• Megan Kate

Studying Abroad: Ohio, USA | Travel Review

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

We're back with another post for the in-depth review series and I'm really very excited!

A huge thank you is needed this time around to my wonderful guest contributor, Miss Beatrice Leão Prado Wall, who has kindly answered all the questions about the year she spent studying in the United States. Hopefully this will help you guys gather as much info as possible if you're thinking about spending a year abroad!

Anyway, enough of my rambling, take it away Bia:

I joined the Signa Lambda Gamma National Sorority during my year in Ohio

The Details

What was it you did? Study abroad as a part of my degree.

When was it? 19th August 2017 - 7th May 2018

Where was it? Toledo, Ohio USA

How long was it for? One full academic year so 2 semesters.

How far in advance did you book it? As I did it via my university I had to wait to see if my grades hit the requirement needed. I found out on the 3rd of July, and then I had to had to apply for a DS form, receive my I-20, apply for an J-1 Visa and attend to an J-1 Visa interview at the United States embassy in London. Only when my J-1 Visa was approved I could purchase flights. IT WAS VERY RUSHED.

How much did it cost?

J-1 Visa = $160 = £123.06

Megabus from Manchester to Embassy in London = £20

First set of return flights from Manchester to Toledo Express via Chicago = £985

Second set of return flights from Manchester to Toledo Express via Chicago = £850

Accommodation = About £5,400 per semester so around £10,800

Meal Plan: Cannot 100% remember but I want to say $500 or £387

On Campus Insurance: Up to £1500

In total: £14,665.06

This was before having to purchase books and equipment.

Checking in to my flight/ my dorm/ the snow on campus

What does that price actually include? Visa, flights, accommodation, insurance to cover my entire stay as their medical expenses are extremely OTT. Meal plan which is required as I was considered as a first year student however there were cheaper options. There was a shuttle that took you to certain classes which were free.

Could you have done it cheaper? I could have stayed in a cheaper accommodation, insurance and meal plan, even a cheaper flight! However since this was all last minute I did not have much choice on certain things. I chose to have the full packaged meal plan as there wasn’t a lot of cooking facilities. I'd rather be safe than hungry!

Did you need much spending money in top of this? I spent money on taxis, takeaways, personal products, books and equipment. I did have two jobs on campus which helped in paying for this. My parents did assist me in living there and I got about $150 biweekly.

Did you go by yourself or with others? I did it by myself! I knew others who were around the States doing the same program but I didn’t know them very well.

Did you need a visa? How much was it? How did you get it? I needed the J-1 visa which cost about £124. I had to attend to a visa interview in London providing all details regarding my stay, my finances, my course etc. It was a long way from Manchester to London but the process was quite fast. I got accepted within 2 weeks.

How much luggage did you take? I took my backpack, two 23kg bags and two cabin bags. Now thinking about it, it was a lot! But when coming home it was definitely needed! I paid extra for the additional 23kg bag. It varies in price depending on what airline you are with.

Me and Lucya

Do you have any must take item recommendations? If you’re there to spend the year you need to think what it’d be like if you were moving into your first flat.

I brought:

⁃ Various photocopies of visa, passport and address. (You never know when you might need it!)

⁃ Bedding (the university charged for their own)

⁃ Adapters

⁃ Battery Bank (if there’s a delay in flights or you forget an adapter)

⁃ Ibuprofen/personal prescription medicine

⁃ Toilet paper (may not have any in your accommodation)

⁃ Coat and boots (By November it was knee deep in snow and I had trainers…)

- The basic school equipment

When packing my clothes I put my stuff in a vacuum bag and it made it easier for me to carry a lot more stuff with me! I've linked the one I used here.

Were the company helpful in answering questions and helping you to organise bookings/arrangements? The university was incredibly helpful. The woman who led the international team helped me with everything I needed, she even found me jobs to apply for within the first 2 weeks I arrived! She also helped me with choosing of classes down to getting my social security number to work. When I was sick she even took me to get medication and fed me, honestly without her help I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as I did, she was an absolute angel!

Some of my artwork from my classes

The Experience

Did it involve working/volunteering/education or was it purely for pleasure? Education! With a side of on-campus working to help fund my stay. (You need to apply for the study/working Visa)

Sum it up in one sentence? “A well needed life experience.”

Did it live up to you expectations? Is there anything you wish you’d known before you booked it? I wish I had more time to book things in advance in order to make it cheaper. I should have researched more of the area before I got there too as I needed a taxi to everywhere that wasn’t the university!

I loved it, despite certain issues, the experience made me adapt to solve things by myself. Definitely worth every penny. I think it made me become a better rounder individual.

Tell us the good/best bits? - The people you meet. I took so many different classes that I didn’t think I would ever study and they’re were so many different types of people and insights. Most were friendly and helped me during my time there. Whether it was just to take me into downtown Toledo for a homework assignment, buying me a cup of coffee, lending me equipment when I couldn’t afford to purchase my own and inviting me to events like the Meet the Greeks, Halloween parties.

- The classes you can take while there, I learnt so much. I studied Spanish, Life Drawing, Printmaking, Middle Eastern Civilization, Post War Japan and Costume Design. I enjoyed my classes and my assignments because I didn’t have the chance to do some of these subjects that I was interested in when back in the UK.

-My RA, Randy. Not only was he incredibly good looking, he was understanding and helpful throughout my stay. Whenever I had an issue (especially personal) he helped me and assisted me, challenging my inner thoughts into positive outcomes. And if I didn’t say it before, he was GOOD LOOKING LIKE MY GOOD LORD.

- The American football games. The players. Enough said. FYI, still don’t know the rules of the game but I enjoyed staring.

-The food. I gained a stone. Worth every bite.

Thanksgiving dinner in Cleveland

-Thanksgiving! As a Brit there would be no reason for me to celebrate this day which everyone seemed to be confused by but I stayed with a friend and his family in Cleveland and it was the best first thanksgiving I could ask for. Definitely a family oriented celebration and I felt incredibly included. Ate a lot of food and it was just a fantastic opportunity to be thankful about life never mind the original history.

- I joined the Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority which created my “sisters for life” and to this day I still talk to my sisters. They helped me with a lot of personal and educational issues and they still do! It was a stressful period but nearly everyone I met helped me out one way or another. This opportunity allowed me to deal with a lot of problem solving, time management and learning to adapt to other personalities that didn’t necessarily match with my own. Joining SLG also gave me the chance to help out within the Toledo community which included making period packages for the homeless women in Toledo. They taught me a lot and their mindset and goals still apply in my life 2 years later.

- Independence. This experience made me have to become so independent so quickly because it wasn’t like I could go home if I wanted to. There were times where I felt homesick but I definitely had a family in Toledo when I left, I didn’t think I was capable of doing anything this big and by the end of it I didn’t want to leave!

SLG sisters/ helping with period poverty/ football game

Tell us the negatives? Without a car it was really hard to get to places off campus, everything is so far apart. Although worth it, it really is very expensive, and with the visa you're only allowed to work 20 hours per week to help out your funds. I also got a little bit homesick but nothing too bad.

The Review

Was it worth the money? 100% yes without doubt.

Are you glad you tried it? YES. Gave me the confidence I never thought I’d have!

Would you do it again? Yes. Yes. YES.

Would you recommend it to your family/close friends? Whenever I can. I always bring it up so yes hahah. JUST DO IT. It’s an education in the books and for the mind.

Any final thoughts? I was excited and I was scared because I didn’t know if I’d like it and then I wouldn’t come home but my RA said this one thing which stuck by me: “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable then you grow.” I certainly did grow and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I WISH I COULD GO BACK. Do, just do it! DO IT.

Hopefully we've covered everything you might need to know when considering study abroad options, but feel free to ask us any remaining questions! Let us know about your experience if you do it yourself, and send photos! Meg x

My sisters and I on a night out in Toledo/ terrible snow clothing option

**All opinions in this post are based on a PERSONAL experience with this specific opportunity, and cannot guarantee that you will have the same feelings. Any negatives are written with the aim of being as honest as possible and again are purely personal opinion based on a specific experience. No offense or slander is intended**