Alice - University of South Carolina

B Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018
Say yes to exchange and new adventures!

Academic experience

While on exchange in South Carolina I studied five courses, one of which was a commerce-related elective and the other four directly correlated to courses back at UQ. The style of assessment is more spread out than end-semester heavy, which had its benefits as the end of the semester wasn't so stressful but the negatives were you had to be organised so you wouldn't accidentally forget little pieces of assessment. Grading and tests were also different in US, in AUS the grading system is more rigid and dependent on the faculty coordinators whereas in US grading and testing was very dependent on your professor. 
The enrolment process ended up being quite difficult as we had to be granted access into a specific course before we could enrol and that was only able to be done by walking down to the department where they manually do it. Also, we weren't enrolled in classes until less than a week before they started so unluckily I had to do all 8/8:30 AM classes Mon-Thurs.

Personal experience

The University of South Carolina has a pretty big exchange program and I was lucky enough to be housed within the Maxcy (international house) community. This meant that while I knew Americans from my classes most of the close friends I made were also exchange students. I felt that Columbia is a great city to immerse yourself in classic ‘deep south’ and some of the experiences would be difficult to replicate without college. Things that I experienced include tailgating, football, big trucks, American Halloween, bullet-holes in the local iHop, Chick-fil-a fried chicken (Americans were obsessed), college pride (I bought so much USC merchandise), 30% finals, going to class in 0 degree temp, two hurricanes, biscuits (really just scones), grits (never managed to eat them), southern charm, seeing Beyonce for $25 USD, Americans obsession with Australians and making friends from around the world. The places I managed to explore were the Smokey Mountains, Charlotte, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, New York, Savannah, New Orleans, San Francisco and LA.


I lived on-campus in Thornwell, an apartment style dorm, which means I had my own room and a kitchen and large lounge area I shared with my two other roommates. Thornwell was a great place to live as it provided privacy and, as we were included in Maxcy, all the international student events. There was a lot of opportunity to socialise with other people from different backgrounds. Thornwell was also centrally located, right behind the Horseshoe and a 2 minute walk to Russell House. I didn’t choose what on-campus housing I was going to live in, so it was just the luck of the draw, but a lot of my friends didn’t mind sharing rooms and generally got on with their roommates. In saying that, it’s useful to have a friend with an apartment as you can have people over with more space than one shared room would give.


Unfortunately, while I was in America the exchange rate wasn’t great (worst was 0.68 AUD USD) so keeping to budget was difficult but I don’t have regrets with my choices. For the semester and a few weeks travel afterwards I ended up spending around 18000 AUD.

Rent: $5900 USD, it was more expensive to live on the Horseshoe and this also includes the university insurance of $869 USD which can be avoided. I would recommend looking into this before you go. I just payed because the waiver and approval process was strict that year at USC and I couldn’t be bothered  or was too late to fin an alternative.

Food: I spent about $50 USD a week
Transport: There was no public transport that was worthwhile taking in Columbia so walking was it locally. Hiring a car for people under 25 comes with a big insurance fee so I’d recommend having a full car for trips to make it cheaper to travel outside Columbia which is better than the Greyhound buses. Also, it is good to know Americans to drive you places, otherwise, for short trips, it’s walking or Uber.

Travel: Flights out of Columbia are usually more expensive so I’d recommend looking into Charlotte airport as well (there’s a shuttle service). There is a student ride-sharing group that is very useful if you get lucky and the Greyhound buses, but I wouldn’t recommend that for trips longer than 4 hours unless you’re desperate (they aren’t like buses in Europe or Australia).

Professional Development

From my exchange I feel I am much more prepared for the new interactions and experiences that are to be part of my future career.


The highlights of the semester was Tailgating and all the close friends I made. While I don't think I can ever relive tailgating, I'll be able to visit my friends around the world and reflect on all the good times over the semester.

Top tips

I've always wanted to go on exchange and originally, I always thought Europe but I have looked back on my choice to study in America. The college experience and the close bonds you develop cannot be replicated anywhere else and USC was the epitome of American college, almost exactly like in the movies with the fraternities, tailgates, football and southern charm. I think wherever you go, just join in to any opportunities that come your way and make the most of your experiences.