Ashleigh – Purdue University – USA
Semester 1, 2020
Bachelor of Business (Economics)
I was fortunate enough to partake in a semester exchange at Purdue University in Indiana, USA. Prior to my exchange experience, I had never truly been on my own, so this was a whole new and nerve-racking experience for me. However, over the course of the semester, it would prove to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I made unforgettable memories with people that I now call lifelong friends; from 3am board game nights to sledding down Slayter Hill, it was these times that really made my exchange so special.
Before starting my semester at Purdue, I managed to visit Canada and the East Coast of the USA (New York, Boston, and Washington DC) with my twin sister. If you’re planning to travel beforehand, I would definitely recommend applying for your visa as soon as possible, since visa appointments generally need to be booked a month in advance.
Purdue is located in West Lafayette, which is about an hour out from Indianapolis and two hours south east of Chicago. As we had a long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a few exchange students decided to travel by bus to Chicago for a short trip. We visited attractions, such as the Museum of Science and Industry, ‘The Bean’, the Skydeck, and even got to see a comedy show at The Laugh Factory.
After careful deliberation, I decided to opt for on-campus housing as I felt this would give me the most authentic American college experience. I was assigned a double room in Hawkins Hall, which housed a lot of exchange students, including two of my closest friends. I really enjoyed living in the dorms (however, the 3am fire alarms will not be missed). Although Hawkins Hall was a bit of a trek to the dining courts (15-20 min walk), it was very close to the academic side of campus. I was only a two-minute walk from most of my classes, which certainly made my 8am classes a bit easier.
When living on-campus, you must be on a meal plan, unless you live in Hawkins Hall or Hilltop Apartments, in which you can choose a room-only option. I was on the 8-track meal plan, which gave me 8 meal swipes per week. As I generally only ate dinner with my friends, due to our conflicting timetables, this worked out well for me as I would eat dinner in the dining courts and cook breakfast and lunch in my dorm. I was able to have a fridge, microwave, rice cooker, and kettle in my room, which I could surprisingly do a lot with. I managed to make sushi and had a cute date night with my friends!
There are five dining courts where you can use your meal swipes and a range of other vendors that accept dining dollars. The dining courts are buffet style and all offer a different menu every day. The menus could also be viewed on the ‘Purdue Dining’ mobile application, which made it super convenient when choosing where to eat. My personal favourite was Earhart, which offered a ‘Make Your Own Stir Fry’ option, but the highlight of the dining courts would undeniably be the Wiley cookies!
NOTE: When exploring your accommodation options, it is important to consider whether you would like to cook your own meals, as meal plans are only offered to students who live on-campus.
In terms of academics, the American schooling system is vastly different to QUT. I took four courses while at Purdue and my assessments composed of weekly/fortnightly homework tasks, two mid-terms, and a final. I found the coursework at Purdue more manageable than my workload at QUT as assessment was more frequent and not as heavily weighted. This forced me to stay on top of my work, meaning I had to study less once finals came around.
My contact hours at Purdue were around the same as QUT; however, my hours were split into three one-hour classes throughout the week, as opposed to a two-hour lecture and one–hour tutorial. I found this to be a lot more effective as I was able to stay focused for these shorter time periods. Additionally, the class sizes were a lot smaller, so I found that professors form closer relationships with their students and provide a more engaging learning environment.
The Student Experience
Student culture at Purdue is incomparable to that of QUT. It really is on a whole other level and unparalleled to anything I’ve seen in Australia. The entire experience is a lot more immersive and people are proud to be a part of the Purdue community. Unlike QUT, Purdue is located in a small college town, so everyone lives either on-campus or 5-10 minutes away. As everyone is in such close proximity, I found myself rarely alone and always in good company.
During my time at Purdue, I attended two college basketball games. Purdue is one of the Big Ten schools, meaning basketball games are eventful, to say the least. Though all the chants and songs take a while to get the hang of, the atmosphere of the games is a whole lot of fun.
If you’re looking to attend Purdue, I would definitely recommend joining the PASSPORT student society, as this is where I met a lot of the other exchange students and Americans. This program paired inbound exchange students with local Purdue students, who had previously been on exchange and provided a great opportunity to meet new people.
Reminiscing on my semester abroad is truly a bittersweet feeling. It really was the best decision I’ve made in my university degree and it will always be a time in my life I can look back on and smile. So, if you’re even just considering a semester abroad, I would say step out of your comfort zone and go for it! I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.
If I could relive this experience, I would do so in a heartbeat.