One of the greatest assets of the University of Derby is the effort that goes into the student experience. As part of this, a scheme called the International Travel Awards was developed in the mid 2010s to offer students experiences they may not have otherwise been able to have. Travel abroad with free accommodation, flights and some meals – who wouldn’t jump at such an opportunity?!
After submitting my application (which was quick and straightforward to complete) I was amazed to hear that I’d been successful and would get to experience the contrasting cities of New York and Washington DC.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack and get going.
Arrival and Times Square
I met the group at Manchester airport for 8am and arrived at JFK at around 5:20pm local time. After arriving at Hotel Pennsylvania and dropping off our bags, we all had a quick meeting to discuss the schedule for the following day. We were then excited to do our first bit of sightseeing in Times Square, before 14 hours of travelling caught up with us and we headed back to the hotel for some sleep.
The Big Apple
On our first full day, I joined up with two other students and we headed to Liberty bagels for food and a coffee – I would highly recommend! We spent the afternoon touring the Empire State building, New York public library, Grand Central Terminal and the important United Nations headquarters. It was quite a lengthy tour and we built up quite the appetite – luckily a meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp was provided! We were then given a free evening to spend as we chose.
Day 3 consisted of more tours, including taking the underground to Battery Park, catching a ferry boat from Manhattan to Liberty Island, seeing the famous Statue of Liberty, and then stopping off at Ellis Island. After this insightful tour, we headed back to Manhattan to explore the 9/11 Memorial and remember those affected by the terror. Without a doubt, this had a huge impact on myself, particularly as I’m American, and naturally empathetic. Following this, we spent the evening wandering freely and reflecting on the day.
Let loose in NYC
On our last day in New York we were able to choose where to explore, so I decided to visit the Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Trump Tower (out of curiosity, not to buy merch!), 5th Avenue, NYU, Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park. This day was particularly compact but it was fascinating to visit more of the Big Apple’s iconic sights. For dinner, everyone met at Ellen’s Stardust Diner for a classic cheeseburger and a singalong.
From NYC to Washington DC
It was an early start. We woke up at 6am and took a 5 hour coach journey from New York to Washington DC. The day’s excursions comprised of the grandeur Washington Monument, WW2 Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and others surrounding the area. A glorious sunny day meant an ice cream was a must-have … and plenty of sun cream, of course! As we were nearing the end of our trip, we had another evening meal provided at Bolt burger. As a gesture of good will, the group surprised Russell, one of the trip leaders, with a gift, presenting him with a Lego model of the Statue of Liberty to remember the trip.
To wrap up the day, we had an evening outing to the renowned White House.
A taste of history
On our last day, we were guided to the National Air and Space museum, US Capitol Building, Library of Congress and Supreme Court. We then had the privilege of seeing the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and United States Constitution. Unfortunately, due to flash and glare, we were unable to take pictures of the historic documents.
After an amazing 6 days, we said a final farewell to the United States and began the long journey home.
A trip to remember
I have taken a lot from the trip – having come from a working-class family, I’ve not previously had this kind of opportunity due to funding. I am honoured to have been selected, and to have the chance to represent the Buxton Campus! Meeting new people and discovering new sights with them was an experience I will remember for many years to come. The itinerary was jam-packed, but I couldn’t have wished for anything more as I’ve gained wider cultural knowledge and can see my personal attributes developing in ways I never thought would happen.
- Go for all you desire and do not let negativity rule your actions
- Be confident in knowing that great opportunities are out there, no matter what background you come from
- Be yourself in all instances, keeping an open mind to other ways of living
- Lastly … apply for a place on the International Travel Awards