Sophomore Emily Pachta of Wichita recently started her study abroad experience at Newman University’s sister school in Birmingham, England, and started a blog to document the experience.
Follow along with Pachta’s blog posts on the Newman Today news site as she explores the British university also named for St. John Henry Newman, as well as Birmingham and other cities and sites in England and Europe.
In Emily’s words
Hello all! My name is Emily Pachta and I am a psychology major studying pre-medicine to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist. I attend Wichita Newman (I will refer to it as WN from now on) and am currently studying at Newman University in Birmingham, England (aka BN). Same name, different school.
OK, so boring stuff out of the way. How’s it going?! I have been in Birmingham for about three weeks and plan to take you guys along with me, so let’s catch up, shall we?
I thought a little Q&A would be appropriate.
Q: How long was the flight?
A: The original total travel time was supposed to amount 16 hours, but after many issues with tornados and layovers, I ended up traveling for about 27 hours. Although there were many unexpected time delays, I was already planning on arriving early to settle in so it luckily did not interfere with orientation for the study abroad students.
Q: How much money did you bring?
A: Not enough. I brought some American cash but most local American banks will convert dollars to any currency you need (in England they use pounds). I would recommend bringing pounds and at least two cards. I brought my Visa debit card which I didn’t expect to use and my Discover card. Discover (apparently) does not work in most places here in England. I have been solely using my Visa debit card which has been an issue except for the fact that it is an American flag card (it was the only thing my bank offered when I got it five years ago) so I stand out. But the best thing I’ve learned about money is an app called Revolut (not sponsored). It works through Apple Pay or you can get a physical card for $5 and is a card that doesn’t charge when you transfer currency to currency. I love it!
Q: What’s the biggest difference so far between America and England?
A: This one is strange but I cannot get used to it. When greeting someone in Kansas I normally say, “Hey how’s it going?” or “How are you?” or a variation of that. Here they say, “Hey, are you alright?”
The first time I heard it I paused, looked myself up and down to make sure I didn’t seem in distress and said “Yes?” It was very awkward but that is a common greeting I hear and I still don’t quite know how to respond. Normally I just say “yes” and continue with the conversation quickly.
Q: How do you get around?
A: As you may know, they drive on the left side of the road here and I didn’t bring a car so I do not drive. When I Ubered from the airport to BN for the first time, I was scared out of my mind because I kept thinking we would run into other cars. They are also very aggressive drivers here so that didn’t help. I mostly use the bus system which has been OK because Google Maps tells you exactly where to go and what bus to take.
The current issue is bus and train strikes (it’s a whole situation, you can look into if you like) which makes buses late or not show up at all. Most of the time I am not in a hurry, though, so it works out.
Q: Can you text?
A: Short answer, no. I use WhatsApp and Snapchat to communicate. I have an iPhone 14 (I know, major flex) but that means I cannot put a physical SIM card in my phone, only an electric SIM. eSIMs normally have a 12-month payment plan though so I brought my old phone and bought a cheap physical SIM card to put in that phone. I now use my old phone as a hotspot for my iPhone and it works most of the time. I haven’t quite perfected the phone situation though and I’ll probably have more tips later on.
Q: What’s one thing you miss?
A: Well, obviously my family and friends, but also off-brand Takis from Trader Joe’s, caffeinated Sparkling Ice and all sour candy. The sour candy here just doesn’t hit the same way.
But seriously, homesickness is no joke so I recommend bringing pictures and postures, they don’t take up much space in your suitcase and are super personable, perfume or air freshener that reminds you of home, and honestly, a stuffed animal. I brought my frog named Pigeon that I made at Build-A-Bear in Chicago on a trip with the Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe. Classic.
I miss my friends and family every day but each day gets easier and the exchange students and I plan lots of fun things to do to bond.
Connect with Emily
Well I know this was a long read, but thanks for sticking around! If you have any questions you can email me directly at [email protected] and might get featured in my next Q&A. I have so many suggestions, stories and tips already and it has only been three weeks, so I cannot wait to keep you guys updated.
Talk to you later!
Study abroad opportunities at Newman University
Students are encouraged to participate in Newman University’s overseas study and exchange programs, which contribute to individual and intercultural development.