Ellen stirling, Bsc Meteorology and Climate Science (International) student at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Rochester ,USA.

Ellen Stirling


Why did you want to study abroad?


I remember attending the open day at Leeds and listening to a student who had spent his year abroad in Canada. He told us about the trips he went on and the amazing year he had, but at the time the thought of moving 4 hours away from home was overwhelming - let alone flying across the world. When the time came to apply for a study abroad the thought was marginally less terrifying and a lot of my friends were putting in applications so I decided to go for it, never quite believing I’d actually go. I found out I was unsuccessful in the first round of applications, which, as much as it was upsetting, made me realise how much I wanted to go.


How did you choose this university abroad?


In the second round of applications one university stood out – The University of Rochester. Five hours from NYC, Boston and Washington, two hours from Niagara Falls and on a beautiful campus it seemed like the ideal place to go. I put my application in and crossed my fingers.


Can you please give me an insight into your arrival at the university abroad and some of the first experiences you went through (accommodation, meeting new colleagues, food, etc)?


Upon reflection, even after attending all the meetings, applying for my visa and talking to the other students going to Rochester from Leeds I don’t think I ever truly imagined myself going until I walked through security at Edinburgh Airport.  I was about as prepared I would ever be (shout out to my mum for all the packing support) and upon arriving at Rochester there were so many people around to help I didn’t have time to think about the fact I’d just travelled 3,000 miles. That was until they asked to take a picture for my student ID and the 11 hours of travelling hit- it is not the most flattering picture. 


The first week passed in a blur of presentations, icebreaker games and a four-hour trip to Walmart; Rochester really know how to do Orientation! I have been very lucky and get on well with my roommate, something I was worried about before arriving. I’ve also made friends with a great group of exchange students. Everyone in Rochester is catered and it has been a very different experience from when I first arrived in Leeds, as mealtimes are a social event where you catch up with friends. The food is better than expected however I have to admit that I have eaten a ridiculous amount of pizza since arriving. 


By the weekend there were still four days of orientation left however not much going on for exchange students. As part of a group of five students from Leeds we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls (the picture is of me on the Maid of the Mist). We had a great time however, like many last minute trips, not everything went to plan. Hotels were booked in the wrong country, trains ran late and I got a crazy phone bill from being in Canada. We vowed to be more prepared next time.



What are you enjoying the most so far? Are you involved in interesting projects or extra curriculum activities?


I’m really enjoying throwing myself into the American University lifestyle, which is very different from the UK in both good and bad ways. The campus is much smaller and you bump into people you know all the time, but it is also much harder to find a quiet place to phone your family or study - especially when sharing a room. Another thing I’m really enjoying is being able to take a module that is not related to my degree. This semester I am taking a class in International Relations and finding it really interesting, even if it is a 9am Monday, Wednesday and Friday!


Outside of studying, I have joined a Pom team (sort of the dance side of cheerleading) as well as taking part in a weekly acapella workshop, which is a HUGE thing here on campus. We have been out exploring the city of Rochester; visiting the waterfall, the George Eastman Museum of Film and even cycling the 20 mile round trip to Ontario Beach! I have trips planned to visit a friend studying at University of McMaster in Canada, as well as plans to go to Boston and NYC at some point during the semester. 


What do you think you have got out of this experience so far?  What exciting activities are you planning to do during your year abroad (e.g. trips, volunteering, part-time work experience, workshops etc.)?


So far this experience has taught me that I am much more capable than I give myself credit for. During my first year in Leeds I battled homesickness and initially found it difficult settling into a big city where I didn’t know anyone, and I know my parents (and myself) were worried that it would happen again. Other than the usual missing home (and a good roast dinner) so far things have been going great. My family are coming to visit in three weeks and I have a long list of things for them to bring! 


Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of studying abroad?


My advice for those applying for study abroad is to believe you can do it! Life begins at the end of your comfort zone and you might be left regretting your decision when you see your friends going on great adventures that you could’ve been doing too. Being here less than a month may not make me an expert on the subject however I fully believe that this is an experience I will look back on as changing my view of the world for the better. The opportunity to study abroad does not come up often, take advantage and make the most of it.