Danniella McGowen

Date: SP2, 2014
Degree Program: Bachelor of Management (Marketing)
Host University: Northern Arizona University (NAU)
Host Country: USA

Why did you choose your host university?

A girl from this university came to UniSA on exchange and we had a class together. We did some group work together and became really great friends. So later in the year, I visited her in Flagstaff, Arizona, checked out the campus and fell in love with the mountains, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon and Sedona which were close by. I love the outdoors so I knew this University was perfect for me.

McGowen 1What was the university like?

Completely different to Australia. There were no big lectures. Instead we had 2 tutorials a week. Everyone participates and answers questions and really gets involved, it was incredible. Teachers were 100% willing to help, maybe even too much, and group work was a huge focus for courses in the school of business. Students wore suits to class, and presentations were frequent which was quite scary, especially not knowing anyone initially. There was an abundance of resources available to students including 24/7 secure computer rooms, 24/7 campus dining options and two easily accessible libraries with free campus transport. There was a health and learning centre which I used frequently, and I also did extra-curricular activities such as the Grand Canyon 3 day hike through the HLC.

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

I used to be scared to meet new people, make new friends and spend time alone. But living on campus and having to ultimately start all over again and make entirely new friends was the most liberating experience of my life. I made the most incredible friends, I enjoyed my studies and received fantastic grades, I was able to experience college living and I became comfortable in my own skin. 

McGowen 2What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

My parents helped me out with my accommodation, there were cheaper options available but my mum wanted me to stay in new, secure facilities. I chose to stay at an apartment complex called ‘the suites’ which were located on campus, with Starbucks and a campus supermarket downstairs and a gym. You needed a key and your ID card to enter the building, my room was new, I had my own room but shared a bathroom with another girl who was from LA and we became best friends. Other exchange students stayed in dorms where they shared rooms with others, most of the time it was fine but I preferred having my own space.

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

I became great friends with my roommate who was from LA, so we road tripped to LA twice. I was able to stay with her family and experience California like a local. We went to Disneyland, drove through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and spent a day at Santa Monica Beach. Her family were amazing and hospitable, it was a great experience and I will definitely be going back. I utilised Spring break by going to New York and staying with another friend, I also took weekend trips to the Grand Canyon, Utah to see Monument Valley, and nearby cities like Page in Arizona to see Antelope Canyon. My Grand Canyon trip was a 3 day backpacking course where we hiked 22km into the canyon carrying 30kg, camped for the night, hiked further the next day to Beaver Falls, camped again then hiked back up to the top (this was the hardest and most rewarding thing I ever did). On my way back to Australia I went to Peru and hiked the Inca trek.

McGowen 3Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I was lucky enough to already know one girl and to instantly click with my suite-mate. Which was extremely lucky because my airline lost my bags and I was able to get a lot of help and support from these two girls. Through them I met other people but also met people in my classes and hung out with other UniSA students who exchanged at NAU as well. I found that when people heard my Australian accent, they instantly wanted to be friends with me and help me out. It was unexpected, but great. 

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

I already have. I am now employed fulltime in Sydney at an International media company. During my interviews they told me that my internship and overseas exchange really interested them and showed that I could be valuable in their team. 

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

I was hesitant because it pushed my degree out another 6 months, but I would do it again over and over if I could. There is great funding available for students to have this experience, and every person I speak to that didn’t take the opportunity regrets it. There is absolutely nothing to lose, and the opportunity may never come around again. So many things changed while I was away – my relationship ended, my dog passed away, I came home to no job and I was missing my USA friends etc, but what I found was I changed and developed so much through this experience that I was able to deal with all of that better than I ever would have been able to before. Traveling is one thing, but living somewhere and experiencing a different lifestyle for an extended amount of time is entirely different. I can’t put it into words. 

Top Tips:
Live in the moment. The exchange is only 5 months of your life. Everything will still be here when you get back, and if it isn’t, that is life. “Don’t lead no humdrum life!”.

Areas of study and research

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