Culinary Arts student, Beth Murphy tells us about her experience moving to and working in Providence, Rhode Island on the East Coast of America
"It was in Providence I found myself again"
So it's been a while since I've written on here and I don't know where to begin. Suppose I should start with how much I love it here! I can't put it into words how happy I am to be here and how I wish I could stay here instead of returning to WIT for my final year (no offence you guys). I was so lost and heartbroken when I first left the city of Waterford to start my journey up in Belfast way back in October 2017. Leaving the Culloden Estate and Spa I was in a better place than where I had started but still not feeling like myself. I was so eager and excited to get started on my American dream.
The transition from home to abroad
I still remember the day I flew out so well. February 26th, my aunt Sarah and my amazing Mam (who has helped me greatly on this very costly year on placement) dropped me off at the airport. All I'll say guys is work hard for the summer and save like a trooper!! This is a very expensive year. Especially if you wanna have a little fun. I know I'm going off track, but I feel this is an important time to throw in that I think having work placement first is the correct order placement should be in. You can work, get a valuable experience and continue to save up for your travels.
Personally, I find this semester wayyyyyyy more fun than the first. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed my time at the Culloden and made some friends for life, however this experience is beyond amazing. Another reason I am so glad that we had done work placement before study abroad is because going up to Northern Ireland really helped me in the process of being away from home.
I am delighted I had a slow transition and didn't just jump on a plane 3,000 thousand miles away. I used to find myself ringing home a lot in the first few weeks of work placement. Here I would've found that a lot more difficult. It is only a 5-hour time difference, but you'd be surprised when you take 5 classes that are very intense and are 7-hour sessions long you don't find the time to call home. Never mind the correct time to call home! I am always in class when it's time to call my family so normally don't get the opportunity. Weekends are usually the days I update them on my amazing adventures.
Arriving in the States
Now for some tips before arriving in the states. So be prepared on the first night you arrive there is absolutely nothing in your dorm room. Except for a mattress, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers. I slept the first night with no pillow and no blanket. Luckily there are trips to Walmart in the first week you arrive but be warned you spend a lot here. As you need to buy a pillow, a duvet, sheets, a lamp, hangers for clothes and coats, shampoo, bathing essentials, toilet roll etc. Again money, money, money, so save like crazy guys. I spent 200 dollars in Walmart for my bare necessities.
Think barging hunter
I also suggest buying what you can to make you last for a good while as it is the cheapest shop around Providence for all this. There is an Aldi that’s a 35-minute walk away but even still it is nothing like it is at home and not nearly as cheap. So really take advantage of these trips to Walmart. I am still using shampoo that I bought from there as I bought an industrial sized bottle on purpose!! It is not possible to walk there unless you want to walk 6.4 miles. You can take an Uber but it is 20 dollars one way.
Speaking of Ubers. Do not take a taxi anywhere!!! When I first arrived in Providence TF Green airport the JWU free shuttle did not show up. We waited 45 minutes and there was no sign. So, some Spanish students and I had no choice but to take taxis to campus. I was unaware that Uber and Lyft existed, (Get the free app on your phone guys). I stupidly got in a taxi and he charged me 45 dollars for a 5-minute car ride. Now if I do need lifts anywhere I always use Uber (Lyft is the same thing but isn't as good and is normally dearer).
It’s worth every penny
Don't let the fact that it's costly scare you off. 1) Lorain had warned us since before we even started the course that 3rd year was expensive and 2) If you go anywhere outside Europe it is expensive, but you have to remember it is beyond worth it. The life experience and the education you are receiving is phenomenal. The equipment in these kitchens guys are mind-blowing. Between spice grinders and 4 blast freezers in every classroom, the list is endless.
To be honest I've gone blank trying to remember it all. All I'll say is you guys need to come here and experience it for yourself, so you too can have writers block trying to remember the endless amount of facilities that JWU supply you with. In reference to the meal plan, I suggest going for 14 meals. I myself have 14 meals. 14 is more than enough as 1) we're chefs and generally, you are in PM labs until 8pm at night so are always fed. 2) Sometimes you don't even get the opportunity to eat, as horrible as that sounds you don't starve because again you are in labs and are fed. So there is no point paying extra for 18 meals when you barely use up 14. Finally, 3) because if you get 18 meals you only receive 100 flex dollars (yes we get a bonus of flex dollars in our meal payment) where as if you get 14 meals you get 200 flex dollars.
Flex dollars – College currency
I was delighted when I arrived during spring break and by asking questions about was it possible to put money on our student card I found out it already has flex dollars on it. The amount depending on which meal plan you picked. Your flex dollars are super handy as they can be used in all the dining halls on campus, the stores on campus and all 3 Starbucks that are on campus. Be careful though, you may think 200 is a lot but you'd be surprised how quick you'll fly through it. Luckily, I still have 60 dollars left. I think I may have a Starbucks addiction now though.....oops.
The classes here are really amazing I am learning so so so much. It's crazy how different the system here is though. Their rules are very very strict, and a lot of the chefs are like a double of Gordon Ramsey x10. It is not for the faint-hearted. I suggest googling American terms for kitchen equipment and ingredients in American terms eg. Rocket is Arugula. I wish I had, as my first set of classes was a bit difficult to keep up to speed when a chef is shouting for a 6 pan and you have no clue what that is! They don't have time to show you, so if you are interested in the States do your homework before you arrive.
Sanitation systems too are very strict here. It is not your own separate area of the kitchen where you clean up your own mess. It is a big area called the dish pit with a wash-up sink, rinse sink, and a sink full of sanitiser which you leave the equipment in for a whole two minutes before drying and putting away. The system for cleaning the floors is amazing. So first you brush up the dirt. Then you throw hot soapy water all over the floor. Basically, make a massive puddle. Get a brush and brush it into the floor to remove all the dirt. Then you get a squeegee and swipe all the liquid into the floor drains. Then clean out the floor drains with hot water and paper roll. (No such thing as blue roll in JWU Providence kitchens). Majority of the other students have never even heard of it.
They also prepare all dishes wearing plastic gloves. You can't touch certain foods without wearing gloves. There's the one chopping board used for everything in the JWU kitchens which I don't like! How can you fillet a fish and break down a whole chicken on the same board?? Even if you do wash it. Washing countertops and tables are very strict also. You first sanitise the surface, wash with hot water that’s above 75 degrees and then use a table squeegee to dry it off.
Another tip is to study temperatures in Fahrenheit before you come here as it's on a lot of exams and they only use Fahrenheit here. For cooked meats and fish, fridges and freezers, doughs and the weather. I am learning so much about how European kitchens work and how the American kitchen differs. It's really is a life skill that I will keep in my future career as a chef.
Take a chance
So finally, to end. I am going to explain why I titled this blog "It was in Providence I found myself again". As I explained at the start of this blog I wasn't in the best place leaving Waterford and not much better leaving Belfast, but living here has left me to grow up, become independent and realise life is so precious and should not be taken for granted.
There are so many amazing places to see, people to meet, so why sit around and weep when you could be living the best life you can have. I had lost myself last summer, I didn’t know who I was anymore. This 3rd year finally getting out of the city of Waterford has left me to grow, explore and find myself again. The happy, kind and determined Beth that my friends and family know and love, but most importantly who I know and love.
Feels so amazing to be at peace with myself again. Look forward to it guys, wish I was in your shoes and only about to start my journey instead of it coming to an end. Make every second count!! Suppose it's not entirely over. Summer 2018, Disney World Orlando here I come!!!!!!!
By Beth Murphy
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