No Stress in New York

Julia M., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
Fordham University, USA (Semester 2 2017)

The experience of university in America is extremely different to that of QUT. Everything from the method of teaching, grading and assessment to the college spirit and club involvement was entirely different. My favourite aspect of life at Fordham University was the spirit and enthusiasm that students had towards their school. The campus was covered with flags and statues of the school mascot (a ram) with the huge football field covered in maroon and white (the university’s colours) branding. They even had a store with everything you could ever think of (including baby clothes and dog bones) Fordham branded. People were proud to wear these items, in contrast to at home where you rarely see people in QUT outfits. It was awesome to experience this first hand, and you really felt like part of a community where everyone knew each other and people cared.

The biggest and most challenging difference was the way in which assessment was completed and graded. At home, we usually have 2-3 large assessments for each subject, whereas at Fordham we had a very small assessment due almost every week. Although there was more assessment, I found it easier to get good grades, as the teachers were more lenient with their marking. They do not use criteria sheets and just mark off what they think you should get. There is also no moderating, which caused students to prefer certain professors to others as they marked the work easier. I found this very unusual and strange to deal with at first, as it was hard to know what the professors were looking for when marking my work. I quickly got used to it and found that it was easy to get an A with a little effort. Attendance was also very important. In one of my classes, attendance counted towards 25% of my final grade. If you missed more than 2 lessons unexcused then your final grade would drop one full letter. I found this very stressful as if I was sick I still had to go to class or risk losing a grade.

Overall I had an amazing experience going to Fordham university and would definitely do it all over again if I could. I made amazing friends that taught me about American culture and let me into their lives. The experience of living in New York City was amazing, and being able to explore the 5 boroughs at any time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would definitely recommend exchange to anyone, as it helps you develop as a person and gain full independence. Being so far away from home makes you appreciate what you have and learn how to truly look after yourself.

Making Friends for Life

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Studying at State University of New York

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise – it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

 

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. One I travelled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

 

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Cairns to Coldest Town in United States

Ruaela R., Bachelor of Science
Clarkson University, USA (Semester 1, 2017)

Balancing full-time study and a heavy work schedule, I found time running away from me. Thus, it was almost a shock that I found myself on Exchange at Clarkson University in Upstate New York, just below Montreal. I had submitted all my exchange documents and received my Visa, but left little brain time to process that I was actually going to be boarding a plane to the other side of the world. The day before my departure to the States, I threw my warmest clothes into a suitcase, downloaded some bookmarked reads onto a kindle, shoved my headphones, sketchpad and laptop into a backpack, checking twice for my important documents, and reflected with disdain on why I thought going to literally the coldest town the United States for winter was a good idea.

I arrived in the States a few weeks early to fit in some travel before my course started, the units that matched up with my study plan were cancelled due to lack of interest. Panicking, yet emboldened by my newfound skills on a snowboard, I started firing emails at my exchange university and managed to land myself a spot in their research semester program. Instead of the suburban spot beneath the Rustbelt, I was going to be living off campus doing an Environmental Policy Minor and big data Integrated Research Project in the Adirondacks, a 6-million-acre park preserve and conservation project. It was 9 students living full time in a house, with the garage as our classroom, on the side of a lake in a town with a population only just pushing 5000.

New York State is NOT New York City, and can’t just wear cute outfits, and strut your way to dumplings and prosecco, as previously thought.

Doing Clarkson’s Integrated Research Project was interesting. Despite a 15 credit-hour course, I was in the classroom for 38 hours a week, from 9am-5pm on top of study, readings and assignments. You also had to go to class- crazy! There was none of QUT’s recorded lecture magic, and mental breaks, or days off for life errands. If you wanted to miss even a half day of class, you had to have proper reasoning. I was disappointed in myself for getting 7’s on my pass/fail semester, but with the temperature being -20 Celsius outside and being secluded in the park, there was nothing else to do but freeze or study.

Living in the massive Adirondack Park and doing research meant that I got to have incredible experiences. I got to partake in longitudinal data studies, which meant becoming well versed in the winter ecology, and doing 2 mile walks in snow shoes documenting animal tracks around the frozen lakes. In another class I had to walk 300 meters out onto the ice of a lake, and drill 6 inches through the compact to collect zoo plankton. I got to study the philosophy and art inspired by the Adirondacks, and winter camp for 3 days in -20 degrees with only peanut butter, apples and spam to eat. My true delight was the two months after the course that I spent living out of the back of a friends car, camping and polar plunging in all the forests along the West Coast.

I think we are meant to romanticize exchange. We are expected to come back having had a glorious time, feeling euphoric having had epiphanies. My exchange was actually a true test of my mental health, capacity and tolerance. But I got through it, and I think there is a lot of merit in that in itself. I think everyone who can do exchange, should, even if it is just to throw yourself into a crazy time for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

My SUNY Oswego Adventure!

Bella J., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
State University of New York at Oswego, USA (Semester 1, 2017)

It’s hard to believe my SUNY Oswego adventure is over! The past two semesters have flown by, and it’s safe to say I’m so happy with my decision to study abroad at SUNY Oswego for a year. SUNY Oswego has really stolen my heart, to the point where I 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.

First day of classes with my Spanish room-mate, Ines.

Everyone on campus is so friendly and helpful, even though some beg to hear my Australian accent on demand. It’s so easy to make friends and be involved on campus, there is honestly something for everyone. Unlike at QUT, I am heavily involved on campus with my sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, internships and other clubs such as Del Sarte Dance and the social soccer team. There is never a moment to spare, there is ALWAYS something on!The college puts on many events, especially during the first few weeks of the semester. At most of these events you’ll find free fairy floss, popcorn, pretzels, photo booths, snow cones, bull riding, therapy dogs (yes, you heard right) and even build-a-bears.

I attend classes five days a week, which has probably been one of the biggest adjustments so far. 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. I feel as though I am taking much more from the classes than I ever did at home as class sizes are relatively small and you get to know your professor very well.

Before I came to Oswego, one of the biggest concerns I had was what the food in the dining halls would be like. Let me tell you, they’re absolutely amazing!! Everything and anything you could ever want is on campus, it takes a lot of strength to resist over eating. The highlights so far in regards to food has to be the UNLIMITED ice cream parlor at Cooper dining hall or the chocolate milk on tap. You can request wraps to be made for you, omelets, pizza, stir fry’s, etc. You name it, they have it!

Another one of my absolute favourite things about SUNY Oswego is Lake Ontario. 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!

In front of Lake Ontario!

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, Niagara 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.

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 where 20 people share a communal bathroom. My room also has a stunning view of the lake, and my new room mate is one of my very best friends and sorority sisters! 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.

Ines and I in front our building, Scales Hall

My dorm room was also much bigger than I initially expected, I had two sets of draws, a desk, bed, mirror, lamp and wardrobe.

Yes, you heard right.. I joined a sorority!. 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.

Initiation day at Sigma Delta Tau!

Before I finish… prepare yourself for the 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 shocked some 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 in the Fall semester but surprisingly not in the Spring…  I had never experienced such cold weather in my life. Being on Lake Ontario, Oswego experiences ‘Lake Effect’ weather due to the wind. So rug up and prepare yourself if you’re heading there during the spring semester.

Building a snowman at SUNY Oswego.

I could not be happier with my decision to study abroad for a semester at SUNY Oswego. I have already made so many special memories and life long friends I will treasure forever. I am absolutely devastated to leave this place but know I will definitely be back soon. If you have any questions at all about SUNY Oswego, please email me (bellajackson@hotmail.com.au). I would be more than happy to help. I could talk about this place for hours! You can also follow me on Instagram (@bellajackson) to follow my adventures!

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.

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.

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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