Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

Marianne J., Master of Business
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Going to Columbia and University of South Carolina (USC) gave me so much: the ultimate American college experience, friends for a lifetime and experiences I will never forget.

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

Once I got my official “Letter of Acceptance” from the partner institution I could start the visa application. As compared to applying for an Australian visa this process takes more time and effort. First, you need to apply online, pay fees, get approved, set up an interview date and then go to the actual embassy. Be aware that, upon your interview they will need to keep your passport for a maximum of two weeks in order to insert the visa, so be sure to have enough time before departing.

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

When I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a friendly, old couple picked me up as a part of the airport reception provided by the university. I highly recommend everyone to attend orientation week, not only are some events compulsory, but this is where you`ll have the chance to meet with your fellow students and professors and a lot of useful information will be given. This is where I met most of the people that I become close to and hung out with the most the rest of the semester. Including that, there are loads of events that offer free food, and as a poor student you don`t want to miss that! I arrived just in time for the solar eclipse, where Columbia was in the zone of totality. I also arrived in time for hurricane Irma, and quickly got an insight into the natural disasters that can occur on this side of the world.

DMSB

Accommodation

As for housing, postgrads usually cannot live on campus, but there were plenty of other off-campus student communities. Unfortunately, all the short-term leases fill up rather quickly. I went onto the USC website and found students who were subleasing, and ended up staying in a four-people apartment at a place called Riverside – a ten minute drive from campus. Most of the off-campus communities have a shuttle running to and from campus every 30 min on week days, all with a common stop on campus. This made it easy even for international students to get around. Riverside apartments came fully furnished and are very conveniently located next to a Bi-Lo (grocery store), bowling alley, and restaurants. In the USA you pay rent monthly, and living in a student accommodation is usually very cheap. I paid approximately $610 AUD a month, excluding utilities.

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

Columbia is a major college town and the whole city is proudly supporting and representing USC and the Gamecock (school mascot). I was there in the fall semester and got to experience football season, which entailed a weekly game where 80 000 people came to cheer for the Black & Garnet. The team and school spirit that you will experience here is like nowhere else. USC is also lucky enough to have the biggest college gym in southeast America; Strom Thurmond; a three-level playground for athletics and free of charge for all students. I can honestly say that this is the best and nicest gym I have ever been to.

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

Further, USC offers heaps of clubs to get involved with, no matter what interests you, they have it. I played indoor soccer and used the student gym and its amenities frequently, and personally thought it was fun to see what all the fuss about sororities and fraternities were all about.

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

I had to have my study plan ready before going overseas but couldn’t officially enroll until I got to Columbia. To pass the requirements from QUT I had to enroll into four units at USC, where 48 Australian credit points were equivalent to 12 U.S. credit points (3 per unit). You are being told from the beginning to save your electives and I would really recommend doing so. Some of the classes I wanted to enroll in were either full or not available to exchange students, so having mostly electives left when going abroad made the process of choosing new ones, and having them approved, much easier. Bear in mind that attendance is compulsory in the States and can, along with participation, be a part of your end grade. The postgrad classes were relatively small, ranging from 15-30 students. Some classes could be challenging, but they were all achievable.

Columbia and the U.S.

Columbia has a climate that is a little similar to Brisbane. The summers are hot and humid, and long-lasting, while the winters can get chilly and sometimes below 0, but only for a few months. Throughout the semester you had plenty of time to explore. Columbia has a river that runs straight through the city, where tubing is a very common activity, especially on those hot summer days. Five Points and the Vista are the famous areas for restaurants and night life. This is where students usually come together to socialize.

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

Although, Columbia, or ‘Cola’ as the Americans call it, isn’t the biggest and most exciting city there are many places worth seeing only a few hours away. We went to Atlanta and saw the World of Coke, to Savannah – the 7th most haunted city in the U.S., Charleston –home of all Nicholas Sparks movies. Including bigger trips to NYC, DC and I even had time to go see my host family in Utah over Thanksgiving. It is also an experience in itself to celebrate the different public holidays like Labor Day, Halloween, and Christmas.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

I really enjoyed my time at USC and am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go abroad and become a Gamecock! I can`t say it enough, but if you have the chance – take it. Going abroad and all it implies is so worth it!

– Forever to Thee –

How to Survive in Canadian College

Reeve D., Bachelor of Business
Bishops University, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

  1. Frosh week / O week

Frosh week started off with team selection day, where you would go around to every team (consisting of older students) and learn a bit about them. There were heaps of teams for people with different interests, with some stressing the fact they love to party and others – being all girl’s teams – centred around making friends. Every team had their own house, which was your meeting point for weekly activities. During frosh week, your aim is to complete challenges to get your team points. One of the challenges I completed was to wear a shower cap of shaving cream on my head for a night, one guy shaved his head and another guy was painted green for the week. However, you definitely aren’t forced into any challenges you don’t want to complete. There were a couple of concerts held in the quad during frosh week and a swamp day where you had to get as messy as possible being covered in gross foods. The week was amazing and was great with helping me make friends instantly. With the week ending with a team performance and football game.

  1. Halloweekend

I definitely consider Halloweekend one of the best events from my time at Bishops. Its three nights of different Halloween parties, all with different themes. The first night consist of everyone going to either the school bar, residence parties or different house parties. Night two was held at Animal House (probably the biggest party house of the university) and night three was the official event held by The Gait (on campus bar).

  1. Residence/Where To Live

I can’t stress enough how important it is to live in Lennoxville. So many exchange students (including myself) originally made the mistake of living a bus ride away from the university in Sherbrooke. Living in Lennoxville is extremely social and convenient. It’s also extremely rare that students don’t live near the university. Bishops campus is practically all of Lennoxville, so even if you are unable to get a spot in residence, living in one of the many party houses or in your own apartment is a great way to still get that real college experience. Join the Bishops housing page and find a couple of other exchange students looking for housing and contact Carl, who is the land lord of all the apartments in Little Forks (circled- I can provide Carls phone number if requested).

  1. Classes

Classes are typically small and don’t consist of a regular lecture and tutorial, instead it’s more like two tutorials a week (this was the case for my business/criminology subjects). I found the work to be much easier than QUT and more interactive, however more class time was required.

  1. Social
    1. The Gait is the student run school bar which host regular happy hours and themed events.
    2. The Lion is a bar (kind of like a pub) off campus in Lennoxville. The lion is super fun and has acoustic Tuesdays where there’s a live band.
    3. House parties: As you can see on the map above each house in Lennoxville has its own name, with the majority of parties being at Animal House, Football House, Haunted or along Reed street. There’s also a huge party at Cool Ranch (which was my frosh house) every year called Luda Christmas, where the whole school is invited.
    4. There are also so many social events for those students not into the party scene such as plays, organised weekend trips to Montreal and Quebec City, talent shows, fashion shows, football games, hockey games, guest speakers, movie nights and many clubs.
  1. Dining Hall / Food

The dining hall at Bishops is called Dewhurst Dining Hall or Dewies for short, and has a great variety of foods available. It has a grill bar where you can order fries/burgers/hotdogs, salad bar, pasta station and many other great foods. Even if you don’t live in residence you can still get a Dewies pass, and it’s definitely worth it!

  1. Travel

I found traveling around Canada easy and relatively cheap. During the semester, I was able to go on a weekend trip to Toronto which was amazing. After the semester finished is when I completed the majority of my travel. I went to Vancouver, Whistler, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago and New York. Due to the university being in a small town I was able to budget my money super well during the semester, enabling me to have the best time at the end of my exchange. I definitely recommend Vancouver and Whistler, as I was able to experience a non-French side of Canada.

Time on Exchange in South Carolina

James H., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

I picked the University of South Carolina as my exchange destination, mostly based on reports from previous exchange students and because it was a place I had never dreamed of going to in America. It ended up being a life changing experience that I will never forget.

When I first got to USC next to none of the domestic students had arrived on campus, so we took a few days to explore and get to know where we would be living for the next semester. The campus itself is incredibly picturesque, especially the ‘Horseshoe’ with its huge oak trees, lush green grass and all the classic American college buildings surrounding it. The facilities on campus were incredible with two huge fitness centres (pools, gyms, basketball and squash courts, a sauna, a rock climbing wall all inside) that are accessible for all students. Notably, the football stadium (Williams-Brice Stadium) can fit over 80,000 attendees and every game that I went to attempted to fill all of the seats with an atmosphere that was next to none – especially with the school song ‘Darude – Sandstorm’ playing at every point scored accompanied by fireworks.

On Campus Gardens

I lived in Cliff Apartments which was apartment style living shared between 4 students. We were all exchange students and I shared a room with a student from the Netherlands with whom I quickly became lifelong friends. Although we had a kitchen with a stove, oven and fridge I utilised the college meal plan, mostly because of the ease of just heading to the diner for any meal of the day, although you do end up missing a home cooked meal! The campus does have countless restaurants to eat at, although we were regulars at ‘Bates Diner’ as it was a 5-minute walk from our accommodation.

I think one of the biggest highlights from my college experience was definitely the football games. The atmosphere at the games has no rival and I particularly loved the passion that all the Americans have for the game and their team. It was always amazing to see the lengths that the school goes to show their support including the mascot (Cocky), the band and cheer-squad. It was particularly beneficial for students as we got free tickets based on a points system – the more school support you showed the better seats you got – that meant attending all the other sporting events like soccer and volleyball and really getting into the school spirit. The tailgating of the games was another highlight as it was such a great opportunity to explore the social side of campus and meet lots of students outside of college life.

Unreal Atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium

America was great to travel to as there are so many further travel opportunities to explore while you are there. I highly recommend budgeting some extra money to explore some places nearby, for example I traveled to Connecticut, Colorado, New York, Texas and did a bus tour through all of the Southwest States at the end of my trip. There are so many opportunities you wouldn’t want to miss while you are over there, and I definitely recommend saying yes to them all!

Overall, exchange was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience and I could not recommend it enough. I met so many lifelong friends and really got out of my comfort zone which seems daunting at first but ends up being incredibly rewarding. I can’t wait to go back and visit the friends I made. Go Cocks!!!

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.

Living Big in Small Town Indiana

Eliza P., Bachelor of Business/Laws
Purdue University, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

If you’re reading this blog post then you have probably already heard it before, but taking a semester abroad is one of the best decisions you will ever make. No matter where you decide to go, you are giving yourself not only an amazing opportunity to learn about another culture, but to learn things about yourself that are sometimes only discoverable away from home.

Purdue University was my first choice for my exchange program. It’s a big, small town college with a lot of heart in West Lafayette, Indiana. Going to college in Midwest America is definitely an authentic experience. I lived in a two person shared dormitory room with a German exchange student, which cost me about $4,500 USD (including meals). Living in the dorms was very convenient because they’re on campus where classes, the dining courts and the gym are. Although, most American college students will leave dormitory living in their sophomore (second) year to live in a house with friends or their fraternity or sorority houses. So if you are a bit older, this is something to keep in mind when organising living arrangements.

Boiler up!

Surprisingly, I loved college for how it required frequent attendance. For each subject, I had class three times a week for 1.5 hours and I only had three absences before my grades would be penalised for nonattendance. In the beginning, it was difficult to adapt because this was so different to back home. However, I found that through this I was able to immerse myself in college life, make friends in class and truly invest in the content – so it was really rewarding!

In terms of culture, Americans and Australians are very similar, so myself and my other Australian friends found it really easy to meet people and make friends. The pace of life at Purdue and other big colleges in small towns is completely different to the pace back here at QUT, where the average university student will work part-time while studying. With a lot of free time, college students love to hang out and do nothing (or study) together, so I rarely spent a moment alone.

Making memories with new friends

Purdue will always be a home away from home for me, and while it tended to be quieter than some typical American colleges during the semester, that quieter time meant I had to time to make and spend with friends who will last a lifetime. You will not regret taking a semester abroad, and there’s really never another opportunity than during your university years, so just do it! And BOILER UP!

The Twin Cities!!

Eliza Blanch, Bachelor of Business (International)
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

I didn’t originally choose the University of Minnesota but as I was unable to go to my first choice, it seemed like the next best fit. The campus is huge and a little overwhelming at first but you soon find your way around and meet new people, making it the new normal. Everything about the school is a lot like you see in the movies. With sporting matches where everyone gets involved and college traditions, such as homecoming, it’s something that you may have never experienced before.

The university is located right near the city centre of Minneapolis. It is a quiet, nice town which I believed was great for a college student. This was especially for business students as there are many Fortune 500 companies who base themselves in Minneapolis and the school gives you a lot of opportunities to learn about what they do.

Although QUT and the University of Minnesota are both located in the city, due to their size they have completely different teaching styles. This is because you will attend two classes a week for the same subject which are a mixture of tutorials and lectures. You will also do a lot of compulsory homework for these classes but this was a good way to remember what you were learning.

The university had many strengths especially with the business school as it is highly regarded and well known in the country. Also, the exchange group that they have for business students is a great way to meet fellow exchange students and Americans.

During my stay, I stayed in off-campus housing where a lot of American college students stayed as it was cheaper than what the university offered and had better facilities. The facilities included my own room and bathroom, a desk, a swimming pool, gym and basketball court.For the year, I saved over $25,000 and tried my best to stick to a budget of around $1,500 a month. I would say that the cost in comparison to Brisbane would just be a little bit cheaper. However, it was very hard to stick to the budget because there are so many activities that you can do but they do cost money and sometimes it was easier to eat out. Whilst away I used a commonwealth travel card for most of my transactions but opened an American bank account to pay my rent as I was charged a service fee for using a foreign card.

I didn’t experience much of a culture shock due to the similarities between our two countries. But to ensure my safety whilst over there I made sure I didn’t put myself into dangerous situations and if out late at night made sure I always walked home with someone.

Some tips that I would give is to always have a can-do attitude whilst away and always say yes to new experiences that you might not do at home. If travelling within America I would suggest having a good size carry-on bag so that you don’t have to pay for check-in luggage. For travel insurance, I would recommend Travel Insurance Direct as they cover all you need and are reasonably priced. When flying I highly recommend Delta as they were always a good airline and provided free carry-on luggage and entertainment.

Coming back from the exchange I feel as though I am more independent and confident in the things I do. Academically I have broadened my knowledge of American business procedures, which will only help me develop my skills professionally back home. Going on exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you meet so many people from all around the world who in the end become lifelong friends.

Palm Trees, Hockey and Mark Zuckerburg’s House

Maddy Morwood, Bachelor of Mass Communication
San Jose State University, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

To me, the idea of exchange has always seemed so exciting and special. I had imaged myself attending university in London, and had some friends who had chosen to go there and loved it. But as I was doing my application, the idea of sunny California and the American college life jumped into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided, fairly last minute (the way I do everything) to apply for California State colleges. I was lucky enough to get my top preference, San Jose State, and I had the greatest time and met some of the best people in the world.

 

Pre-trip, there was a lot to organise. I would advise everyone going to America to start planning your visa months in advance, as I left it pretty late and had a few close calls. I actually flew to Sydney for my visa, realised I forgotten an important form, had to fly home to retrieve it and then back again in the same day. I did a lot of research surrounding the living situation, and ended up deciding to live on campus in the CVB buildings. I know a few people who opted to rent in houses in the college town near the university, which I have heard rave reviews about. However, CVB was much more practical and easy.

Before I arrived in San Jose, I reached out to the two other students from QUT attending SJSU and we arranged to meet on the first day. I was really happy I did this, as it made navigating the first few so much easier. We helped each other find the grocery store and purchase bedding and everything else we needed. At the exchange meeting was where I met the rest of my friends – from Ireland, Scotland and England. Although I told myself to try and meet American friends, it’s basically inevitable that you will end up in a group of friends from exchange. I did eventually meet some American friends who I loved. Joining a sports team was definitely a great way to meet people; although I didn’t join a team myself.

The SJSU campus is a place I will never forget and hold close to my heart forever. It was one of the most beautiful, scenic places I have ever been – surrounded by tall palm trees everywhere. I loved it so much I would have a nap on the lawn somewhere every Monday and Wednesday morning after my 9am class. The classes in America were also so much different to here and they were compulsory but with no lectures. Instead, every subject met twice a week and nothing was recorded online. The course work itself was ridiculously easy, but I struggled going from watching lectures online in bed to attending 8 classes a week. By the end of the semester I liked it though, because you form such a great bond with your professors. I took a journalism editing class (nothing is offered like it here at QUT) and enjoyed it so much.

Staying in the Bay area of California turned out to be such a great location. Every weekend we would take trips to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and explored the tech region of the Silicon Valley. San Francisco was my absolute favourite place to visit, and the $7 train got us there from San Jose in an hour. We went to the SF baseball stadium to watch the Giants, explored Castro, Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf and the best place to shop, Haight St. We watched the Lakers vs the Kings in a NBA game in Sacramento, and we drove past Mark Zuckerberg’s house. We also had a weekend away at Yosemite National park, and a huge group of us rented a little cottage in the woods. This was one of my favourite weekends of my entire exchange.

Although I knew little about American sports before I arrived, I attended a San Jose Sharks NHL game and fell in love. We were living just a 10 minute walk from the San Jose ice hockey rink so we would walk to the stadium before the games, along with half of the city of San Jose. It was such a great atmosphere and the games were fast-paced and fun. A friend and I even splashed out on a ticket to a playoff game, where we saw the Sharks win the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a 4-0 game sweep against the Ducks. Walking home in our jerseys yelling team chants with the rest of the city is definitely up there in my favourite nights of my exchange.

Saying goodbye to San Jose was really difficult as it had slowly become home for me. I had become so used to the college lifestyle, and having all my friends living in the same building. I had the best 6 months of my life and San Jose will always have a place in my heart.