The last few weeks of December were so busy! I had my final exams for my classes. American exams are a little more relaxed than the January exams in Manchester. You sit most of them in the classroom and they are part multiple test and then a couple of essay like questions. A long with completing all my classes we fitted in a few last activities to say goodbye to the exchange students who were only studying in Minnesota for the semester. We went outdoor ice-skating in the other city of Minnesota, St Paul. It’s slightly smaller than Minneapolis and has more of a suburban feel to it. The city was beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. The Ice Skating was really fun but skating outdoors when it is -16 degrees is quite the challenge. When we had finished, I couldn’t move my hands at all; they were so numb. We also had a goodbye dinner on my very last night in Minneapolis. It was such a lovely evening but it was also really emotional to have to say our final goodbyes to a lot of the other exchange students. I met some really amazing people from all across the world and they will really be missed next semester.
Once I got home from the dinner I had to pack and get ready for my early morning flight to New York. I arrived into JFK Airport on the morning of the 15th of December. I met three of my friends there who are also studying in America; North Carolina and Arizona. New York is so magical. It was the first time I had been to New York. It felt so surreal, the scale of the city is beyond anything I had imagined. I constantly found myself looking up at all the huge skyscrapers. We were in New York for just under five days. We tried to visit most of the tourist destinations. The first day we went Ice-skating in central park (it was slightly warmer than skating in Minnesota)! The Skyscrapers lined the backdrop of the rink, it was incredible! We visited Brooklyn for rainbow bagels (AMAZING!!!), Brooklyn bridge, Times square, Wall Street, the MOA and saw the statue of liberty, 911 memorial and the Empire state building. We also went to the top of the Rockefeller center to see New York from above. We waited for sunset and then headed to the top. The view was like something from a movie. On one side, there is central park that’s surrounded by all these huge skyscrapers and then on the other sits the Empire state. The lights of all the buildings along with the pink, orange colour from the sky was so beautiful.
New York at Christmas felt even more special! The city was lit up by colorful Christmas lights and the atmosphere was one of excitement and cheerfulness. There were people from all across the world visiting. The Rockefeller center had their famous Christmas tree that sat right above the ice rink and Saks Department store had an amazing light display on the wall of their shop. There were crazy crowds of people there waiting to watch the show but it was definitely worth all the push and shove. We were also really fortunate enough to see not only one but two proposals during our stay. New York was an unforgettable place to see, the city has this crazy speed of life to it. I hope someday I get the opportunity to return again.
On the late night of the 19th I flew from New York to Manchester and then waited a few hours for my flight back to Belfast. I was exhausted but it was so nice to be able to see my family and friends again and to be able to spend Christmas at home. It’s nice to know that very little has really changed when you’ve been away from home for quite a long period of time.
I am flying back to Minnesota on the 16th of January. I can’t wait to get back and enjoy another semester there. The las few months I spent in Minnesota were probably the best few months of my life, I met incredible people, lived in a beautiful state and visited places I could only have ever dreamt of seeing. So I am really ready to enjoy my last semester in America and appreciate its journey (even If it is -22 degrees)!