Melanie Walker

Date: SP5, 2013
Degree Program: Bachelor of Social Work, Bachelor of Arts (International Relations)
Host University: Colorado State University
Host Country: USA

 

Student Melanie Walker - USAWhy did you choose your host university?

I chose to go to Colorado because I wanted a scenery change! At first I was hoping to go to California, however after thought, I deicide I would swap coast and beaches for the mountains and the snow. I also chose Colorado State because it is in Fort Collins – a student town.

Colorado is beautiful (the photos don’t do it justice). Also if you’re into fun outdoor activities, then there are heaps of thing to do in Colorado – skiing or snowboarding, a bunch of national parks, Denver is an hour away and is a good time, hiking, great camping, and some cool animals (moose and mountain lions).

Also if you like beer, then fort Collins is home to a heap of local brewies, which are great! And offer great brewery tours. The best of which is New Belgium – who’s tour is free and full of beer.

Colorado’s weather is pretty good, while it does get cold (in winter)!! The sun is always out, it hardly ever rains and there are there are always blue skies, and summer is warm!

What was the university like?

The university itself was everything you would expect an American university to be like. Over the top! Super into the sports, heaps of college parties and, if your over 21, a big bar scene and the university itself was humongous with a cheeky 60,000 students.

The assessments I found to be quite easy, I did my international relations electives over there and they were great. Most classes seem to be exam based, however they are easier than what you would imagine.

If you do first year classes at CSU they are going to be very much like lectures at Uni SA with around 150 people in them. Or if you do 3rd and 4th year classes, they are like tutorials with around 20-30 people in them (way better for meeting people). Most classes or tutes are on twice a week.  Also as classes are only worth 3.0 in comparison to Uni SA’s 4.5 you will have to enrol in 5 (while this might sound a lot the work load I found, was far less)

Because I had electives I had more options with what classes I chose. In the end I had classes on only Tuesdays and Fridays – leaving me with a highly enjoyable 4 day weekend + Wednesday.

Student Melanie Walker - USAWhat did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

Has it altered my approach to life? Hmm perhaps, I just believe you should make the most of life, and if travelling is something your into, then nothing beats living in another country! It allows you to truly understand the culture, to meet the people and to integrate yourself into American life. If you’re a traveller then America is also a great location, you have Canada and Alaska to the north or there is Central America to the south.

I gained a lot from this experience, I got to do a lot of travel, I made a bunch of friends both fellow exchangers and Americans, I gained a better understanding of American life AND I gained about 8kg!

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

I stayed in the dorms, mine were female dorms – not out of choice.  Personally  I didn’t mind the dorms, as I was so close to my friends, and also I used to stay at my friend’s or boyfriend’s house a lot, so I got to get out of the dorms a lot, and not eat the food all the time.

However where you live is totally up you and what you choose will vary on your preferences. To help I did a pros and cons list

Dorms:

Pros – dorms are  on campus, you get meal plans (pro and con), food is just a 5 min walk away, it is a good way to meet other people especially other exchangers, American roommate, free gym membership, great if your under 21, more convenient

Cons - the majority of people in dorms are 18, I was 21 so felt the age difference, however I did love my roomie and I had a bunch of exchange students in my dorm over 21 – so that was good, the meal plans (while convenient and lots of choice, I missed cooking), if you don’t like shared bathrooms don’t do it, no drinking in dorms, and living in the dorms is more expensive

Apartments or outside living

Pros – more autonomy, cook for yourself, can have people over, more room, own bedroom, it’s a house, roommates, cheaper than cost of dorm, however have to locate bed and stuff unless you’re staying at the university apartments

Cons – further away from campus, might have less chance to meet people at first, but only initially.

My thoughts:

If you have a year exchange do both! That way you get the best of both worlds, you can use the dorms to meet people and fellow exchangers and then mosey on out to an apartment the next semester where you’re going to have more autonomy and possibly more fun living with friends of your choice. 

Student Melanie Walker - USADescribe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I turned my exchange into a 9 month trip! I left in June and did 3 months in Central America – Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.

I flew up for my exchange, where I did lots of mini road trips: Burning man, trips around Colorado (Denver a few times, rocky mountain national park, Mount Rushmore and badlands national park, camping trips, and skiing weekends).

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

America isn’t overly different to Australia, so I didn’t find it that hard to adjust. I met people by just attending classes, joining groups and meeting people through people. At first, the people on exchange are going to be your closest friends, however as you start to get into classes more or go out or play sports, you will meet heaps more people – who trust me, will be interested in chatting to you, because your Australian.

I also joined the outdoor club! Really fun group of chilled out people! They organised heaps of outdoor activities, including snow shoeing, hikes, camping trips – which would including bunch of different options (hiking, rock climbing, fishing etc) and they even did a back country ski trip up in Canada. They had beers and meetings every Wednesday, which was fun.

Also if you go to CSU, they give you an exchange buddy, they show you around, take you shopping etc etc. mine was amazing and we became really good friends! 

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

Of course, many skills come from travelling on your own and living in a new country, these can be utilised in life and in your future career.

Student Melanie Walker - USAWhat advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Just do it. Make the most of life and go on an adventure. You might be nervous or hesitant, but everyone in your situation in going to be the same. Living in America is so much fun, there’s so much to do, the people are friendly, it’s cheap and it’s such a different (heaps better) experience to our universities. 

 

Top Tips:

 Don’t make travel plans for after your exchange! People are going to want to travel with you or invite you places! Don’t make the mistake of pre organising everything, you will regret it.

  1. Join a group! Outdoor club was a great way to meet people, and great way to see the country!
  1. If you can, go for a whole year, all my exchange friends, myself included wished we could stay another semester.
  1. Don’t be concerned if you’re under 21, there are heaps of house parties and if you are over 21, then awesome! Be prepared for the cheapest drinks you have ever seen! Aka 1 cent pitchers of beer!
  1. And lastly GO! You won’t regret it, if anything you want to stay longer.

Areas of study and research

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