was the first person in my family to go to university so I didn’t really know
what university life would be like. Or, that I would even be able to spend part
of my degree living in a completely new country. I loved all four years I spent
studying, but spending my third year in Florida really took my experience to a
whole new level.
lived on the beautiful University of Florida campus.
It was very natural with huge low hanging trees, green swamps and clear water
lakes sitting in between the classic American red brick buildings. You’d even
find the odd alligator sunbathing in the humidity next to the lecture theatres!
lived in a set of dorm rooms allocated especially for international students,
which meant within days I had made friends with people from all over the globe.
I was fascinated in their cultures and stories. And, it was nice to have
support from people who understood what it felt like when homesickness crept in.
US course structure was surprisingly flexible, so I could take classes on
subjects that were not directly related to my UK degree in Sport and Exercise
Science. I studied Spanish, basketball, physical therapy, international politics
and even got an official scuba diving qualification!
alternative classes like these for the first time really opened my mind and allowed
me to explore new horizons. Taking Spanish, for example, led me to discover
South American cinema. I would borrow film after film from the library to help
me learn the language. My interest in South America quickly grew, I listened to
Spanish music and I began to meet Hispanic students on campus.
eventually met a group of medical students travelling to Nicaragua for a
service trip, and in the summer, I joined them for four weeks distributing
medical supplies to communities in need. After this, I continued travelling
south, meeting friends in Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile - friends that I would
never have met had I not taken those first steps to study Spanish in Florida.
physical therapy course involved working with an elite wheelchair basketball
team and using sport to help aid children with a range of disabilities. Working
with kids was both inspiring and rewarding. Using sport as a rehabilitation
tool in this way made me think differently about how I’d been studying sport
science back home. I enjoyed the course so much I even went on a few weekend
volunteer camps around the Southern US states.
sports facilities in Florida were world class. As a keen sportsman, I made
constant use of the outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, football pitches,
free yoga classes, climbing walls and even canoes on the big university owned lake.
I joined the football (aka soccer) team which meant travelling around the US
playing other university teams and meeting more people.
in Florida gave me confidence and made me think in new ways. I’m sure it helped
me get to where I am today, working as a filmmaker at the BBC. I think my
unique experience of living and studying in the USA made me stand out when I
applied for the production
trainee scheme. When I was interviewed for the job I found myself talking
about all the rich experiences I’d gained from studying abroad.
still at the BBC and have worked across lots of exciting projects since embarking
on the trainee scheme. In a creative organisation, ideas are king, and for me
the best way to generate ideas is to travel, meet new people, try new things and
break out of my comfort zone. I still love to travel and I try to
use my annual leave to explore as much of the world as possible - always taking
photos and making short films.
memories, the experiences, the people I met and the things I learned in Florida
will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even now, over 10 years later, I
still regularly think back to those days on the campus and can’t help but smile.