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