Greensboro, North Carolina did not ring a bell. I had been to America, even to North Carolina before, and I’d never heard of Greensboro. But there it was, next to Chicago, San Diego and New York on the list of places I could study abroad.
Every destination on that list had its merits and drawbacks. I wondered about weather, transport and cost of living. I loved New York and I’d always wanted to see San Diego and Chicago, but Greensboro? It didn’t have a Statue of Liberty or a Brooklyn Bridge and it wasn’t known for its beaches or culture.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I wanted out of this experience was not to visit monuments and take photos. I wanted the college experience, and any of these choices would have provided that. I knew that I would visit the other cities whether I studied there of not, but what reason would I ever have to visit Greensboro? It was my chance to experience real America, everyday America, and I wasn’t about to pass it up.
If I was looking for the “typical” experience, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) ticked all the boxes. At around 18,000 students, it was a pretty standard size for a state university, although it felt huge to me. I lived on campus, shared a room with an American student, and ate at the Cafeteria. On the weekends we took road-trips to nearby towns, explored Greensboro or hung out on campus watching volleyball or soccer games. The friends I made in the first week were the friends I did everything with for four months, and the friends that I travelled with at the end of the semester and will travel across the world to see next year.
Flying to Greensboro was long and expensive. After a direct flight from Melbourne to LA, I flew to Phoenix, then to Charlotte and then 29 more minutes to Greensboro. It airport was tiny and opened to a town that was green and spacious. It was raining and I was already in love with its endless red brick buildings and university culture. It was the third largest city in North Carolina, with 2 major universities and lots of college kids. It was driving distance from Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville and (at a stretch) New York.
The University and the place that seemed to revolve around it were perfect. Not a city but not a small town, everyone went to the same club every week and we got to know the best cheesecake shop in town. The University was walking distance from downtown, and the mall was a free bus ride away. It was enough of a community that we came to feel a connection to it after only four months of living there.
I also came to realize that, as much as I loved Greensboro, it was really just the setting for me to meet so many beautiful people and experience amazing things. To anyone who is considering studying abroad and is facing the tough question of where to go: think about it, but not too much. Pick somewhere that will be not interfere with the incredible experience that exchange will be – regardless of whether or not you can see the New York City skyline from your bedroom window.