If 2 years ago you had told me that I would have the opportunity to visit Philadelphia on an all expenses paid trip I wouldn’t have believed you but this year my wildest dreams were realised and I was whisked away to Pennsylvania to learn more about US education.
As you all know education is something I am particularly passionate about, so the possibility of studying for my degree in the US would allow me to combine the two best things life has to offer. Travel and education. Yes I know I’m a geek!! Education in the US had crossed my mind a few times but coming from a low income background I just dismissed it thinking there is no way on Earth would I ever be able to afford that. The Sutton Trust US Programme made me realise that this isn’t necessarily true and next year I could be studying anything and everything and not have to spend a penny.
This past year as a Fulbright/Sutton Trust Scholar has been intense to say the least but I wouldn’t change it for the world. From learning more about admissions to actually sitting the ACT exam the process has been far from easy. But it has truly sparked my passion for US education. Having always been an indecisive child the idea of combining everything from languages to natural sciences to public policy studies attracts me so much. I crave a rounded education which the UK system may not be able to offer me.
On the programme I have been able to perfect my essays, ace my exams and gain invaluable advice from industry experts and I couldn’t be more grateful. No matter where I end up next year whether in the UK or US this experience is one that will stick with me and has had a huge influence over how I have grown in the past 9 months. The friends I have made on the programme I can confidently say will be life long friends and seeing them achieve everything they want and more is such a warm feeling. Having the other members of your cohort has been such a fabulous tool, when everything gets a bit much you have 100 other best friends to turn to for advice. Applying to the US and the UK is a struggle but the promise of an amazing education pushes you through.
I best explain a little about how I got involved with this. I submitted an application to the programme in January and competed against over 1000 applicants to be given one of the 150 coveted places. In April it was off to London for the first introductory finalist residential. Then fortunately I was able to continue on to the programme and headed back down to London in June to sit my entrance exams. After this I was so lucky to be offered the chance to fly out to Philadelphia to stay at Princeton for the week and visit a variety of universities in the surrounding areas.
The actual trip was such an amazing experience. In July I had probably once of the earliest starts of my entire life. I left my house at 4.30 for London Heathrow Terminal 3. Having checked in for our Virgin Atlantic, yes it’s as posh as you’d imagine, we got comfy and got used to the idea that this trip could become routine if we got the chance to study in the US next year. We arrived in Newark to the stunning NYC skyline which just started the week off perfectly. We checked into our accommodation at Princeton, I can’t believe I’m writing this, it’s such a pinch me moment. Exploring Princeton itself was so much fun that it felt like the week could not possibly be topped.
After a day of settling into American life and more importantly American time zones, we set out for our first 2 university visits. We went to Bryn Mawr which is an all women’s college. I don’t think the place was for me but I really admire what the colleges stand for. Then in the afternoon we headed over to the town of Swarthmore and got to see the beautiful scenery on offer at this college.
Lafayette was also on the agenda for the week which was such a beautiful campus. I think everyone agreed that this uni was outstanding! We also got to partake in some cultural activities during our stay. So we ventured out into downtown Philly for dinner at Reading Terminal market and a constitutional walking tour. Having never properly studied history I found some of the facts about Philadelphia fascinating. I was hugely out of my depth but nevertheless it was so much fun. I can confidently advocate that Reading Terminal Market is a must visit if you’re ever in Philly.
Despite my crippling fear of heights I enjoyed watching the sunset over Philadelphia from the One Liberty Observation Deck. It was a peaceful touch after a mega busy week. Having a moment of tranquility was perfect and truly allowed me to appreciate the beauty and expanse of the city.
For me one of the highlights of the week was visiting UPenn. During the week there hadn’t been many places where I felt entirely at home and I was beginning to lose faith that US education was right for me. As soon as I stepped foot on UPenn’s campus I felt like I belonged and that wasn’t something that I had experienced at any uni in the US or UK before. The courses were perfect for me and everything just seemed to align. The University of Pennsylvania just seemed to tick all the boxes. So you best believe I will be making an application there in the spring.
Another thing that just topped off the week for me was getting to go to a specially organised university fair at Harvard University. I felt like Elle Woods and it was the perfect ending to the perfect week. I enjoyed being given the opportunity to learn more about lots of different universities and trying to sell myself to different admissions officers. The lovely admissions officer from UChicago remembered me from the Harvard fair when I saw her in London in September. It really cemented my choice to apply there as she treated me like a person and not just another number.
I really couldn’t be more grateful to the Sutton Trust and the Fulbright team for having faith in me and seeing potential in me that is not always noticeable. I know this post was long but I can’t wait to look back in years to come and remember how proud I am to be a part of the family.
And here as a little blooper for you please enjoy the Fulbright commission literally making a meme out of me!!!