I wanted to do something legendary for my family. No one in my immediate family had been to Europe for an extended period of time before me. Thus, I wanted to provide the foundation for my family and my future family to achieve anything that their heart desires.
I was able to fully immerse myself in a culture completely different from my own by living in university accommodations, where I shared my living and eating space with the same students every day. Some of the closest friendships I made in Bristol came from my stay at Churchill accommodations. Also, another neat experience I had abroad was being able to join the University of Bristol Basketball Team. Basketball has always been a passion of mine and I would never have imagined being able to compete across the globe. It was unbelievable; we had a basketball tournament in Paris! Our team was so diverse, and yet, so similar. I had teammates from Spain, Singapore, Anguilla, Australia, and Greece, but even still, we all laughed at the same jokes and shared similar interests.
I was able to pay for my study abroad experience at Bristol University through funding from the Foundation Global Scholars Scholarship, the University of Oregon Mills Scholarship, and additional support from financial aid. Specifically, I only had to pay about 4,000£ ($5,500) for a semester abroad (six months) at Bristol University in comparison to the $20,000 that I’d normally pay for a semester’s time studying at the University of Oregon. I saved my parents around $15,000 when I decided to study abroad in the United Kingdom (UK).
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I experienced any form of discrimination while I studied abroad in the UK, but I can say that I was made aware of my race and ethnicity quite often. Being an African-American in Bristol is quite distinct, mainly because the UK is such a culture pot. When you’re of African descent in the UK, your race can range from being Nigerian to Zambian to Ethiopian to even being from the Caribbean; whereas when you’re of African descent in the US, your race is generally seen as solely African American. So, in light of our culture differences, when my peers in the UK asked me out of curiosity: “What are you?” as in what race do I identify with, I’d reply that I am African American. In doing so, I’d notice their confusion. They would then question further to try and investigate what race I ‘actually’ identify with that corresponds with how their culture views race. Essentially, being that I am African-American, history proves that my ancestry is tied to a country outside of the US, but I haven’t delved that far into to my past to know where I am ‘actually’ from, whereas my peers in the UK did. I thought that was an interesting cultural difference that became very prevalent in my studies at Bristol University.
My Euro-trip over spring break was easily my most memorable part of studying abroad. I spent three weeks traveling throughout London, Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and ended my trip with a basketball tournament in Paris. Easily one of the best experiences of my life. I met some many new people, tried so much good food and wine, and had such an amazing time.
The nightlife was okay, very different. It’s definitely not as lively as it is in America, especially in my opinion because I am from Los Angeles. Although my opinion is quite biased because I am a big fan of hip-hop music and I expect clubs/parties to play music that’s trendy. In Bristol, most of the clubs and pubs played electronic-styled music called ‘Drum-and-Bass’ and I was not a fan. I feel that music should set the tone for clubs, and Drum-and-Bass is just too intense for my style.
Occasionally, once every month, a few of the clubs in Bristol would host Caribbean themed nights and those were probably the most fun nights I had in Bristol. Caribbean night attracted a more diverse crowd and also it acclimated me to a different style of music and dance that I now enjoy.
I pursued the opportunity to study abroad at Bristol University in the United Kingdom in order to gain hands-on experience and knowledge of the law and business transactions from the outlook of another great country on the other side of the world. Through this experience abroad, I furthered my academic pursuit in law from an international perspective. I had the enriching experience of learning their parliamentary system of government, which is significantly different from the democratic framework of the United States’ government. I also was able to analyze the differences between politics and law in the United Kingdom in relation to the political systems and legal structures in the United States. I’m sure that the newly acquired knowledge I obtained from studying abroad in Bristol will help me be more proficient at my prospective career of practicing international business law.
Yes, I would. I went on a Bristol Exchange program through the University of Oregon for six months and I highly recommend it. Academically, all of my credits transferred over to the University of Oregon so it didn’t cause a setback to my graduations schedule. Financially, it saved my family around $15,000, and socially it was one of the best, most unique experiences in my life.
Make sure you’re ready to be in a different country from your parents for an extended period of time because I certainly missed my family while I was abroad. I learned quickly that I no longer was able to casually fly back home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. So just take into consideration your family and try to constantly keep them updated on how you’re doing because my parents definitely called every couple of days to check up on me and that was heartwarming.
Don’t be afraid to be social and be yourself. Don’t change who you are to try and adapt to a different culture unless it’s out of respect for their values. Otherwise be yourself.