Made Friends for Life!

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise- it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

One of the sporting groups I joined

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. I traveled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

Snow days happened all the time

New York City!

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Santa Monica Pier

The American College Experience

Bridgette V., Bachelor of Journalism / Law (Honours)
San Jose State University, United States (Semester 2, 2017)

Host University

Life on campus at San Jose State University (SJSU) was a fantastic experience. While the on-campus accommodation was very expensive, like anything in Silicon Valley, the student apartments were very well arranged and provided a great atmosphere to meet fellow exchange and domestic students. The resident facilities gave us lots of opportunities to meet new people and attend events, especially at the start of semester.

SJSU provided a great American college experience. During my time on exchange, I got to attend many sporting events, pep-rallies and tailgates and other school based events which allowed me to get involved in the SJSU spirit. As I don’t live on campus at home, it was great to see how many opportunities there were to become involved.

Academics at San Jose were very different to that back at home. We had at least one piece of assessment every week throughout my exchange. However, each piece of assessment was not weighed as heavily as they are at QUT. For instance, for one subject, we had five quizzes throughout the course of the semester, each worth 10-15%. While it was frustrating at times having constant assessment, it helped me to stay on top of the content and reduced the stress at the end of semester. The mid-terms and finals at SJSU also only assessed parts of the course we had learnt since the last piece of assessment. This lack of cumulative assessment made it easier to revise and prepare.

Host Country

The lifestyle in America was very similar to that in Australia. While the stereotype typically depicts Americans as less friendly than their Canadian neighbours, I didn’t find this to be true. They were always willing to go out of their way to help you and to show you around. Everyone was very hospitable and welcoming. The only main difference was tipping and the exclusion of tax in the advertised prices.

Highlights of exchange

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on exchange and would recommend study abroad as something everyone should undertake during their degree. It is a fantastic way to meet new people and explore new places while also gaining credit towards your degree. My main highlight was meeting and spending time with all the new people I met. While San Jose was a great place to explore, it was the people that I met along the way that definitely made my trip. The things we did, places we saw and things we experienced will be memories I cherish forever.

Things I didn’t expect

I was surprised by the number of international students I became friends with. Initially, I assumed I would become friends with mainly American students. However, understandably, they spend a lot of time studying and working, as I would do back at home. The international students on the other hand were all there with similar goals and attitudes. As such, we were all keen to explore and try new things and so we often grouped together to adventure around the place.

Tips and advice

My main tip would be to enter exchange with an open mind. Being open to new experiences allows you to do things and meet people you would never have expected to. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be ready to go with the flow. Often exchange is a waiting game, so be patient and be assured that it will all work out in the end.