May 13, 2012, by Mark

Farewell to University of Virginia

As the sun rises on the Nottingham summer semester, so the sun sets for me as a second year exchange student at the University of Virginia. My time remaining in the United States is now limited but I have much planned in my final weeks and many miles to get under my belt with much celebration along the way. Until the end of my study abroad experience the intense workload continued which is why I again offer an extended post this week.


I want to begin by returning to a couple of Saturday’s ago; this Saturday was one of the most prestigious on the UVA calendar. It was the Foxfield horse races. An annual event where everyone dresses to impress and heads for a local race track to have a jolly old time and if one should so fancy actually watch some horse races. The weather was somewhat left to be desired but it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of many, apart from those under-prepared in high-heels. Every direction was filled with ‘tailgating’, a pastime that involves oversized trucks and gazebos filled with drinks and food to be devoured. It was a true American day out.


The following week saw the conclusion of my various classes. In my academic writing class everyone was asked to bring in food, drink and red cups as well as come prepared with a Youtube video relevant to the course for the class to discuss. My 9/11 and Vietnam classes didn’t quite have such a party theme but were exceptional classes that involved discussion of the state of America and the relevance of what had been studied throughout the semester. Again the overlap in the classes I choose whilst studying abroad presented themselves like never before.


Although classes wound down to a conclusion the work and percentages of thus work towards my final grades increased. I still had numerous assignments and portfolios to complete before I could focus entirely on my preparation for the ‘finals’ (exams). Photography was exceptionally time consuming with hours of printing and re-printing in an attempt to reach perfection with each of my black and white photos. Furthermore, the final portfolio was required to be matted using white mat board, which in turn meant some very late nights working until the small hours.


Once this work was completed and submitted it felt hugely rewarding but there was no time to dwell on my achievements, as I had to study for the ‘finals’. My degree in Nottingham is not an exam based course and having also taken a year out before beginning university this meant I was about to sit my first exams since I had left school a few years ago. Much studying meant I entered the exam rooms largely as prepared as I could hope to be. Two of my exams were made easier with the professors providing bagels, coffee and other condiments prior to putting pen to paper. Post exams, following an intense semester many students tend to head straight home, so the last few days saw the campus become increasingly empty. However, there was still time for some relaxation in my final days; beach volleyball (yes, beach…) and American bars were the order of the day(s).


In my final weeks, before I make my return to blighty (uk) I will be returning to my starting point, New York City. But currently as I write I am heading in a similar direction to my spring break adventure, south. As I write, I am sat on a silver Amtrak train headed for Atlanta, the home of peaches and coca-cola. I am going to stay with the family of a close friend I made at UVA for yet another true American experience. I will be sure to post my various exploits in my final weeks before offering my final conclusions and thoughts on my time as a Nottingham University student studying abroad in the land of the free.


– Mark J Richardson

Posted in 2011-Mark