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!!!

True American Experience

Dylan, S. Bachelor of Science
University of Wyoming, USA, (Semester 2 2017)

Going on exchange at the University of Wyoming in the USA was far and away the best thing I have ever done in my life. The people I met on exchange will be friends for life and the experience and sights I saw and shared with them I will never forget!

From the minute I jumped off the plane over I was a mix of nerves, fear, excitement and Taco Bell and I can honestly say that If you’re not scared it’s not something worth doing.

Walking the Streets of Wyoming

Wyoming is the state in the US with the smallest population and it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere but it honestly has so much to offer. The national parks are beautiful & there is world class skiing so close as well. If you love hiking and anything outdoors UW has the most insane outdoor program with trips every few weeks and it is so easy to make friends with people who are constantly getting out and doing exciting things.

UW itself is a pretty small school with the best sense of community. It’s in a town called Laramie which has some really cool little food spots and a lot of places that sell camo. I would recommend being over 21 or be turning 21 if you are heading to UW. Another recommendation I would have is to listen to a little country music before you leave Aus, because you will listen to it a lot and eventually begin to love songs about your tractor.

At the Beach

Some of the people in Wyoming can have pretty different values and political beliefs from home and at first that could be hard to swallow for a lot of people but if you have an open mind you will grow to love them.

Travelling around USA

The best advice I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new experiences and meet as many new people as possible. Some of the other highlights of my trip apart from at UW included traveling to New York, New Orleans, road-tripping the west coast and going to Mexico for spring break.

 

I tried to have a ‘true’ American college experience and lived off campus in a house with people I had never met. This lead to the majority of my friends being Americans and not being other international students. While this may be scary, I went over there wanting an authentic experience and I truly am thankful for getting that. Everyone I met was so open and fun that I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you wanted the more standard exchange experience though UW still has a great international program and they will look after you so well!

Snowmobiling

I would 100% recommend going to the university of Wyoming and to America on exchange. It is such a great country and you will have memories you will never forget, it was by far the best thing I have done in my life and I want to go back every day!

Going global with QUT was amazing and even though it’s a long application process it is so worth it and the study abroad team is so helpful 🙂

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!

Live an all American life in Alabama

Sam C. Bachelor of Business/ Bachelor of Law (Honours)
University of Alabama (Semester 2, 2018)

Going to the University of Alabama on exchange was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Stepping into a completely different culture and having the opportunity to be there for a prolonged period of time and truly immerse yourself is something that I had always aspired to do since I graduated high school. Being given that chance on exchange I was determined to take full advantage of everything that was offered to me and do my absolute best to get everything out of the experience. Right from the beginning of my exchange I adopted an open mindset in terms of participating in activities that were out of my comfort zones. I feel that this accompanied by an outgoing personality allowed me to quickly find my feet relatively and begin to develop friendships.

UoA!

On one of my first nights in Alabama myself and the other Australian I was with met a group of people who, unbeknownst to us at the time, would ultimately become our best friends on the exchange. With true Southern hospitality, these people ended up inviting us to their respective houses in Baton Rouge, Chicago, South Carolina and Tennessee at different times throughout the semester. Befriending local students also allowed me to truly experience the culture of the host university and have an authentic exchange experience.

Game days are a highlight

As our exchange unfolded I ended up meeting people from all different facets of the University and it truly felt that I had created a whole new friendship group, one removed from the one that I previously had back in Australia. For me this was probably the best thing about exchange and the thing that I miss the most being back in Brisbane. Overall, I would highly recommend exchange to everyone who is considering because there is no other experience like it!

Some of my favourite activities from

exchange:

  • Tailgating Aland football games;
  • Exploring local nature spots;
  • Greek life events; and
  • Trying (even if only once) some of the typical dining options that you see on tv e.g. Wendys, Chic-fil-a, waffle house etc.
  • We managed to fit in a lot of travelling, Chicago!

Get out of your Comfort Zone at Purdue

Wyatt W., Bachelor of Business
University of Purdue, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

I had the pleasure of attending Purdue University, a 50,000 student college in America’s Midwest, Indiana. After spending four months diving head first into the Purdue experience, I walk away from the experience with a grin on my face, knowing I had the time of my life.

Purdue is centered around a quiet farming town called West Lafayette. While there’s not a whole bunch to do in the city area, you learn to enjoy all the excitement the campus has to offer.

Purdue is a big 10 school, meaning the football games are a huge deal. We got to enjoy a few games in Purdue’s Ross Aid Stadium. A definite highlight was when Purdue beat Ohio State, ranked 3rd in America, which resulted in all the students storming the field.

The best part about exchange was making new friends. I decided to join the Purdue Water Polo team. I was instantly welcomed into a large community and made a few friends for life. We got to travel around the Midwest playing the other big 10 college teams.

Exchange is what you make of it. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone, speaking to everyone, saying yes to mostly everything and taking everything in as it happens. It happens in a blink of an eye and when you leave you can’t help but shed a tear. My college experience will be something I look back on for the rest of my life.

Highlights from my exchange

Southern Hospitality – My Exchange to University of South Carolina

Patrick H., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama)
University of South Carolina (Columbia campus), USA (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed an exchange semester to The University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus from January to May 2017. USC’s campus certainly dwarfed QUT’s campuses with some majestic classical buildings and hints of the city’s Civil War history literally spelt out on signs around town.  My African American Literature professor could also be counted on to fill in some more, less flattering history of the area, including the fact that the IHOP carpark was previously the largest ‘slave pen’ in the entire South.

One of the South Columbia historic site signs.

The campus itself was very scenic, green and spacious, with the common area of the Horseshoe being a quiet, sylvan spot to relax as the weather turned warmer. “Turned warmer” being the operative phrase as the January start to the semester meant sub-zero temperatures on arrival and even returning from a Spring Break in New Orleans saw my Cliff Apartment’s ‘home’ on campus in the midst of a snap snowstorm. So my first piece of advice would be to pack for both freezing cold and significant heat – clothes that can be layered are an absolute must.

The Horseshoe, USC Columbia campus.

The Observatory and one of the more spectacular residences on USC Columbia campus.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while the campus is an easy walk into ‘town’ (with such attractions as the Nickelodeon cinema, the Columbia Museum of Art, and bars and restaurants such as Bourbon (upmarket and authentic Southern food) and The Whig (more affordable pub fare)) and Five Points (an equivalent of somewhere like Fortitude Valley/West End), getting to The Vista or to an affordable supermarket like Walmart is impossible without a car (though USC was kind enough to lay on a shuttle bus to Walmart on a weekly basis) so, if you’re relying on your own feet, you may be limited to those areas in walking distance.

Jazz recital under Columbia Museum of Art’s amazing modern chandelier.

 

When attending classes on such a big campus (particularly if you’re taking some of the music or literature classes that are in remote buildings), make sure to allow enough time to get there. There are plenty of venues for music, theatre and even film (free films are screened during semester) on the campus itself and my accommodation at Cliff Apartments included regular free food nights to ensure residents got to meet their fellow students. There are also many food options on campus and Dominos is not far away (Wednesday night pizzas are $5). The organisers of sports on campus also make sure students can get free or discounted tickets to basketball, baseball and other sports events on campus and nearby and outings to (e.g.) Columbia’s zoo, Folly Beach, Charleston and other cities within driving distance are offered to visiting international students at a modest charge.

The view from my Cliff Apartments’ window.

Cliff Apartments certainly wasn’t the most glamorous accommodation on campus but the apartments were the largest in terms of space and included separate kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom in an open plan space. The only necessity to buy yourself were things like pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. The early-mentioned Walmart trips were a good opportunity to get your hands on the things you need for the apartment early on.

Cooper Library, which you’ll get to know very well.

Overall, USC’s Columbia campus was people by friendly fellow students, very knowledgeable and approachable professors and support staff who were always ready with vital advice and a tasty scone (not like ours at all!) and flat white (I taught them, don’t worry) to raise your spirits. My best advice would be just to be open to anything that’s on offer – I did and saw a Gospel Festival, a speech by Francis Ford Coppola (!!) with screening of his work in progress, some fantastic theatre department productions, a baseball game, a night of role-playing boardgames and a really fun Oscars night at Nickelodeon as a result!

The Ghost Light ceremony with USC’s Theatre Department in attendance.

 

Exchange at the University of Minnesota

Meng Lee, Bachelor of Business
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Overall, I would recommend the University of Minnesota (U of M) for all students that are interested in going on a long term exchange. The organizer for this program was really helpful and friendly for students to ask questions. I took many opportunities to travel around the different states but I would say the transportation from state to state is really expensive as compared to Australia. For example, if you are planning to go New York during your break, it would probably cost you around 250 USD. I would recommend that you to book the ticket early as to avoid this issue.

I found that Minnesota is a really quiet and peaceful place. There is not a lot of night life or shopping…so please don’t expect it will be the same life as New York, Chicago or other big cities (hahahah). However, there is the biggest shopping center in US which is the Mall of America. You probably could find all your stuff there.

If you are planning to go U of M during the winter time, I will suggest you to bring more thick clothes! The weather is crazy there! I AM SERIOUS. I remember when I arrived, it was -30 Celsius. You probably need an extremely thick jacket and at least 2 layers inside your body. Boots are a must. No sport shoes, as it would kill you (hahaha).

During my time in University of Minnesota, I met many new friends from around the world. This definitely helped me to strengthen my social network with meeting new friends from different nations; vibe with them and learn more about their culture. Since coming back from U of M, I have been Europe to meet my best friends that I met on exchange.

Studying abroad is not only about acquiring knowledge, but also discovering a new culture. I have to say that I really recommend students to take this opportunity to engage in this program!

American College Life at Fordham

Julia M., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
Fordham University, United States (Semester 1, 2018)

The experience of university in America is extremely different to that of QUT. Everything from the method of teaching, grading and assessment to the college spirit and club involvement was entirely different. My favourite aspect of life at Fordham University was the spirit and enthusiasm that students had towards their school. The campus was covered with flags and statues of the school mascot (a ram) with the huge football field covered in maroon and white (the university’s colours) branding. They even had a store with everything you could ever think of (including baby clothes and dog bones) Fordham branded. People were proud to wear these items, in contrast to at home where you rarely see people in QUT outfits. It was awesome to experience this first hand, and you really felt like part of a community where everyone knew each other and people cared.

The biggest and most challenging difference was the way in which assessment was completed and graded. At home, we usually have 2-3 large assessments for each subject, whereas at Fordham we had a very small assessment due almost every week. Although there was more assessment, I found it easier to get good grades, as the teachers were more lenient with their marking. They do not use criteria sheets and just mark off what they think you should get. There is also no moderating, which caused students to prefer certain professors to others as the marked the work easier. I found this very unusual and strange to deal with at first, as it was hard to know what the professors were looking for when marking my work. I quickly got used to it and found that it was easy to get an A with a little effort. Attendance was also very important. In one of my classes, attendance counted towards 25% of my final grade. If you missed more than 2 lessons unexcused then your final grade would drop one full letter. I found this very stressful as if I was sick I still had to go to class or risk losing a grade.

Overall I had an amazing experience going to Fordham university and would definitely do it all over again if I could. I made amazing friends that taught me about American culture and let me into their lives. The experience of living in New York City was amazing, and being able to explore the 5 boroughs at any time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would definitely recommend exchange to anyone, as it helps you develop as a person and gain full independence. Being so far away from home makes you appreciate what you have and learn how to truly look after yourself.

University of Florida – Top 10 Public University, Number 1 Exchange Destination

David Li, Bachelor of Laws
University of Florida, USA (Semester 1, 2018)

Looking back on the past semester, I am still left in disbelief at how quickly the 120 days studying abroad passed by.

Admittedly the beginning of exchange is rough. Firstly, there are a lot of documents and procedures required for entry into the US as a student. For example, I had to fly down to Sydney for a day to complete a two-minute interview at the US Consulate office. However, once you reach your destination you’ll be glad you went through all the trouble.

The University of Florida is situated in Gainesville, Florida. It is the definition of a college town. The college is a top 10 public university with over 50,000 students and pretty much the only noteworthy thing in its area. As such, the campus is huge. I stayed at Weaver Hall, which is the typical American dorm. However, these dorms are split between Americans and other international students, which provides the perfect opportunity to meet new people. Being situated on campus also made it very convenient to get everywhere.

The gym on campus is free to use to students and so is the bus system. I bought the meal plan, which meant I could go to the dining hall during its opening hours. The dining hall is buffet style. Although the food isn’t top quality, I would still recommend getting the meal plan if you don’t like cooking. There are plenty of other activities to do as well, and UF truly delivers a college experience.

The teaching method in the States is quite different. Instead of large pieces of assessment, they spread it out consistently over the semester in little chunks. Also, many classes mark you on participation, so you’ll have to go to class. I found this more manageable and less stressful in a way, since you’re always on top of your work and there isn’t a big final assessment piece like QUT subjects normally have.

I saved around 16,000AUD for exchange, which was vital since the exchange rate was really poor during my time there. I may have remained under-budget had I not gone travelling around America for a month afterwards. I used an international card setup in Brisbane and bought a T-Mobile phone plan while I was there.

On a more personal note, UF will always have a place in a heart. I’ve met so many amazing people and have had so many crazy experiences. It really does feel like a movie that played out in front me. It’s a surreal and bittersweet feeling looking at my life for the past six months, and knowing that it won’t ever be quite like that again. But that’s what makes exchange worth doing – the countless, unique experiences you’ll have and the extraordinary people you meet. Where else are you going to have people go crazy over your accent, or be surrounded by friends who all live a short walk away, or be able to study in a different country and immerse yourself in a culture wholly different to Australia’s.

Overall, exchange was one of the best times of my life. I can see why everyone recommends studying abroad. My biggest tip would be to go with an open mind. Exchange is what you make of it so be sure to make the most out of this once in a lifetime opportunity. It may be hard to prepare for exchange, and the initial days during it. However, in a matter of days your exchange destination will feel like home and you’ll be so glad you did it.

GO GATAS

Business negotiations in North Carolina

Bryson C, Bachelor of Business

AIM Overseas: Business Negotiations and Communications (Jan-Feb 2017)

During January and February 2017, myself and 23 other Australians set out on a new journey not knowing what to expect. Our destination? Charlotte, North Carolina. A buzzing city full of life and American culture. My journey began from Brisbane, which at the time was about 40 degrees Celsius. When I arrived in Charlotte it was a quarter of that, 10 degrees Celsius. That was my first big shock. After a big day of travels, I settled down at what would be my home for the next 3 weeks, the Drury Inn. When I woke, I found myself surrounded by friendly faces at the breakfast buffet and already I had made my first friends.

   Later that day, we found ourselves in the actual university getting to know what our new campus looked like. We were stunned, it was so large and so amazing. The entire university was full of life and culture with several hardcore college basketball supporters telling us to come and support the team, and several sorority and fraternities trying to get us to sign up (unfortunately we could not do this). Life on campus itself was extremely different to that back home. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be BIG. There was so much to do and so much to explore and all in all, our host university kept us all very safe.

The United States of America is a very interesting place to travel. It is somewhat similar to Australia but there are several key differences I think. To begin with, tipping is the most annoying thing in the world. I accidentally under-tipped my hairdresser and she then proceeded to be very upset with me like I had done something wrong (sorry). The weather unlike Australia’s is very plain. If the forecast says cloudy and cold then it is cloudy and cold, no massive thunderstorms that pop up out of no-where. Traveling in the US was also very easy – with the use of Uber, my friends and I were able get around and see many places in our spare time such as the gyms, gun ranges, restaurants, race tracks and various other cultural places.

The highlight of my trip would have to be the day that we went and sat in on a very important speech given by world renowned economist Jay Bryson. I could network with American professionals and hear their take on the future of the American economy and listen to their opinions on what the world might look like in 5 years. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Charlotte and I would definitely recommend the AIM program to everyone seeking a short-term exchange to the United States.