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International Exchange

My first week at UVM

25 August 2019

My first week at UVM is over, and I’m kinda sad about it. From the chaos of moving in day to pep rallies and beach days, it has been the best start to my semester at university.

Moving In Day

Moving into UVM was an experience to say the least. I had been on holiday with my family in the days before moving in, so we had to travel down to Burlington from Boston.

This included getting a car ferry across the lake.

When I first saw my dorm room, the two words that came to mind were ‘jail cell’. I wouldn’t say I was excited at the prospect of living in a shared dorm room that made me feel like a prisoner, but once I unpacked all of my things, the vibes turned less prison and more typical bedroom. Let me just say, American college films do not accurately depict the state of dorm rooms, they’re less luxury and more practicality.

Having never had a roommate before, I was a little sceptical to say the least. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. My only ideas of American University living had come from college films like Pitch Perfect and American Pie. I wasn’t expecting to have a roommate who was so similar to me, so when we first met I was so happy.

My roommate is a Brit, just like me, along with a lot of people in my building. We had an international student orientation week before the American students arrived, so it was nice to be in a building with so many international students like myself.

Rally on the Green

My first week at UVM was orientation week. Similar to ‘freshers’ in the UK, minus the alcohol.

One night the university held a rally on the green, a very new concept to us Brits.

As it turns out, a rally is similar to a fair, with food stalls, face paint and a silent disco.

All of the food was free, from Ben and Jerry’s, to the locals favourite, fried dough, to pizza and kettlecorn (simply known as popcorn to us).

We spent the night dancing, toasting marshmallows, tasting local food and meeting new people, who were all fascinated by our British accents. I doubt I’ll ever get used to people stopping and asking us about our accents, it’s all very bizarre.

Soccer Game

Once all the American students had moved in, we had a pep rally and a soccer game to attend. The pre-game pep rally offered free merchandise and food to hype up everyone’s spirits before the big game.

It was like something out of a movie. Cheerleaders waving their pom poms at the front of the stands, hundreds of fans screaming the school chant, everyone covered head to toe in UVM merchandise. It was an experience, let’s say that.

It was a very different experience to the Welsh rugby games that I’m used to. But it was a great way to experience American college sport and its traditions.

Hungry Hippos on Ice

Ice Hockey is a massive deal in the USA, but when the rink isn’t being used for hockey, UVM hold several other ice activities such as broomball and hungry hungry hippos. Yes, I did say hungry hungry hippos. It’s a game where in a team of three, one person lies in a rubber ring holding an upside down washing basket, being manoeuvred by the other two members. A box of balls are released into the middle and the team have to collect as much balls as they can, like a massive hungry hippos game.

just 9 of your average hungry hippos

Picnic on the Green

UVM hold a lot of events involving food, as you might have already guessed. One afternoon, the university held a picnic BBQ on the green. We definitely aren’t complaining about all this free food.

Buying Books

One of the biggest differences between British and American university that I’ve noticed so far is the whole book-buying process. I was quite frankly outraged at the price of the books we had to buy.

It’s not like UK university, where books aren’t always compulsory and where people usually ignore the required reading and wait to see what they actually need. Or even use online resources, like I do in Cardiff.

Books in UVM can range from $10 to $300, which was a scary concept which I definitely did not prepare myself for. There is the option to rent books for a slightly lower price, and return them at the end of the semester, which was my only saving grace at this point.


I had a disaster when buying my books. I was angry enough when I saw that one of my books was going to cost me $200. I went to rent this book to save myself $50. When I got to the desk, the kind lady told me that the only condition with renting a book is that no water damage is allowed, and if it is seen on the book, you will be charged the full price.

The weather outside was scorching, 27 degrees and sunny, so I thought no problem for now, at least. Books rented, a lot of money gone, it was time to walk home. But, of course, I was greeted with torrential rain. Torrential rain that didn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

We sprinted home with our newly purchased books in our bags, to find out that our rucksacks were in fact, not waterproof and that our books were completely ruined.

It’s safe to say, I will be covering my books in plastic from now on and protecting them in a waterproof bag. They will be treated like Queens.

A somewhat naive Liss, prior to the rain disaster.

Merch, Merch, Merch

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, American’s LOVE merchandise. The school shop is kitted out with everything you could ever want and need. From jumpers and joggers, to mugs, to dog collars, bags, hats and temporary tattoos. We were slightly overwhelmed, considering UK uni shops hold jumpers, t-shirts and that’s about it.

Hoodies purchased, we were ready to immerse ourselves into American college life.

Trip to the Lake

Im very lucky that Burlington is such a lovely place to live and has so much to do. North Beach is just a 20 minute walk away from my accommodation, and has proved a great day trip.

My first week at UVM has been amazing, and much less petrifying than I thought. I’ve met the most amazing people and am excited for the rest of the semester.