) we headed back to campus to drop of our shopping, and I learnt that Oda and Hugo were also staying at freedom apartments.
The day ended with a session to get everyone fairly acquainted with each other, followed by dinner in one of the on campus cafeterias… and a second trip to Walmart (and no I didn’t make any smarter purchases). After a very long and emotional day, I went to (try and) sleep in the sleeping bag I’d brought with me, (as I had no time to pick up a package that contained my bedding and a towel set that we’d brought before I arrived at Albany) hoping that I’d be able to get through the next few days at Albany.
I woke up very early the next day as I didn’t really sleep much that night, but that was soon remedied by the fact that there was a free breakfast waiting for me on campus. After walking to the lecture centre with Hugo, Oda and Marko (Hugo’s flatmate who was from Italy), we met up with Christina and Caitlin and ate our breakfast (I say ‘ate’ instead of ‘enjoyed’ as the bagel Hugo and I had was way to hard to eat properly). It was a fairly straightforward day in terms of orientation lectures that included talks about finance, health, academic success and the library ,the usually stuff. At around 4:00pm there was a little reception being held at the library, where little snacks had been put out to be enjoyed (and they were enjoyed, the had little mini cheesecakes!!!)
Our little group sat down and appreciated the food for about an hour, until near the end of the reception when one of the librarians called Deborah came and started chatting with us about random thing. She was incredibly nice and was very happy to meet us, whenever we thought she’d finished the conversation with us and said goodbye, she couldn’t help herself and would suddenly come back and start talking to us again! (she was so nice and I really hope I run into her again). The only issue with this was that I needed to break away for a while and pick up my bedding/towels package from the delivery place on campus, and they closed at 5:00pm! I luckily managed to get there with about 1 minute left before they closed!
As relieved as I was to receive my package, I now had to carry a massive box all the way back to my apartment, that would take around a 15 minute walk. I was not pleased. On top of this, it was the time of day when people were on their way back home from work, so I’m sure many people were wondering what on earth I was doing, carrying a great big box on the side of the road.
That night there was an outdoor game night for the international students, that was overseen by the men’s soccer team. Activities included: dizzy bat, dribbling and shooting the ball into a small goal, hula hooping, Kan Jam and ladder toss (I’d never heard of the last two, so I suggest looking them up if you don’t know what they are). Of all of them I think I was best at the ladder toss, I wasn’t really that good at any of the others! After the event was over some of the soccer team invited us to their apartments at the Empire Apartments (the really nice ones), and we just hung out for a while and played the card game ‘Mafia’ for a bit (something that I hadn’t played since doing my DofE expeditions).
After that was all done, I headed back to my apartment ready for a special day tomorrow, find out why it was so special in my next entry! (sorry for those of you who hate cliff-hangers, even though this isn’t much of one :D)
Until next time.
P.S. If you want some more blog action, but from the perspective of an exchange teaching assistant in Germany, then check out my friend Kim’s blog. She already has her first entry up (with some really nice pictures might I add).[https://britinbeverungen.wordpress.com/]
P.P.S. Sorry for not having that many pictures in this entry, I wasn’t really thinking about taking pictures when I first got to Albany, hopefully I can put some more in the next one 🙂