Elliot Woollaston

Date: SP5, 2016
Degree Program: Bachelor of Psychological Science, Bachelor of Social Sciences (Human Services)
Host University: Minnesota State University, Mankato
Host Country: USA

Why did you choose your host university?

During my initial selection process I decided that the United States was the place that I wanted to go for a variety of reasons including having travelled elsewhere before (Asia, Europe) and wanting to go somewhere different that I normally wouldn’t have easy access to on a regular basis e.g. being a British citizen gives access to Europe. The thing that made the decision all the more easy was that the federal election was on at the time and politics is something that I’m really passionate about.

So why Minnesota State university Mankato? Simply put it came down to three colleges that had all the subjects that I could do and I wanted to go somewhere completely different to not just Australia but to the rest of the states. Plus because of Minnesota’s location it provides travelling opportunity’s other exciting locations which are within an 8 hour drive including Chicago in Illinois, Mount Rushmore and and many more cool sightseeing spots in South Dakota and the state of Iowa.

Elliot WoollastonWhat was the university like?

Minnesota State University, Mankato was both the same but different to UniSA. For example classes are require work to be handed up constantly unlike the system UniSA has where you’ll only hand up a couple of assignments, maybe a group presentation and an Exam with the whole course content in it. In Mankato exams are split up across many containing only two chapters each, many small tasks are required throughout the semester which make up your grade. However the content itself was easier as a lot of what we did in class was taught in high school (this was found across a lot of degrees based on conversations I had from other exchange students). In terms of the resources available to students its largely the same as it is at UniSA and if you need anything to do with being on exchange, Visa questions or any questions regarding being an international student go to the international student office in the student union as they are really helpful.

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

I gained so much from exchange, I walk away from the experience with friends from all across the globe. I ended the exchange experience having found a new direction for what I want to do as a career. I don’t think that the experience has altered my approach to life or my thinking. But what it has done is open the doors to lands of opportunity and ultimately that defeated my original expectations of the experience

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

The accommodation options were vast and there are many different ones available. There are two types: on campus and off campus. Most of the on-campus residences are a 30second walk from the centre of campus and range in price and type. Then there are off-campus accommodation which are not owned by the university and are harder to organise and get accepted for as most require a one year lease. What I did was take an apartment in Stadium heights which comes with all the benefits of being on-campus including residency organised events, helpful university staff on-site during the day and of course having your own kitchen, living room and only having to share a bathroom with 2-4 others rather than 50 in a residence hall (and it’s only a little bit more expensive). The only downside is that it’s about a 10-20 walk from campus but there is a bus that stops right outside the complex which takes you to campus in about 5 minutes.

I would recommend stadium heights as a university accommodation option if your unable to get a place on a similar kind of set-up on campus (Which are far more expensive and really competitive). The other thing I would look into if it’s something you’ve got time for is attempting to negotiate a six month lease with one of the off-campus accommodations (Summit and Jacob Heights apartments I would recommend) as I know of people who did manage to make that arrangement and pay less than even the most basic dorm rooms for a fully-fledged apartment. But otherwise I would definitely recommend stadium heights as its best of both worlds and seems to shed the worst of both as well for a nice little bonus.

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

So I travelled quite a lot during my stay in the United States including a South Dakota road trip, a weekend in Chicago, a weekend in South Beach, Miami and several trips up to Minneapolis including seeing Good Charlotte perform at First Avenue, spending the weekend to go to see the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA team)and going to the Mall of America twice including once on Black Friday. At the time of writing I am preparing to go to the West Coast with my friends I met on exchange for two weeks, then going to Europe for about 6 weeks then returning to the USA to do the East Coast. Just make the most of being in the USA where everywhere is universally different to one another, and go on different types of trips and use this opportunity to see the different types of American culture.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I was fortunate to come into this exchange having already lived in a different country so the transition from that point was seamless. There were some unique things that I had to get used to, the funniest one was the traffic going on different sides of the road in comparison to Australia. I also went from being able to legally drink alcohol to not (The law is +21 and I’m 20), which whilst annoying is not the biggest drama in the world and doesn’t really take anything away from the experience, it just means there’s something’s you can’t do and you simply have to supplement them for equally great.

You meet people everywhere is the simple truth. A good place to start is orientation week as that’s where you’ll meet all the other exchange student, but no Americans are there so making friends with the Americans starts the following week whether that be your room/ apartment mate, around the dining hall, in class or around campus. As an Australian you are unique, you’re an entity that the Americans know exists but are fascinated to know more about. Whenever I was in a group with my friends from Germany, Netherlands or Austria and we were meeting Americans for the first time there attention would always be drawn to me simply because being an Australian in America is a rare sight and proves advantageous when meeting new people.

The friends that I made on this trip are friends for life. I met people from all across the globe and formed connections whether that is friendships or future work connections. You meet new people everywhere and the only limitation on how far that goes is on yourself. Step outside your comfort zone and just talk to people, a lot of the people you will meet in the first three week will be in the same boat as you and that something to build off of.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

I think that in terms of a future career it gave me new found direction, it allowed me to meet people from all across the world and from totally different backgrounds. I believe this will give me an advantage in the work place as being able to communicate and relate to people from different cultures is a skill that many employers will find valuable.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Exchange was the best time of my life and opened so many doors to new things. You will never again have an opportunity like this again, it truly is once in a lifetime. Its an experience you will never be able to replicate and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime. If you have never travelled before it can seem daunting, and that’s a feeling that most exchange students have when going into this. But if you’re able to put that aside you will forever grateful that you did.

Top Tips:

When an opportunity arises, say yes. You will get asked to do so many things that you would never in your wildest dreams do in your routine, day-to-day life back home so take those opportunities and run with it. There will be times where your put in a position where you have to go out of your way to maximise your opportunities to get the most out of them, for me that was my Miami weekend and for you it could be anything. But stretch those opportunities as far as they can go because it will be worth it when you look back at the memories you made whether that be with friends you’ve created a lifelong bond with or by yourself having to make new friends on the fly and adapting to the situation.

Areas of study and research

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