Ciara W., Bachelor of Business
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2016)
I chose the University of Minnesota as my exchange location for semester 1, 2016 and loved every single second I spent there. I had always wanted to experience college in America and due to the excellent reputation of the Carlson School of Management, the University of Minnesota seemed an obvious choice. Luckily for me, Minnesota was experiencing a very mild winter, so the day I arrived it was a ‘warm’ -1c. As January progressed, however, the temperatures dropped significantly, averaging about -16c to -30c. The cold was something I had never felt before, and I found a lot of my winter gear (such as gloves) just weren’t cutting it.
The campus itself was huge! Everything you could want was on campus and accessible by the free shuttles that run around East Bank and West Bank (the campus is separated by the Mississippi River). There was a massive gym equipped with three floors of apparatus and 2 swimming pools that was free for students to use. Additionally, there was a campus town on East Bank called ‘Dinky Town’ where all the student bars/restaurants were situated. This was where the small Target grocery store was situated, which was handy to pick up snacks/fruit and even bedding and toiletries.
During my exchange, I stayed in a dorm as it seemed like the more convenient choice. Middlebrook Hall was a stone’s throw away from Carlson which was a luxury when the snow hit hard. I shared a room with an American student, Amelia. During my stay and we became incredibly close. We were very similar, close in age and got on so well so I was really happy with my choice of a double room. Our room was situated on the ‘Students Crossing Borders’ floor, which meant I was able to meet so many students from all over the world and form close friendships with them. Living with such amazing and fun people was definitely one of the highlights of my time spent overseas. While in the dorm, I chose a 14 meal p/w plan, which could be used in any dining hall throughout campus (which we unfortunately figured out halfway through the semester). While Middlebrook served okay food, 17th dining hall definitely won in terms of fresher and healthier choices!
I felt the cost of living was reasonable in Minnesota, however the exchange rate was terrible when I went so this cut my money down significantly. I found the food plan to be quite expensive in terms of the choices, and would have probably opted for the smaller meal plan if I knew how much I would have eaten out. The cost of the accommodation was fair, as there were much more expensive choices (such as University Village) that provided only little improvements.
During my stay, I was able to explore New York for a weekend, Orlando and Miami for spring break, as well as LA, Joshua Tree, Lake Havisu, Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite and San Francisco after my exchange ended. I was able to experience incredible hockey games (seriously amazing!), play in both a broomball (like ice hockey but just with running shoes – dangerous stuff!) and dodge ball team with other exchange students and broaden my network worldwide I made so many amazing friends and I found it incredibly hard to leave. Going on exchange was the highlight of my degree and I learnt so much about myself and other cultures. I loved it so much that I will be heading back at the end of the year to visit!