From Tejas to Moskvá

I hold the position of Project Officer for aspire-international and want to share my experience of both studying and working abroad.

As part of my undergraduate degree, I had the chance to study at the University of Texas in Austin, the state capital. I spent an academic year in America and had the time of my life. The University itself is impressive: over 50,000 students on a huge campus complete with football stadium, museums, libraries, monuments and fountains. As the capital of Texas, Austin is a very interesting place to be. The Capitol Building and Governor’s Mansion are both downtown and city is also known as the Live Music Capital of the World, with the famous Sixth Street full of bars hosting eclectic performers every night of the year.

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Whilst studying in Austin, I chose to live in a co-op, university accommodation which is maintained by students in order to reduce costs. All residents must complete a few hours of ‘labor duty’ per week, such as cooking or cleaning, but the work isn’t too hard and you can always relax by the pool afterwards.  Due to the unique nature of this living arrangement, the New York Times visited my co-op and ran an article about how the housing system works (you can spot me in the dining room photo, wearing a stripy t-shirt!).

During my year abroad, I studied hard but also took the time to make friends and travel widely. I celebrated Thanksgiving with a friend’s family in rural Ohio and spent Spring Break exploring the French Quarter in New Orleans. I loved my American experience so much, I’ve been back three times since I graduated, to catch up, reminisce and also attend friends’ weddings!

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More recently, I gained international experience after training to become a teacher. I decided to look abroad for employment and found a position teaching English as a foreign language in Moscow, Russia. My students ranged from elementary level learners right through to university graduates whose goal was to perfect their English for business and travel purposes.

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This photo was taken shortly after I arrived in Moscow. It got as low as -29 degrees Celsius, so cold that my iPhone wouldn’t work outside and neither would my relic of a camera. However, it also gets very warm – you’ve probably all seen footage from the recent World Cup. It reached 30 degrees Celsius in the height of summer 2017. Moscow is the largest city in Europe and therefore, there is a lot to see and do!

On my first day in Russia, I was approaching Red Square after lunch when I saw a small film crew and a diminutive woman who I half recognised. I realised it was Katie Couric, a famous American journalist who was in Moscow shortly after Donald Trump’s presidential victory to ask people their opinions of him. She was conducting interviews for Yahoo News and you can see the footage here. This is an example of the surreal things that can happen when you take that leap and experience living abroad!

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