The Twin Cities!!

Eliza Blanch, Bachelor of Business (International)
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

I didn’t originally choose the University of Minnesota but as I was unable to go to my first choice, it seemed like the next best fit. The campus is huge and a little overwhelming at first but you soon find your way around and meet new people, making it the new normal. Everything about the school is a lot like you see in the movies. With sporting matches where everyone gets involved and college traditions, such as homecoming, it’s something that you may have never experienced before.

The university is located right near the city centre of Minneapolis. It is a quiet, nice town which I believed was great for a college student. This was especially for business students as there are many Fortune 500 companies who base themselves in Minneapolis and the school gives you a lot of opportunities to learn about what they do.

Although QUT and the University of Minnesota are both located in the city, due to their size they have completely different teaching styles. This is because you will attend two classes a week for the same subject which are a mixture of tutorials and lectures. You will also do a lot of compulsory homework for these classes but this was a good way to remember what you were learning.

The university had many strengths especially with the business school as it is highly regarded and well known in the country. Also, the exchange group that they have for business students is a great way to meet fellow exchange students and Americans.

During my stay, I stayed in off-campus housing where a lot of American college students stayed as it was cheaper than what the university offered and had better facilities. The facilities included my own room and bathroom, a desk, a swimming pool, gym and basketball court.For the year, I saved over $25,000 and tried my best to stick to a budget of around $1,500 a month. I would say that the cost in comparison to Brisbane would just be a little bit cheaper. However, it was very hard to stick to the budget because there are so many activities that you can do but they do cost money and sometimes it was easier to eat out. Whilst away I used a commonwealth travel card for most of my transactions but opened an American bank account to pay my rent as I was charged a service fee for using a foreign card.

I didn’t experience much of a culture shock due to the similarities between our two countries. But to ensure my safety whilst over there I made sure I didn’t put myself into dangerous situations and if out late at night made sure I always walked home with someone.

Some tips that I would give is to always have a can-do attitude whilst away and always say yes to new experiences that you might not do at home. If travelling within America I would suggest having a good size carry-on bag so that you don’t have to pay for check-in luggage. For travel insurance, I would recommend Travel Insurance Direct as they cover all you need and are reasonably priced. When flying I highly recommend Delta as they were always a good airline and provided free carry-on luggage and entertainment.

Coming back from the exchange I feel as though I am more independent and confident in the things I do. Academically I have broadened my knowledge of American business procedures, which will only help me develop my skills professionally back home. Going on exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you meet so many people from all around the world who in the end become lifelong friends.

University of Florida – Top 10 Public University, Number 1 Exchange Destination

David Li, Bachelor of Laws
University of Florida, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

Looking back on the past semester, I am still left in disbelief at how quickly the 120 days studying abroad passed by.

Admittedly the beginning of exchange is rough. Firstly, there are a lot of documents and procedures required for entry into the US as a student. For example, I had to fly down to Sydney for a day to complete a two-minute interview at the US Consulate office. However, once you reach your destination you’ll be glad you went through all the trouble.

The University of Florida is situated in Gainesville, Florida. It is the definition of a college town. The college is a top 10 public university with over 50,000 students and pretty much the only noteworthy thing in its area. As such, the campus is huge. I stayed at Weaver Hall, which is the typical American dorm. However, these dorms are split between Americans and other international students, which provides the perfect opportunity to meet new people. Being situated on campus also made it very convenient to get everywhere.

The gym on campus is free to use to students and so is the bus system. I bought the meal plan, which meant I could go to the dining hall during its opening hours. The dining hall is buffet style. Although the food isn’t top quality, I would still recommend getting the meal plan if you don’t like cooking. There are plenty of other activities to do as well, and UF truly delivers a college experience.

The teaching method in the States is quite different. Instead of large pieces of assessment, they spread it out consistently over the semester in little chunks. Also, many classes mark you on participation, so you’ll have to go to class. I found this more manageable and less stressful in a way, since you’re always on top of your work and there isn’t a big final assessment piece like QUT subjects normally have.

I saved around 16,000AUD for exchange, which was vital since the exchange rate was really poor during my time there. I may have remained under-budget had I not gone travelling around America for a month afterwards. I used an international card setup in Brisbane and bought a T-Mobile phone plan while I was there.

On a more personal note, UF will always have a place in a heart. I’ve met so many amazing people and have had so many crazy experiences. It really does feel like a movie that played out in front me. It’s a surreal and bittersweet feeling looking at my life for the past six months, and knowing that it won’t ever be quite like that again. But that’s what makes exchange worth doing – the countless, unique experiences you’ll have and the extraordinary people you meet. Where else are you going to have people go crazy over your accent, or be surrounded by friends who all live a short walk away, or be able to study in a different country and immerse yourself in a culture wholly different to Australia’s.

Overall, exchange was one of the best times of my life. I can see why everyone recommends studying abroad. My biggest tip would be to go with an open mind. Exchange is what you make of it so be sure to make the most out of this once in a lifetime opportunity. It may be hard to prepare for exchange, and the initial days during it. However, in a matter of days your exchange destination will feel like home and you’ll be so glad you did it.

GO GATAS

Palm Trees, Hockey and Mark Zuckerburg’s House

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.

Taco Bell, Country Music and Southern Accents

Dylan, S. Bachelor of Science

University of Wyoming (Semester 1, 2017)

Going on exchange at the University of Wyoming in the USA was far and away the best thing I have ever done in my life. The people I met on exchange will be friends for life and the experience and sights I saw and shared with them I will never forget! From the minute I jumped off the plane over I was a mix of nerves, fear, excitement and Taco Bell and I can honestly say that If you’re not scared it’s not something worth doing.

Wyoming is the state in the US with the smallest population and it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere but it honestly has so much to offer. The national parks are beautiful & there is world class skiing so close as well. If you love hiking and anything outdoors UW has the most insane outdoor program with trips every few weeks and it is so easy to make friends with people who are constantly getting out and doing exciting things.

UW itself is a pretty small school with the best sense of community. It’s in a town called Laramie which has some really cool little food spots and a lot of places that sell camo. Recommendation, I would have try and listen to a little country music before you leave Australia, because you will listen to it a lot and eventually begin to love songs about your tractor and southern girls.

Some of the people in Wyoming can have pretty different values and political beliefs from home and at first that could be hard to swallow for a lot of people but if you have an open mind you will grow to love them.

The best advice I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new experiences and meet as many new people as possible. Some of the other highlights of my trip apart from at UW included traveling to New York, New Orleans, road-tripping the west coast and going to Mexico for spring break.

I tried to have a ‘true’ American college experience and lived off campus in a house with people I had never met. This lead to the majority of my friends being Americans and not being other international students. While this may be scary, I went over there wanting an authentic experience and I truly am thankful for getting that. Everyone I met was so open and fun that I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you wanted the more standard exchange experience though UW still has a great international program and they will look after you so well!

I would 100% recommend going to the university of Wyoming and to America on exchange. It is such a great country and you will have memories you will never forget, it was by far the best thing I have done in my life and I want to go back every day!

Going global with QUT was amazing and even though it’s a long application process it is so worth it and the study abroad team is so helpful.

True American Experience

Marshall, R. Bachelor of Business

University of South Carolina (Semester 2, 2016)

In the beginning, leaving the comforts of home in Brisbane for a new life in America was extremely daunting. When I applied to University of South Carolina, I didn’t know anyone from the school or anyone going on exchange with me. However, that changed very quickly upon arrival. Since the minute I unpacked my belongings, I began to meet lifelong friends.

I lived in Woodrow College with about 40 other international students as well as domestic freshman students. Woodrow had apartment style rooms which includes a kitchen, so I didn’t get a meal plan whilst undertaking my exchange. This turned out to be a very cost effective way to do my semester abroad as many weekends I was away travelling.

The first few days were filled with exploring the campus and all the facilities that it had on offer. This included over 30 restaurants, two gyms with pools, a rock climbing wall and five squash and basketball courts that are all available to students. After getting my bearings on campus, I began to explore the city of Columbia, where USC is located. Although Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina, it is quite a small city by American standards. This made it geographically manageable since it was walking distance to the restaurant district, the Vista.

In the first two weeks, the school organised many social events to get to know both my domestic and international peers. These events really helped make the transition into college life easier. I wanted to get more involved, so I joined an intramural American football team which was made up of other international students. It was quite a steep learning curve to understand the rules, but we made the grand finals of our pool and it was ultimately a great way to meet people.

Classes were substantially different from those at QUT which forced me to immediately adjust my learning style. The classes met twice a week for 75 minutes in classes of about 40 students and unlike QUT, attendance was mandatory for most classes. Final grades were graded on many smaller assignments along with participation and attendance, so it engaged students a lot more and increased participation.

College football is one of the most important past times to many Americans. Luckily for me, football season occurs in the fall semester, so I was able to experience a completely different environment than the sports we have back home in Australia. Tailgates are lined up for miles while everyone eats in and drinks before cheering on the Gamecocks at Williams Brice Stadium.

There were a lot of opportunities for traveling while I was here which allowed me to explore new cultures of a lot of amazing American cities on weekends and holidays. Throughout the semester I was able to visit Chicago, Athens, Charlotte and Charleston. With Thanksgiving break in November I was invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia which was on the highlights of my trip.

Overall, exchange was an unforgettable and life changing experience. While it may seem uncomfortable and scary at first, I urge students to challenge themselves and expand their horizons. The memories, friends, and experiences that exchange gave me are way more valuable than any reservation I had before coming to America. I would highly recommend exchange to every student, especially University of South Carolina. Go cocks.

Just Do It!

Samantha, C.
San Jose State University (Semester 2, 2016)

I’ve always wondered why birds choose to stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth… and then I ask myself the same question.

To put it frankly, if someone had of told me that I would be attending American college at the ripe age of 19, I would have believed it. Why? Because studying abroad was always a dream of mine, and I knew I had to work hard to get there.

San Jose State University

While going on student exchange isn’t just travelling as a tourist, it’s also living in a new country, with a new culture. In order to fit in, I had to immerse myself fully into the American lifestyle, by having day-to-day interactions with the locals, getting accustomed to their habits, traditions and culture, while gaining first-hand judgement and experience, which has and will continue to broaden my horizon for life.

In my opinion, a life of travel is a good thing to have… but the catch is, once you start, there’s no looking back! So where I began, grew and prospered was at San Jose State University (SJSU) in California.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

I chose to study at SJSU because of its fantastic extra-curricular activities for journalism and public relations students, their high graduate employment, and overall student satisfaction. Respected globally for its excellence, diversity, flexibility, range of opportunities and top quality academics, SJSU provides a broad variety of courses and more precisely in the communications area.

I chose to live on campus, in CVB accommodation, and shared an apartment with four other girls, with each having our own single bedroom. I also opted not to have a meal plan, and instead cook for myself! The closest grocery store was about a 10-minute walk, and in turn I dined out a couple times each week with friends. Living on campus, American college style, truly was incredible. As I looked out my bedroom window on the 11th floor, I viewed what could be deemed as college road, where all the fraternities and sororities were located – oh what a sight! Living on campus also allowed me to fully immerse myself into college life, where I was involved in clubs, activities like Victoria’s Secret Zumba night, and mingling with friends either at social events or just hanging out in our dorm rooms. I did however enjoy having my personal bedroom, which gave me a bit of down time and privacy to study and facetime home.

My Dorm Room, San Jose State University

At SJSU, I chose to study an overload of five subjects, and while it was very trying, with the support of my wonderful professors I pulled through and managed to achieve an A+ overall in each unit (equivalent to a high distinction – yay!). Though as you would know if going on exchange, the actual grade isn’t recorded on your QUT transcript, but rather satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

During my time abroad, I made an abundance of new friends both international and American. The support network was fantastic, and never once did I feel lonely or isolated, but rather overwhelmed… in a good way. As an Aussie you’ll feel like a celebrity (totally not kidding!) and you’ll understand this once you’ve been. It was amazing to have other students interested in my home country and where I come from, as was I with their culture too. On my first day, I mingled with all the other international students who I remained close with throughout the first week while I settled into college and met all my American friends. In fact, I miss all these friends so much, that I have just booked another trip to return and catch up in less than two months, with only my flights to book and the accommodation covered. If that’s not enough to convince you to go, let me share with you my account of America.

SF Giants V NY Mets Baseball Game

America was everything I had imagined, but MORE. It is a very upbeat, exciting and spontaneous country! So much to see and do, and the people are extraordinarily friendly. No day was the same, and I always found myself creating lists of things I have to see before my departure date. While I was in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to travel extensively through California, seeing sights like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Yosemite and more. I also travelled through Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada. And yes I did visit the Grand Canyon, Universal Studios/Disneyland and also got to climb Diamond Head in Waikiki.

Diamond Head, Waikiki

I now look back on the breathtaking photos and vision, and It blows my mind that yes that was me standing there. There is still so much to see and explore in this magical country, and many ask what my favourite place was, and I can confidently say it was San Jose State University. Going on student exchange would have to be the best decision I have ever made… and SJSU will forever be my second home. While I spent just one semester in the U.S., the experience I have gained will undoubtedly endure throughout a lifetime. I promise, if you’ve ever had a slight thought of going global with QUT, I say… just do it, you won’t regret it.

Business negotiations in North Carolina

Bryson C, Bachelor of Business

AIM Overseas: Business Negotiations and Communications (Jan-Feb 2017)

During January and February 2017, myself and 23 other Australians set out on a new journey not knowing what to expect. Our destination? Charlotte, North Carolina. A buzzing city full of life and American culture. My journey began from Brisbane, which at the time was about 40 degrees Celsius. When I arrived in Charlotte it was a quarter of that, 10 degrees Celsius. That was my first big shock. After a big day of travels, I settled down at what would be my home for the next 3 weeks, the Drury Inn. When I woke, I found myself surrounded by friendly faces at the breakfast buffet and already I had made my first friends.

   Later that day, we found ourselves in the actual university getting to know what our new campus looked like. We were stunned, it was so large and so amazing. The entire university was full of life and culture with several hardcore college basketball supporters telling us to come and support the team, and several sorority and fraternities trying to get us to sign up (unfortunately we could not do this). Life on campus itself was extremely different to that back home. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be BIG. There was so much to do and so much to explore and all in all, our host university kept us all very safe.

The United States of America is a very interesting place to travel. It is somewhat similar to Australia but there are several key differences I think. To begin with, tipping is the most annoying thing in the world. I accidentally under-tipped my hairdresser and she then proceeded to be very upset with me like I had done something wrong (sorry). The weather unlike Australia’s is very plain. If the forecast says cloudy and cold then it is cloudy and cold, no massive thunderstorms that pop up out of no-where. Traveling in the US was also very easy – with the use of Uber, my friends and I were able get around and see many places in our spare time such as the gyms, gun ranges, restaurants, race tracks and various other cultural places.

The highlight of my trip would have to be the day that we went and sat in on a very important speech given by world renowned economist Jay Bryson. I could network with American professionals and hear their take on the future of the American economy and listen to their opinions on what the world might look like in 5 years. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Charlotte and I would definitely recommend the AIM program to everyone seeking a short-term exchange to the United States.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Miranda E, Bachelor of Fine Arts

Lights, Camera, Action Summer program at Michigan State University (July, 2016)

I remember first hearing about the coordinator from America coming over to our uni to present this course. I’m not really a person that enjoys being away from home but I thought this would be an amazing opportunity as I have always wanted to do study over seas while at university. The course seemed like it would help me as well as network plus the idea of studying film in America excited me. Upon arrival, we were welcomed at the bus stop and shown to our dorms. They made it very welcoming even before we arrived as they set up a Facebook page for us to start meeting people and a Snapchat for everyone to follow.

Michigan University is a massive campus with pretty good facilities. Although the dorms we stayed in weren’t that nice, bit dirty and the water smelt like metal, the overall building was nice with a corner shop on the first floor and a basement at the bottom with a TV, laundry, air con and  a ping pong table. The cafeterias had great food and a wide variety to choose from.

I didn’t feel that welcomed by a particular receptionist at times as I felt like she didn’t care and felt like she was rude and giving me attitude however that could have been cultural differences that caused that. There was plenty of restaurants outside the university within walking distance and a bus that left from the university to take us to handy shops. We each had our own room to ourselves and shared a bathroom with another person which would normally be someone from our home university. The room was a good size which contained draws, a fan, light, desk, bed, pillow and sheets. Pillow covers and sheets you could swap for new ones when you felt like it. However Tuesdays were the preferred day by the workers. The bathroom contained a toilet, sink and shower. There was a laundry downstairs with a number of washing machines and dryers you could use for free 24/7.

I studied ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ which was a really fun and interesting course. We got to make two films and a behind the scenes edition. One of the films we entered into LA comedy festival and the other one I think will be entered into a festival. We studied scriptwriting, camera, editing, sound and making foley noises. It was a very quick course and learnt things pretty quickly but very good for the amount of content we got 🙂 We got tutored by people working in the industry which was amazing and were given their contact details if we wanted them to look over anything in the future.

Michigan University is well known for the home of the spartans and for its green and white colours. You will see heaps of spartan merchandise around even outside of the university. Interesting fact, the closest McDonalds was painted green and white for the colours of the spartan. The university is well organised and has good leaders that showed us around for our first few days and helped us find our way to class. They were very nice and wanted to become friends and learn our Australian culture. There are also many friendly squirrels around campus that came up close to you waiting for food.

I budgeted $7000 for this course however it turned out to be more because I forgot about the conversion rate when sending money over for the $4700 course. But that was pretty good though because the $4700 (AU) covered trips to canada and Chicago as well as our food on campus. We were given a ID card when we got there loaded with money on it (called sparty cash) for food for the three weeks which we could either spend at the cafeteria or shops in and around the university that took the sparty cash. It was about $345 dollars placed on there however we could top up with our own money if we ran out.

I don’t think I experienced culture shock too much as I had already visited America the year before. However to keep safe, I registered for emails and alerts for things that happen around Michigan and in America.

One must have item on the trip is your ID, money and as well as phone. Keeping your phone on you can help in emergency situations while also keeping up with the fb page of the activities that were happing on campus. I advise that people who are going overseas and have got a sim card to make sure its working before getting to America because it didn’t work when I was over there and I had to go searching for a sim card from a shop which was a pain. Also if your luggage gets lost in transit, call up your insurance company soon after so that you can get money to buy clothes and amenities while waiting for it to arrive. I definitely advise of getting travel insurance. I really didn’t think I would need it but I paid for it anyways to be safe and then it turned out I ended up in hospital the night before coming back home. You never know what can happen so its good to be covered in case of an unexpected situation.

This program was an amazing experience to be able to study and live on campus in a different country. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone however more so first and second years because it is more introductory film study (however really good for third years to put on their CV and have films for their portfolio). I think it helped me in a way to not care what people think about myself as well as helped me make new friends. It helped me have something amazing to put on my CV and give me films for my portfolio as well as more experience. It is an amazing way to make new friends, as the group of us that went together from QUT stuck together and now we still collaborate on film at university and outside of university.

Experiencing Southern charm at USC

Anna H, Bachelor of Journalism/Laws

University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

Last semester I studied at the University of South Carolina in the United States. I could not recommend studying abroad more highly to students considering an exchange program.

I arrived in the state’s capital, Columbia, where the USC campus is situated. As soon as I stepped off the plane and was greeted with a Southern accent and smile, I knew I was going to fall in love with the city. The USC International Office had arranged for exchange students to be picked up by volunteer drivers who knew the city and campus. This was a great way to be introduced to Columbia, as my volunteer driver gave me a rundown of the city hotspots and was able to point me in the direction of my dorms so I wasn’t completely lost. Without this, move in day could have been a much more daunting experience with thousands of American students also moving into their dorms at the same time.

On campus at USC

The USC Columbia Campus is picturesque. As you walk in you can’t help but notice the huge Oak trees that line the iconic ‘Horseshoe’. I lived in Woodrow College which is a dormitory located just off the ‘Horseshoe’ and dates back to 1914. Woodrow has apartment-style configurations and houses both international and domestic students. I lived with two girls from Switzerland and Germany, who I now call two of my closest friends.

I had the opportunity to study subjects I wouldn’t normally take back home through my electives. These included American History, Feminist Theory, Introduction to Drawing and Criminal Law. Classes were different to QUT as attendance was compulsory and participation was strongly encouraged. The professors gave you a lot more opportunity to increase your final grade through things like ‘extra credit’ assignments.

Life in college was just like in the Hollywood movies. It was a constant stream of football games, bonfires, and sorority and fraternity parties. College football makes up a huge part of American culture. I was lucky enough to experience this because I studied in the Fall semester. The college football stadium holds 80,000 people and the spirit of USC students is second to none – making every home game an unforgettable experience.

One of the highlights of my trip was definitely Thanksgiving. One of my American friends invited me to stay with him and his family at their farmhouse in West Virginia. They showed me true Southern hospitality – hosting a huge Thanksgiving dinner and not letting me lift a finger.

Experiencing an unforgettable American Thanksgiving

The hardest part of my study abroad semester was saying goodbye to all of the friends I made at USC. I have made not only lifelong American friends but also friends from all around the world. I take comfort in knowing they are all just a Facetime away, and that Columbia will still be waiting for me for when I save up enough funds to go back and visit.

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.