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.
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.
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.