Devika - University of Virginia

B Engineering
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

While at UVa, I only took a 12-credit load compared to the standard 15 credits. Three of the four courses I took were related to my Mechanical Engineering degree and I took Abnormal Psychology as a fourth filler course. The engineering courses were very similar in content, however there was a lot more face to face learning, which I liked, as the lectures aren’t recorded. There also aren’t any tutorial or practical session for classes, instead they have office hours if you need help with any of the class work. I found it difficult to keep up with the workload of classes sometimes, because there is a lot of regular, weekly homework that is due.

Personal experience

Aside from living at UVa, I did a lot of travelling around the states, including New York, DC, Chicago, New Orleans and a lot of the West Coast. Because I was there during the fall semester, I was lucky enough to experience an American Halloween and stay with my friend’s family for a typical American Thanksgiving! My exchange semester has definitely been one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’ve made some lifelong friends and memories that I will treasure forever.

Accommodation

I was fortunate enough to get on grounds housing when I went on exchange, as there were very limited spots. I lived in Lambeth Field Apartments. Lambeth wasn’t my first housing choice, but I am glad that I got to live there! All my roommates were locals, which made it easier to get to know the typical American college life. Lambeth is also in a very good location. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to grounds, and it’s also a 10-minute walk away from Barracks shopping centre (which is a much cheaper place than the corner to do your grocery shopping).

Costs

I would recommend to budget around $10000 - $12000 AUD for living expenses (once you consider tipping and tax). This is about what I spent, and it's also how much UVa estimates it will cost. I would also suggest getting a meal plan (50 swipe meal plan is the one I got). The meal plan really helped through semester, especially during exam times, because you can swipe in once and stay in the dining halls for as long as you like and eat as much as you like!

Challenge

One of the biggest challenges I faced was living in a new country for the first time. All the little things were different, like not knowing what the grocery store was called or finding out where all your classes are. Sounds very trivial, but it can be a bit overwhelming adapting to everything new in the first few weeks. But meeting new people and making new friends is what helped me overcome this. Everyone is very friendly at UVa, and there's always someone there willing to help.

Professional Development

Going on exchange helped me learn how to adapt to new situations. I was also able to learn from the most amazing professors at UVa and appreciate the cultural differences between the USA and Australia.

Highlight

Feeling like part of one big family was the highlight of my semester. Everyone you meet is so friendly and welcoming! You never feel lonely. Experiencing the sense of school spirit and pride is one thing I loved.

Top tips

- Go to as many social events as you possibly can. Because Charlottesville is a small college town, there is always something going on, whether its going to parties or making s'mores! You’ll meet lots of different people, and also make heaps of friends. 
- Make the most of all the holidays you get. US Colleges don't give you very many, so use them to travel as much as you can!
- And mostly importantly, say yes to everything! You'll never know who you'll meet or what amazing memories you'll make!