Studying Abroad in Manhattan

Su Ji L, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Fordham University (Semester 2, 2016)

FORDHAM UNIVERSITY

Upon being accepted into Fordham, there were many choices to be made. Where would I study? Where would I live? I chose to live and study at the Lincoln Centre campus (Manhattan), over the Rose Hill (Bronx) campus as it seemed much more fitting with my area of study (Visual Arts). It just made more sense to live and study in one of the most active and vibrant art communities in the world, with access to some of the world’s best galleries and museums. While the campus is much smaller, taking up a little over a single block in Manhattan, the sense of family was the greatest I had ever felt in any educational institution. People and facilities were always close by and easily accessible when needed! Living on campus enabled me to experience the American “campus culture” I had heard so much about. I was accommodated in a spacious apartment with three other exchange students from Colombia, Korea and Mexico. Sharing a room with my Colombian roommate, Luisa, enabled me to form a sisterly bond in which we learned so much about each other’s cultures and about ourselves. The smaller class sizes and campus events also enabled us to be active members of the Fordham community and enjoy new friends and experiences. Joining student clubs and alliances at Fordham was one of the best decisions I ever made here as it gave me a group of diverse but like-minded people to call family overseas.

HOST COUNTRY

While I love Australia for its diversity, I will never forget just how much the diversity of Manhattan took me by surprise. People of every race, religion, gender, sexuality, walk of life are gathered in a place that encourages them to be the best they can be but to also fearlessly be themselves. I remember  it hitting me full force one day when I asked my roommate if it would look weird for me to wear a certain pair of stockings, to which she replied, “Susie, look around you. Someone’s always weirder here.” It was true and it quickly became what I loved most about where I had gone for exchange.

That being said, it’s also well known that Manhattan is one of the most expensive cities for living and travel in the world. There are even differences in grocery prices when compared to other boroughs in New York, such as Brooklyn or Queens. Fellow students often share the cheapest places for groceries or entertainment. If it weren’t for classmates, I wouldn’t have thought of saving up small funds for buying Christmas gifts for friends that invited me to their homes for the holidays. However, I was still able to enjoy myself while learning to effectively budget.

The sheer amount and variety of events occurring in New York can almost be overwhelming. Prices will often vary, but many don’t require big spending and are even free or pay-what-you-want. I found myself attending events I never would have imagined, such as a Bill Murray bartending evening; a Halloween dog costume parade; and a variety of rock concerts I had been struggling to catch in Brisbane! Living in a city that’s the centre of the art, music, theatre, fashion and hospitality industries really opened up the range of experiences I was able to enjoy!HIGHLIGHTS AND ADVICE

Be open and willing to have a life-changing experience. Put in the effort to go out, make friends, set and achieve personal, professional and educational goals. While living in a nation of strangers that share a different culture or even language from you can be daunting, but stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do for yourself and your exchange experience. This is the best chance to be the best you can be.

Life at University of South Carolina

Aleksa M, Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries

South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

An exchange semester in America had been a goal of mine ever since I started university. When I received my confirmation letter from the University of South Carolina I was ecstatic as I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime. And I wasn’t let down. USC’s beautiful campus gave off the perfect first impression, a lush green campus filled with beautiful gardens and all the amenities one could hope for. Included in these is a world class gym, complete with squash courts and a rock climbing wall. My assigned dorm room was small but relatively modern with a nice kitchen, living area and, of course, great room and floor mates. My first and only real shock came during the first week of classes when it was explained that class attendance is mandatory at all classes. Depending on subjects you get 3-5 absences which are marked and further absences may result in a penalty to your final grades. The subjects at USC were similarly taught to those at QUT however the American units appear to be more exam heavy.

The cost of living in America is fairly similar compared to Australia as far as cost of food and entertainment is concerned. The cost of accommodation was really the only downside of this trip, as it is compulsory for exchange students to stay in American dorms there is no option to seek alternatives. However, the upside to staying in the dorms is meeting other local and international students. In any case the money spent on accommodation and food can be easily re-couped through the money saved on alcohol. America (particularly the south) has some of the cheapest alcohol you will ever see and an incredible variety of craft beer. In Columbia, the first place you will learn about is 5-points. 5-points is a small block of multiple bars many of which serve drinks for $1, beers, spirits you name it. Prices vary but the most you will pay for a drink on any given night will be $3. The true college experience.During my time in America I got to experience a beaming new culture. In particular, a major highlight for me was the football season. In the south, football is a religion. For me, the Saturdays and Sundays spent tailgating were the best part of the trip. I am a huge football fan and the culture of American football fans is unlike no other. The stadium atmosphere is intense and definitely something to experience. The USC stadium was sold out almost every game however all students are more or less guaranteed a ticket through the student lottery system. I also enjoyed the ease of travelling through America through cheap flights and rent-a-cars. Spur of the moment decisions like a weekend road trip to New Orleans or booking a last minute budget flight to San-Francisco are always on the cards. Quite possibly the most beautiful part of America is the distinctive culture and experience each city gives off. It’s almost as though you are entering a new country. My exchange semester in America was the experience of a lifetime. However, the best and integral part of the experience was the amazing people I met, many of whom I’m still in close contact with and will remain friends for life.  In short, I couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend my semester abroad. GO COCKS!!

A few reasons to head to Michigan this winter

Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, United States

Why here?: Great spread of summer (Australian winter) short-term programs, student town, football games, on-campus living

Michigan State University has been around for about 150 years and is the centrepiece of East Lansing, USA. The whole town rallies around the university and their much beloved Spartans football and basketball teams. MSU is one of the top 100 universities in the world and is a leading research university.

To make the most of the experienced and knowledgeable staff at MSU, why not partake in a short-term study experience this summer available to all faculties. If you’re an Engineering, Creative Industries, Business, Law or Education student, in particular, then check out the Global Portal for all short-term exchange options to MSU. There are a wide range of options including:

The campus encompasses around 5,200 acres of land and includes 27 residential buildings, 10 on-campus dining halls, 4 indoor fitness facilities, 2 golf courses, and of course Spartan Stadium which holds 75,000 people. You will also have the opportunity to attend concerts, shows, theatre and museums across campus.

East Lansing is easily accessible from Detroit by a short bus ride on the Michigan Flyer. Chicago and Toronto and Niagara Falls in Canada are driving distance from the university.

QUT students Hayley and Emma attending a Spartans Football game

So why not don the green and white and cheer the Spartans on?

10 things I love about SUNY Oswego

SUNY Oswego has really stolen my heart, to the point where I have now extended my exchange for another semester! I never expected to fall in love with a town in the middle of upstate New York but somehow I am the happiest I have ever been. I am so beyond thankful for the experiences I have had so far and look forward to the memories to come. Here I share the top 10 things I love about my school!

1. The lake: SUNY Oswego sits right on Lake Ontario which separates the United States from Canada. Here you will find some of the most breathtaking sunsets you will have ever experienced. During the beginning of the fall semester (August) I would bring my homework to the lake and soak in the sun for hours after my classes were done for the day. It’s a great place to hang out with friends, take a dip in the water and just simply relax!

2. Food: If you read my last blog post, you’ll understand how much I love the dining halls here at SUNY Oswego. My personal favourites are the unlimited ice cream parlours, made-to-order pizza and chocolate milk on tap. You’ll never be disappointed with what’s on offer amongst the five dining halls across campus. If that’s not enough to satisfy you there’s also a variety of cafes you can choose from and use your ‘dining dollars’. If you’re eating off campus I highly recommend trying Sub shop, Wonzone’s Calzones and Dino’s!

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3. Snow: November 21, 2016 marked the very first day I saw snow! Coming from the sunny Gold Coast, snow is not a common sighting so this day was super special! The fact I had never seen snow really excited and shockedsome of my friends.  I made a snowman, snow angel and even had a snowball fight. Another great thing about snow is snow days! We were blessed with a snow day due to the wild wind and snow covered roads.

4. The social aspect: There is literally always something to do. Unlike QUT, SUNY Oswego prides itself on student involvement and always has something fun on. Whether it be hockey games, bonfires or concerts there’s always an opportunity to socialize! During the first few weeks of the semester there is almost something on every single day; you’ll find free fairy floss, pretzels, snow cones, therapy dogs and fun activities like photo booths, build-a-bear and even bull riding!

5. Location: I know what you’re thinking.. How can Oswego be a great location? You’d be surprised! Although Oswego is approximately five hours from New York City, we are so close to little treasures unable to be found anywhere else in the world. We’re just a short drive from some beautiful national parks, Niagra Falls and the Canadian border for those interested in venturing up north! Close by there is Ontario Orchards, the Bluffs and Bevs Ice Cream just to name a few. Oswego town and Syracuse also offers some cute stores and eateries.

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6. My dorm room: I originally lived in Scales Hall, one of the older buildings on campus but transferred to Onondaga Hall due to my decision to stay an additional semester (and Scales was closing for renovations in the spring). I now live in a suite on the tenth floor (a suite generally has three bedrooms with six people living in the room). The six suite mates share a lounge room and bathroom, which I much prefer over my original accommodation. My room also has a stunning view of the lake, and my new room mate is one of my very best friends! Another great thing about Onondaga (commonly referred to as Daga) is that there is a gym, dining hall and computer lab located in the basement.

7. Classes: I’m not going to lie, classes here are far easier than those at home. I’m a straight A student here at Oswego, and I can assure you I am far from that at home. Although classes are compulsory and participation is included within your final grade I really enjoy the teaching style here.

8. Extra curricular activities: There is seriously something for everyone on campus! I urge all new students to go to student involvement fair and sign up for anything that interests you! It’s a great way to put yourself out there and make a bunch of new friends outside of classes. I initially was apart of the dance club and soccer team before joining my sorority.

9. People: Everyone I come in contact with on campus is always friendly and goes out of their way to either hold the door open or greet me with a smile. Not once have I felt homesick during my time here, everyone goes out of their way to make me feel right at home.

10. Sigma Delta Tau: My home away from home. Sigma Delta Tau is one of four national sororities on campus. I was lucky enough to join this sisterhood during the fall 16 semester, and can honestly say it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I now have 45 beautiful new best friends and memories to last a lifetime. These girls continue to shower with me with love and support and I could not be more grateful for them taking me in and making me always feel so at home.

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The Beta Theta’s of Sigma Delta Tau!

Please email me (bellajackson@hotmail.com.au) If you have any questions at all about SUNY Oswego or studying abroad in general. I’m more than happy to help! You can also follow me on Instagram (@bellajackson) to keep up with my adventures.

7 American Holiday Traditions

The luckiest part about arriving in the United States for a semester at the end of their summer is being able to experience almost all of their seasons. With the seasons, of course, come the celebration of holidays and the traditions that go along with it. As such, I have made a list of 7 very American holiday traditions that I have noticed during my time at Michigan State University.

1. Fall Decorations
In Brisbane, we don’t see many leaves “fall” at all. In Michigan, it is a whole different story – when I arrived, the trees were a beautiful green. Within a few months, they began to change to beautiful shades of orange, yellow and red. With this comes the celebration of the fall season – including fall wreaths on doors as early as August, many pumpkins and also Halloween decorations.

2. Fall Food
With the fall decorations, there are also an array of food offered in stores and cafeterias alike. In fact, it may as well be retitled “Apples vs Pumpkins” as you will not turn right without seeing an apple pie or a pumpkin spiced latte.

3. Halloween
If you think you have seen any sort of Halloween celebration growing up in Australia, you need to think again. With Halloween falling on a Monday this year, celebrations began the Thursday before, with some sort of party/celebration occurring each night until 31 October. This also taught me that it is possible to creatively whip up 5 different costumes at very short notice!

4. Thanksgiving
My first real thanksgiving is yet to occur in the following few days. From what I can tell, American families are beautiful and welcoming, especially to young international students they are newly friends with. Stay tuned for an update on the dinner!

5. Door Decorations
From Halloween, to Thanksgiving, and coming up to Christmas, the students in the dorm LOVE to get around celebrating the seasons on their dorm room doors. Halloween saw an array of spider webs, spiders, pumpkins and even baskets of ‘candy’ to share with fellow students. As Thanksgiving approaches, I have seen some Fall/Thanksgiving decorations with many happy wishes on the students’ exterior whiteboards. As we are also getting closer to Christmas there have been Christmas decorations slowly appearing on the doors (my own included – see below).

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6. Ugly Christmas Sweaters
E
xperiencing seasons on the other side of the world means that Christmas is of course in winter. With winter comes jumpers, and naturally, with Christmas means ugly Christmas jumpers. Again, see above myself getting into this traditional seasonal trend.

7. Christmas Lights
Another one of the many incredible things of living on a huge campus is watching it light up at night with snow flakes, stars, Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Both externally on top of campus buildings and internally in the dorm rooms and homes there have been an abundance of lights put up recently and it looks absolutely beautiful.

I look forward to seeing what my final months bring and if there are anymore surprising/extravagant holiday traditions to come. Until next time!

 

Friends for Life at San Jose State University

Charlie: San Jose State University, California, USA – Semester 1, 2016

Hi! I’m Charlie Shaw-Feather and I am studying a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Computer and Software Systems. I studied at San Jose State University (SJSU) for the spring semester, 2016.

As I am writing this I am on my way back to San Jose for a holiday to catch up with the friends that I made and the relationships I hope to last a lifetime.

Whilst on exchange I stayed at SJSU’s International house. This was a college owned house situated just off campus for international students, welcoming students from all countries. This formed an integral foundation for the time that I spent in San Jose. They hosted a plethora of different activities and events to engage students allowing them to get out of their comfort zone. When I stayed there was a little over 60 residents, about 12 of which were from the US.

I set out on exchange to experience as much of American college culture as I could and what better way than to join a fraternity. The colleges orientation week coincides with ‘rush week’ which is the time that fraternities and sororities seek new members. ‘Friends for life’; is one of the mottos that is prevalent throughout the Greek (fraternity/sorority) community and it is most certainly true.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

 

The whole community is very accepting and it is an extremely rewarding experience. One of the great parts about being in a fraternity is the philanthropic events. For example, Kappa Sigma, the fraternity that I am a member of hosts a series of events each semester to support military veterans.

When planning my finances for my travels I had to not only account for my student exchange but I also had to plan for my short term program before hand as well; I was overseas for 8 months in total. QUT has plenty of different support systems for students including OS-HELP loans and bursaries. Without QUT’s support I would not have been able to experience as much of American culture as I did.

When paying for living expenses one of the reasons that I chose to stay at I-House was that they offered a meal plan. This meal plan was for 7 days a week with extra dining credits to spend on campus restaurants outside of the dining hall. It should be noted that the food was nothing to call home about, other than to complain…

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange Programs, click here!

7 Questions from Americans

There is no question that there are many cultural differences between Australians and Americans. Being the complete other side of the world from on another, we experience different climates, holidays, and ultimately very different lives.

I have been in the United States for just under a month now, and have met a countless number of young American men and women in my time living at Michigan State University. In my time here thus far, I have come to find that nothing lights up the eyes of an American college student like hearing the sweet sound of an Australian accent.

After they get over the initial shock of being in the presence of someone who truly is from the land down under, the questions start coming. As a result, I have compiled a list of seven of the more humourous questions that have been asked of me in the past month:

1: Where is your accent from?
You never truly notice your native accent until you are placed in a completely different environment. I have been in elevators, Uber rides, classes, shops and restaurants where people are quite visibly astonished (and most of the time fascinated)  by the way that us Australians speak. I’ve turned it into somewhat of a game, where when asked this question I let them guess first, and have had many responses ranging from England to Germany, and Turkey to Mars.

2: Sorry, what did you say?
Often the other Australian exchange students and myself have found that we need to repeat ourselves in order for people to understand what we are saying. Whether its a “Hey, how’s it garn” to “Can I please have a water?”, many Americans struggle with understanding our accent. But both parties in the conversation end up laughing about it – it’s all fun and games.

3: Want to throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate?
To this one I always use a canned response – “We call them prawns, not shrimp.”

4: Do you know Flume?
From the very first house party (of which there are many) that I have attended so far, a lot of American students have asked if we know Flume. Whether they meant personally or his music I am still not sure, but that is a frequent question that I and the other Aussies abroad often get asked.

5: Have you tried (Taco Bell/Chipotle/Conrads)?
Americans are very fond of their token fast food chains. In answering this question, I have to admit that all of the above are incredible foods for the early hours of the morning after a night out, but I would question their quality at any other time of day.

6: Have you seen snow?
Personally I haven’t seen real snow before, which gets most Americans rather excited. Being in Michigan, I often get the warning that I am “in for a real treat” with a cold Michigan winter.

7: Do you celebrate Christmas?
I saved my favourite question until last. It is hard to say why this question amused me so much, and for them to think we are too far removed from the rest of the world to know about Christmas. In their defense, this question came soon after me admitting we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but it has nonetheless been my favourite question to date.

There is a real difference between our cultures, but at the end of the day the Australian-American interaction is an educational, hilarious, and absolutely amazing one. I honestly can’t wait to see what they have to ask next.

Until next time!

The Best of Exchange at RPI

Finances: I budgeted way under what I actually needed. I didn’t take into account the fact that the dollar was so bad, I lost almost half of my money due to the exchange rate. When I went to pay my tuition it ended being a lot more expensive because the dollar dropped. I definitely think students needs to save for at least 6 months in advance. I did however go over there a month early and live in NYC and stayed 3 months longer to travel. If I was just over there for the semester period I would’ve had enough money. The cost of living in Upstate New York is pretty reasonable, but in the US it all depends on where you live. NYC is extremely expensive, not only for living but just everything in general. Los Angeles is a bit cheaper depending on which part you live in but in general I find Brisbane is a lot cheaper. I did find that alcohol is very cheap over there though and the food portions are just massive, you definitely get your money’s worth.

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 Challenges: I didn’t have any culture shock, America is pretty similar to Australia. It was weird being so ‘fascinating’ to everyone over there. I don’t know how many times people just stared at me in shock while I talked and when I stopped they’d tell me to keep going. They love Aussie’s over there which is kinda cool because you’re treated like you’re really important or something! Safety wise I just made sure I didn’t put myself into any dangerous situations, which I do anywhere I go. I also took out Gold Insurance with InsurenGo so I was covered for basically everything. The only challenge I experience was with my friend Gemma on a flight from Miami to LA, mid-flight the plane filled with smoke and there was apparently an issue with the right engine. We had to make an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere in Texas and sit in a dodgy airport for 6 hours until a new plane came. Then when we went to take off the luggage was apparently too heavy so we had to go back to the gate and then the bag scanner broke so they had to count the bags manually. It was just a disaster. We ended up sitting on the plane for 4 hours running out of water and there was no food to serve us. We ended up getting to LA 12 hours delayed at 4.30am. It was December 23rd so we missed a lot of Christmas plans and so did a lot of other people which caused some issues on the plane.

Tips: I advise anyone going over there to never book a flight with American Airlines, they were the airline we flew with when we had the 12 hour delay. They refused to put us up in a hotel in LA until the next morning when we were able to get a bus to central California and they refused to reimburse us for any of the delays. We ended up having to pay for a $400 Uber to the place we were going to. Other than that I had no issues with flights or anything. I will say this also, if you’re looking to hire a car and are under 25 ensure you have a credit card, because they wont let you hire a car if you’re under 25 and don’t have a credit card. One must have on exchange is a working phone because you will get lost sometimes and need to have a GPS to figure out where you are and where you need to go. And also a backpack, because when travelling it is so easy to throw it on your back with all your valuables in it and not worry if its going to go missing on a flight or if someone is going to go through it.

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Benefits: I absolutely loved Exchange, I met so many amazing people and have made lifelong friends. It’s just an awesome experience, you get to travel a new country, experience college life outside of Australia and you just grow as a person. I just feel like I’m more open-minded now and unfortunately for my bank account I have the travel bug now. It is just basically 4 months of fun and if you stay longer than it is even more fun. I would 100% go again if I had the opportunity.

 

An American Experience

Impressions

I chose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) purely because it was the closest school to NYC that QUT had a partnership with, I also got rejected from my first two preferences and was told I had a good chance of getting accepted at RPI. When I arrived at the school I was just so excited, the school isn’t as big as the state schools in the US but compared to Australian universities it was huge and beautiful. The grounds were so well maintained and the buildings were big and beautiful. RPI is a top private Engineering school so a lot of work is put into keeping the school looking respectful.

Location

RPI was in a city called Troy which is located in Upstate New York, about 2 hours from NYC. The city itself is located on the Hudson River but isn’t that great, there is not a lot to do and it can be quite dangerous at times as it has low socioeconomic status. RPI campus is safe though, I never had any issues on campus. I loved studying in the US, the college experience is just so different to Australia with the fraternities and sororities. Most people live on campus so it’s basically like living with all your friends 24/7, if you’re not in class you’re at the student union hanging out with everyone. I also had a lot of places in the US that I wanted to visit, NYC being one of them so I loved that I could travel and see all these places I’ve only ever dreamt of seeing.

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Accommodation

I stayed in Blitman Commons sharing with another girl. It is the newest building on campus, it used to be a Holiday Inn. It is very modern and my room was a good size, we had our own bathroom which most of the other dorms don’t have. I loved Blitman but I found it was a bit far from the rest of campus, it is right down the hill near downtown Troy, so whenever I had class or was meeting friends up on campus I had quite a walk to do. I didn’t mind as it was basically the only exercise I got over there but it didn’t get annoying sometimes at night or when it was freezing cold. Blitman has everything you need, it’s four stories and each level has a big laundry with plenty of washers and dryers, it has its own dining hall and its own big study room with a heap of tables, chairs, lounges and televisions.

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Academics

During my exchange I just studied four random subjects as RPI didn’t offer too many that were relevant to Media and Communications. I did Visual Literacy, Character and Story For Games, User-Centred Design and Advertising and Culture. I enjoyed most of them, I found them really easy as the school is so focused on Science and Engineering that they kind of neglect to challenge anyone doing other subjects. Wasn’t complaining though as it gave me more time to do fun things. It was all in English so I had no issues learning the curriculum.  

Strengths

As stated previously, RPI is well known for its Engineering. It is number 4 in the United States for Engineering and is extremely expensive. A years tuition is more expensive than a year at Harvard. I never understood how but it is a highly regarded school. I met a lot of people who had offers from schools like Harvard and Stanford but turned them down for RPI because it is so highly respected for Engineering.

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The best of South Carolina

Strengths

I truly believe USC was the best school I could have chosen in the States. Yes, its campus is beautiful, its academics are excellent and the exchange staff are super helpful… but I think what really makes it the best, is its student culture. As with many of the southern schools, the Greek life (fraternities and sororities) is huge (about 30% of girls at USC are members). Unfortunately exchange students only staying a semester can’t join, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still attend their events and get to feel a part of it too. I specifically chose to go on exchange in the fall semester as I wanted to experience Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in America and because I knew how crazy Americans are about their football.  Even though I never cared a bit about sports, I wanted to witness their football season. I really could not prepare for how much I would love that aspect of the school. Even though the team did badly, USC’s strong school pride never wavered. Rain or shine, the atmosphere on campus and even throughout the city would change leading up to a game day. Everyone got very dressed up, wore the colours and no matter what time the game started everyone would be up early (often 8am or earlier) celebrating and tailgating; which would then often continue right through midnight. Halloween, as I think can be expected across America, was also insane, at USC it lasts a week. Students went out almost every night in a different costume. Again, just the student’s energy, spirit and comradery was so contagious and uplifting. For students who are going in the spring semester don’t worry about missing out on all the above though. USC students have this enthusiasm for all events, and there are plenty in spring (which I wish I could have experienced) like the Carolina Cup, river tubing, and Baseball.pic 1

 

Challenges

I was very fortunate to find great groups of friends early on (although I don’t think this is too hard at USC, given all the societies you can join and the exchange student events the school organises in your first weeks). This meant the hardest thing I had to adjust to was having so much free time (not having a job, a commute to uni, or family to spend time with). However, I never struggled to find things to do in this free time. Before I left, and throughout my trip, I was asked a lot if I would get very homesick being alone. Honestly though, I didn’t really. With technology, it was easy to keep up emotional contact with my family and friends and yes, you may miss out on events, but for me anyway, everything stayed much the same at home. When I came home, it was like I had never left. However, what I did not expect or prepare for at all was the anxiety I would feel about the experience ending. What I found really helped with this was making plans with friends to travel around the country after semester ended. It worked as a great distracter and transition back into home life.

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Finances

Finances were one thing I did struggle with however. I budgeted the recommended $10, 000, and I would have been able to survive on this simply staying the semester. However, I went to Florida, Atlanta, Charleston and Myrtle Beach during semester and then travelled for 2 months afterwards. This meant I went well over my original plan.  Travelling around the country did however really show me how lucky I was living in the South. The cost of living is much cheaper than here with meals under $10 and drinks at a bar often being as low as a dollar. I found being at school was the easiest part of my trip to budget for, as I went on a USC meal plan, and you have to pay for accommodation upfront. For my whole trip I just used my Commonwealth travel money card and never had a problem with it. That being said, I used cash a large amount of the time, as places often require it.

Tips

-Bring a sheet & towel. It takes the pressure of needing to go shopping straight away, it will give you a little more space in your suitcase at the end of your trip, and makes you feel at home straight away.

-Also bring something to decorate your room e.g. photos,

-Do as much as possible in the first weeks. The stalls, sign up events and even students exuberance of wanting to meet people and make friends dies off as classes get settled in.

-Go to class. It’s actually fun and social if you put yourself out there.

-The majority of US students who live in dorms are freshman and sophomore (17-19). Older students live off campus.

-Say yes to every opportunity but also go out of your way to make the most of it –approach people, don’t wait for them to invite you out etc.

-Budget more than you think you need… and then a little more than that again. So you can make the most of being there and say yes to any opportunity that comes up – like flying to Vegas with friends for their graduation celebration.

-Remember that even though Americans are very similar to Australians it’s still a different culture and you need to be sensitive to that and appreciate it for what it is.pic 2

 

Benefits

For me, being on exchange, particularly in America, made me much more outgoing and so confident. Not only with meeting and socialising with new people, but with all kinds of things, being on my own, adjusting to new situations, thinking on my feet and being confident in who I am as a person, my abilities and my independence. My favourite take away however, would have to be the life long bonds I made and that fact that I now feel like I will always have a home away from home in the US.

I would recommend the Student Exchange Program for these exact reasons. It really is a once in a lifetime experience, where you grow and learn so much so fast. It is perhaps the one time in your life where you are completely independent and free to be who you want to be and do what you want to do (within a protected and fun environment). And, there is definitely no other time in your life where you can get the true American college experience.

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