Elizabeth – Fordham University – USA
Semester 2, 2022
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama)
New York City was still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most of the world, we wore masks, social distanced, and made sure to get tested for the disease often, but it wasn’t that harsh from when it started in 2020. I was the first batch of exchange students to go study in another country since the pandemic began, and I was optimistic that it would be a great and life-changing experience, and it was.
The only exposure to studying in America that I saw was shown in movies and tv shows, seeing how everyone in high school wore their own clothes, could wear makeup, and were allowed to have their hair down. For university, cheer teams were a big thing, American football was an essential staple of the college experience and most students lived in dorms on campus. My expectations were somewhat right, as at Fordham sports were a big thing. We had our own football team which my roommates and I attended games. They were quite interesting to see in person, but no different than seeing a match back in Australia, just a lot more patriotic. This semester we had a new president of the university joining, and for the first time in the university’s history, it was a woman. Fordham University is built up on the values of the Jesuit Church and founded around 200 years ago, so our president was very religious and very passionate about academic success for her students. She seemed relatable, excited and in-touch with the community.
On the basis of my own experience, I had never lived with roommates before, so I was quite nervous about how that would go. But what I found was someone who respected my boundaries, who gave me space when she saw I needed it and let me sleep and not disturb me when she knew I was tired, and in turn, I valued that for her too. We made a great friendship together and I don’t think we ever would have met be it signing up for the same program at the same time. I was lucky to have another girl from my home university in the same apartment, which was so lucky as that was something we could bond over. There were three other girls who were transfer students starting their journey at Fordham University, so we bonded over the fact that we were all new and hadn’t made that many friends yet. Our other roommate was our residential assistant, so we could come to her when needed, and it felt comforting to have an authoritarian figure living with us.
What I mostly did during my time on exchange was go and do touristy things, like The High Line, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, amongst other things with some of my roommates and other exchange students. Spending the rest of my time with university work, I was able to provide my experience in studying and watching film and tv as an Australian to the professors and other students. Whenever I talked about it, everyone was so interested to have a different perspective in what we were learning and an alternate way in experiencing media studies different from the normal American experience. In all my classes all the students were American, so it must’ve seemed refreshing to them to have someone speak (literally as well) about something different.
I mostly remember the feeling of belonging when I finished that first week in being in the States. I had never moved out of home before and still lived with my parents at that point, and honestly, I was worried that in the first two months I would turn around, pack up my things and leave the program, worried that I was too homesick. But that feeling after the first couple of days never came back. Sure, I missed my family and seeing my dog, but I never got to the point where I broke down and wanted to leave. I felt like I belonged with my roommates and their friends. I felt like I belonged in a community of students who were new like me, and I had made actual friends in the longest time. I’ve made lifelong connections with these people, and I didn’t have to pretend around them. I could always count on my friends.
If I had ever had the chance, I would do it all over again and I wouldn’t change one thing. It was the most amazing experience ever. I learnt life skills and I got to experience a different way in studying even if it was at the same academic level.
Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.