||Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing, Bachelor of Arts (International Relations)
||Colorado State University
Why did you choose your host university?
From a young age, I have always wanted to experience the quintessential American college lifestyle experience. I chose Colorado State University as my first choice because Colorado is an extremely fascinating state, and greatly appealed to me out of all other potential places to study in the USA. I love nature and the outdoors, so naturally, Colorado was my first and most favoured place to undertake my exchange. The scenery is breathtaking, and the mountains are incredible and unlike anything I have ever seen before. There are endless opportunities to explore in Colorado; it is home to stunning national parks and boasts an abundance of scenic hiking trails. And if you’re into snow sports or want to give it a go, Colorado is THE place to go skiing and snowboarding during winter season. It is renowned as being a world-class ski and snowboard destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world every year. I was drawn to Colorado State University (CSU) due to the incredible opportunities the college offers both on- and off-campus. CSU holds many social and sporting events all year long; the college actively tries to involve students in their CSU community. Students and staff at CSU have a reputation of being extremely friendly and outgoing, and that certainly was true as I found out from day one. The campus is situated at the base of the mountains, and offers many opportunities to hike and explore just off the campus. CSU is currently in the process of building a brand new on-campus (American) football stadium which will be finished later this year! A must-do attraction at CSU is to travel to Horsetooth Reservoir, which is stunning any time of the year! You could even attempt the hike up to the top, which offers incredible views of the reservoir and of Fort Collins.
What was the university like?
Colorado State, which is located in the quaint little college city (although more of a town) of Fort Collins, is home to over 33,000 students and boasts a very large and very scenic campus. It is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly campuses in the US, and is praised for its eco-friendly polices and initiatives. There is always something happening around campus, whether it’s pop-up sporting events or on-campus college sports, students exercising their right to free speech on the ‘stump’ in the plaza, college-run social events, or activities for students to become involved in. There is a huge sense of pride at CSU; students are proud to attend the college and be part of the ‘Ram’ community (the Ram is CSU’s official college mascot). Every Friday, students wear some sort of green clothing or CSU-branded clothing to show their Ram pride. I immediately felt a part of this college pride and almost instantly I developed a strong connection with and pride for the college and felt a part of the Ram community.
CSU offers many resources to students, both academic and personal. There are lots of places to seek these resources across campus, and each residence hall has its own resource services. CSU has its own on-campus medical centre which is available to all students, and the college offers its own health insurance to students. All of my classes I took were very engaging, and all of my professors (lecturers/tutors) were very enthusiastic about their respective courses and its content. My classes strongly encouraged student debate and encouraged students to speak up in lectures, ask questions and interact with the lecturer. The most prominent difference between courses at CSU and UniSA is the assessment criteria and workload. I found that all of my classes at CSU had numerous assignments due throughout the semester; however, there would be weekly or ‘pop’ quizzes, additional homework to complete by the next class, online forums to participate in and the option to complete further work for extra credit if you choose to. For the majority of my courses, I had several exams: two ‘mid-terms’ and a final. Further, final grading for each of my courses was determined by the number of points you received for each assessment, which ultimately determined your final grade. I don’t want to scare or deter you by telling you this—the workload is definitely manageable and still leaves you with plenty of free time—but rather so you know what to expect and you can manage your time and prepare accordingly.
In terms of getting around campus, as it is quite large, most students travel by bike to get around campus (it’s a convenient form of transportation and quicker than waiting for the campus bus, which services a route around the entire campus by the way), so this could be a good investment if you want a quick way to get around! You can get some reasonably priced second-hand ones too!
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
My exchange experience was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life thus far. From a personal development perspective, I believe I have grown and matured dramatically since returning from my exchange. My study abroad experience, and the challenges I had to overcome, has shaped me to become the person I am today. I have developed a huge sense of independence, which has resulted from travelling alone, living away from home and having to look after myself and be responsible for organising travel options, accommodation, and financial and immigration documents. If there is one thing above all else that I am most grateful for from my exchange, it is the independence I have developed, which in turn has allowed me to grow and mature greatly as a person. I strongly believe my experience has shaped and positioned me well for the future, both from a personal viewpoint and the experiences and hardships I may face in the future and how I may ultimately overcome them.
Living abroad, and exploring new cities and places during my exchange has ignited a passion within me to continue to travel and explore more fascinating places in the world and expand my global curiosity. My exchange experience has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of foreign cultures and the process of adapting and adjusting to living in another country, and all of the additional hardships and difficulties that come with such a dramatic change. I am certainly a stronger and more confident person as a result of undertaking an exchange abroad. It has encouraged me to pursue new opportunities and take on new challenges and experiences that may normally be out of my comfort zone, yet I now believe I have the confidence and determination to take on such challenges and emerge successful.
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
As incoming exchange students, we were given the option to live on- or off-campus. I would argue that there are positives and negatives to both options. Living on-campus in the dorms is more expensive compared to living in apartment complexes off-campus. However, if you live off campus you have to provide all meals for yourself and commute to college every day. I personally decided to stay on-campus in the dorms, for several reasons. It really comes down to personal preference; however, my advice is, if you are willing to spend the money, you should consider living on-campus. I suggest this for a number of reasons. First, you have a meal plan seven days a week so you don’t have to worry about making your own meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. This can be very time consuming, and on top of balancing study and your free time, it can become very overwhelming to have to worry about making meals for yourself during the day. Second, being on campus is convenient, you don’t have to commute to and from university every day; rather, you can walk to and from class which is a short 10 minute walk from the dorms to the classroom, which is how long it took me. The campus is very scenic, and I really enjoyed and appreciated being able to walk to class in the morning every day, as I am used to commuting to university back home. Third, living in the dorms allows you to live in a controlled environment with all the facilities and amenities you need. There is a real sense of a community in the dorms, and everybody makes an effort to get to know their fellow residents on their floor, and it offers the opportunity for new friendships. It also offers you the opportunity to live with a roommate, an experience I have never had before but one that I have always wanted, especially when living the college experience. I personally made a great connection with my roommate, I found we had a lot in common and we would spend a lot of time together, whether playing sport, exploring the outdoors or just going to lunch or dinner together. It is a great opportunity to make a strong friendship, which could potentially last a lifetime. And don’t worry, they will pair you with fellow second or third-year students, so they will be a similar age to you. Being in the dorms on campus means you will always be close to social events the college puts on, and you can easily meet up with other students on campus and attend sporting events. But it ultimately comes down to funds and personal preference.
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
During my exchange, there were plenty of opportunities to travel, both interstate and internationally to neighbouring countries. Before departing on my exchange, I planned ahead and saved up some personal funds leading up to going away so I could travel within the States during and after the semester. I think anyone who is considering going on exchange should also travel, either before or after (or even during) their exchange depending on their preference, why not after all! It means new experiences and opportunities to explore more of the world. Throughout the course of the semester, I spent a weekend in San Francisco, California; I travelled to Chicago, Illinios and spent some time in Michigan, where I experienced Thanksgiving. After the end of the semester, I travelled to Breckenridge in Colorado, where I spent three days learning to ski, which was an incredible experience. Before returning home I travelled back to California, where I spent a few days in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. However, one of the best travel experiences I had during my exchange, was a spontaneous road trip to Yellowstone National Park. I travelled with a large group of friends that I had made on my exchange, and we spent three days camping and exploring the beauty of Yellowstone; it was without a doubt the most incredible experience of my exchange and I am so grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity. An experience I never would have had unless I pushed myself to meet new people and make as many new friends as I could.
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
Adjusting to life in a foreign country is initially very difficult, especially in the first week or two; you miss your friends and family back home, and you begin to contemplate why you embarked on this journey in the first place. However, once you begin to get stuck in, you find yourself immersed in these amazing new experiences and opportunities; you soon find you are continually busy, whether its study, exploring new places around the college/town, embarking on hiking trips or outdoor adventures, or even just spending time with friends. I found adjusting to living abroad hard at first, but it became a lot easier once I reached out to meet new people and continually kept myself busy every day, whether it was academic work or personal enjoyment.
Upon arriving at the college, the first two days of the semester were dedicated to international students’ orientation, which was a fantastic chance to meet some new people early on and start to make some friendships and connections. I personally found I got on extremely well with other international students, primarily because we were all in the same boat and living the same experience together, so we could relate to one another and understand and appreciate we wanted to make the most of our exchange experience. Ultimately, I did spend quite a bit of my time with other international students. However, I ensured that I did not just keep to a small friendship group, and across the semester I tried to meet as many new people as I could, and I would strongly encourage you to do the same. This was through class, the dorms, the cafeteria, sporting games, and social clubs. As a result, I found myself being invited to social events, being asked to go hiking and exploring in the mountains, and even just making friendships and hanging out in the dorms and going to lunch or dinner with friends. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of meeting new people and making new friendships. Don’t keep to yourself, an exchange is an opportunity to embark on a brand new journey and have unique experiences and meet fascinating new people, making strong friendships along the way. The more people you meet, the more experiences and opportunities that are likely to come your way and the easier it will be to adjust to living in your new environment.
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
I believe undertaking an exchange and developing a global perspective is greatly beneficial and appealing to potential future employers. I believe such an experience demonstrates your ability to seize new opportunities and take on new challenges and experiences; it shows you are willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and throw yourself in the deep end, demonstrating your ability to adapt and transition when faced with new experiences or challenges. Above all, I believe it highlights you as a strong-minded and persistent individual who never settles for the easiest or most convenient option; rather, you continually push yourself to capitalise on new opportunities and experiences to further your own personal development, all of which qualities are very appealing to employers, regardless of what job field/industry you are in.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
Don’t think twice. If you are hesitant or unsure for whatever reason about going on exchange, my advice would be to forget about your concerns, whatever they may be, and just go for it. You may never have another opportunity like this again, so why not go for it. There are only positives that can come out of a decision like this, and it will only ever benefit you. Trust me, as soon as you arrive at the college you will instantly know you have made the right decision. Not only will it be one of the best experiences of your life, it will be a defining moment in your life thus far because of the way it will positively benefit and change you as a person from a personal development perspective. I believe you will grow from the experience and be stronger because of it. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you know you could never pass something like this up. I am forever grateful I seized my opportunity to undertake an exchange abroad and live the American college experience I’ve always dreamed of, and I know you will be too.
Don’t hesitate, say YES to everything. Throughout the semester you will meet lots of new people, and endless opportunities and experiences will come your way. You just have to put yourself out there and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t return home with any regrets. Remember, you only have four months, and while that seems like a long time, it really does fly by. Live every day of your exchange knowing your time is limited, and with that mindset take every opportunity and experience that becomes available to you, because I can speak from personal experience that you will not regret it. Some of the best experiences of my life have been from my exchange, and they all came from pushing myself to meet as many new people as I could and to just say yes—you never know where it could take you.