Maddy Morwood, Bachelor of Mass Communication
San Jose State University, USA (Semester 1, 2018)
To me, the idea of exchange has always seemed so exciting and special. I had imaged myself attending university in London, and had some friends who had chosen to go there and loved it. But as I was doing my application, the idea of sunny California and the American college life jumped into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided, fairly last minute (the way I do everything) to apply for California State colleges. I was lucky enough to get my top preference, San Jose State, and I had the greatest time and met some of the best people in the world.
Pre-trip, there was a lot to organise. I would advise everyone going to America to start planning your visa months in advance, as I left it pretty late and had a few close calls. I actually flew to Sydney for my visa, realised I forgotten an important form, had to fly home to retrieve it and then back again in the same day. I did a lot of research surrounding the living situation, and ended up deciding to live on campus in the CVB buildings. I know a few people who opted to rent in houses in the college town near the university, which I have heard rave reviews about. However, CVB was much more practical and easy.
Before I arrived in San Jose, I reached out to the two other students from QUT attending SJSU and we arranged to meet on the first day. I was really happy I did this, as it made navigating the first few so much easier. We helped each other find the grocery store and purchase bedding and everything else we needed. At the exchange meeting was where I met the rest of my friends – from Ireland, Scotland and England. Although I told myself to try and meet American friends, it’s basically inevitable that you will end up in a group of friends from exchange. I did eventually meet some American friends who I loved. Joining a sports team was definitely a great way to meet people; although I didn’t join a team myself.
The SJSU campus is a place I will never forget and hold close to my heart forever. It was one of the most beautiful, scenic places I have ever been – surrounded by tall palm trees everywhere. I loved it so much I would have a nap on the lawn somewhere every Monday and Wednesday morning after my 9am class. The classes in America were also so much different to here and they were compulsory but with no lectures. Instead, every subject met twice a week and nothing was recorded online. The course work itself was ridiculously easy, but I struggled going from watching lectures online in bed to attending 8 classes a week. By the end of the semester I liked it though, because you form such a great bond with your professors. I took a journalism editing class (nothing is offered like it here at QUT) and enjoyed it so much.
Staying in the Bay area of California turned out to be such a great location. Every weekend we would take trips to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and explored the tech region of the Silicon Valley. San Francisco was my absolute favourite place to visit, and the $7 train got us there from San Jose in an hour. We went to the SF baseball stadium to watch the Giants, explored Castro, Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf and the best place to shop, Haight St. We watched the Lakers vs the Kings in a NBA game in Sacramento, and we drove past Mark Zuckerberg’s house. We also had a weekend away at Yosemite National park, and a huge group of us rented a little cottage in the woods. This was one of my favourite weekends of my entire exchange.
Although I knew little about American sports before I arrived, I attended a San Jose Sharks NHL game and fell in love. We were living just a 10 minute walk from the San Jose ice hockey rink so we would walk to the stadium before the games, along with half of the city of San Jose. It was such a great atmosphere and the games were fast-paced and fun. A friend and I even splashed out on a ticket to a playoff game, where we saw the Sharks win the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a 4-0 game sweep against the Ducks. Walking home in our jerseys yelling team chants with the rest of the city is definitely up there in my favourite nights of my exchange.
Saying goodbye to San Jose was really difficult as it had slowly become home for me. I had become so used to the college lifestyle, and having all my friends living in the same building. I had the best 6 months of my life and San Jose will always have a place in my heart.