Brits in America: From Dundee to New York

Supported by the Sutton Trust, Bonnie MacRae was able to achieve her dream of attending university in New York and will be blogging her university experience for Times Higher Education Student

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Bonnie MacRae

August 11 2017
Sutton Trust US programme


Gate 86 of Stansted Airport was where my Sutton Trust journey started and now ends. One year ago, I was headed to the US as part of the Sutton Trust US Programme to experience life at a US university. Suitcase in tow and anxiety and excitement at an all time high, I travelled alongside other Scottish Sutton Trust participants.

As a participant on the Sutton Trust US Programme, the past year has been crazy. I’ve travelled this route about 20 times in just over 12 months, I’ve made friends from Plymouth and Glasgow to Norwich and Liverpool, and I’ve successfully gained a place at America’s top women’s college: Barnard College.  

Now a year later I'm travelling to my US visa interview. This time last year, if you were to say that in two weeks I would be moving to New York City, I would have laughed. 

Having lived in Dundee my entire life, I knew I was ready to venture out but I didn't expect that to mean a move to the Big Apple. On first starting out on the programme, I had no idea women’s colleges were a thing, and the phrase ‘liberal arts’ was foreign to me. My experience on the Sutton Trust US programme meant I became more aware of the benefits of a US education.

Sixty-two UK students head to US universities through charity partnership

I knew I wanted to be in a big city, but also a somewhat small institution where professor-student interaction was close-knit. Barnard College provides that and more. As a small women’s liberal arts college in Manhattan, this was a school that I knew would provide the supportive, community-driven environment that I could see myself thriving in.

After visiting a multitude of institutions on my week-long visit to the US as part of the US Programme, I discovered that social and extracurricular aspects of US campus life held greater prominence than at a UK university. This, combined with small class sizes and multiple internship opportunities made it clear that Barnard College was where I wanted to go. 

 After deciding that Barnard was my top choice, I soon realised that it wasn’t just a matter of applying. The lengthy process featured an alumni interview, multiple essay submissions, an arts supplement and far too many standardised tests. I questioned myself: was I what they wanted? Was my essay alright? My ACT score too low? Tuesday 13th December 2016, I opened the long-awaited email to see the word “Congratulations”. I was both elated and confused. I hadn't expected good news, so found it hard to comprehend my acceptance. You’d think this would pass, yet I still feel the same as I write this now.

I’ve had eight months to plan the next four years and I've made a two page list on my phone containing every single slice of New York pizza worth trying as well as a bucket list of things I want to do. Included in this, is a helicopter ride over the city and to run the NYC marathon. 

For now, all I have left to do is pack which is pretty overwhelming in itself. That, and prepare myself for the craziest, scariest, most amazing time I hope to soon experience in New York. Homesickness, culture shock and all other minor worries aside, I look forward to seeing where the next four years will take me and I'm looking forward to sharing it all in my Times Higher Education blog. 

Bonnie MacRae will be blogging her journey through Barnard College every month for Times Higher Education

Read more: Brits in America: Heading to Harvard

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