Living, Studying and Travelling in Minnesota!

Ciara W., Bachelor of Business
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Yosemite National Park

I chose the University of Minnesota as my exchange location for semester 1, 2016 and loved every single second I spent there. I had always wanted to experience college in America and due to the excellent reputation of the Carlson School of Management, the University of Minnesota seemed an obvious choice. Luckily for me, Minnesota was experiencing a very mild winter, so the day I arrived it was a ‘warm’ -1c. As January progressed, however, the temperatures dropped significantly, averaging about -16c to -30c. The cold was something I had never felt before, and I found a lot of my winter gear (such as gloves) just weren’t cutting it.

CSOM in a snow storm

The campus itself was huge! Everything you could want was on campus and accessible by the free shuttles that run around East Bank and West Bank (the campus is separated by the Mississippi River). There was a massive gym equipped with three floors of apparatus and 2 swimming pools that was free for students to use. Additionally, there was a campus town on East Bank called ‘Dinky Town’ where all the student bars/restaurants were situated. This was where the small Target grocery store was situated, which was handy to pick up snacks/fruit and even bedding and toiletries.

Campus in spring

My dorm room in Middlebrook Hall

During my exchange, I stayed in a dorm as it seemed like the more convenient choice. Middlebrook Hall was a stone’s throw away from Carlson which was a luxury when the snow hit hard. I shared a room with an American student, Amelia. During my stay and we became incredibly close. We were very similar, close in age and got on so well so I was really happy with my choice of a double room. Our room was situated on the ‘Students Crossing Borders’ floor, which meant I was able to meet so many students from all over the world and form close friendships with them. Living with such amazing and fun people was definitely one of the highlights of my time spent overseas. While in the dorm, I chose a 14 meal p/w plan, which could be used in any dining hall throughout campus (which we unfortunately figured out halfway through the semester). While Middlebrook served okay food, 17th dining hall definitely won in terms of fresher and healthier choices!

 

I felt the cost of living was reasonable in Minnesota, however the exchange rate was terrible when I went so this cut my money down significantly. I found the food plan to be quite expensive in terms of the choices, and would have probably opted for the smaller meal plan if I knew how much I would have eaten out. The cost of the accommodation was fair, as there were much more expensive choices (such as University Village) that provided only little improvements.

My Closest international friend and I in the Grand Canyon

During my stay, I was able to explore New York for a weekend, Orlando and Miami for spring break, as well as LA, Joshua Tree, Lake Havisu, Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite and San Francisco after my exchange ended. I was able to experience incredible hockey games (seriously amazing!), play in both a broomball (like ice hockey but just with running shoes – dangerous stuff!) and dodge ball team with other exchange students and broaden my network worldwide I made so many amazing friends and I found it incredibly hard to leave. Going on exchange was the highlight of my degree and I learnt so much about myself and other cultures. I loved it so much that I will be heading back at the end of the year to visit!

San Francisco

 

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.