Francesca - University of Virginia

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018
Quam fluctus diversi, quam mare conjuncti

Academic experience

I largely chose to do courses which fulfilled my major requirements, however, I also chose to take one elective subject that I wouldn't be able to take in Australia. I would recommend not overloading yourself on academic work while you're on exchange because you are ultimately there to have fun and be social and you don't want to overwhelm yourself academically. That being said; if you can, take 'Black Femininities and Masculinities in US Media' if you enrol in the Fall Semester at UVA. It is brilliant and illuminating. Professor Lisa Schutt is wonderful and this was probably one of the most rewarding courses I took. I would also say the same for "Literature of the South" which is incredible by virtue of the fact that you get to read books that are rarely included on the curriculum at home and you get a totally different experience and perspective on literature with Professor Jennifer Greeson being an invaluable resource.

Personal experience

I gained an incredible amount from my exchange. My confidence has improved massively since I returned from UVA, I had to rely on myself and I made so many wonderful friends that personal doubts that I had about my capabilities were all but dissolved by the experience. All of my friends are so wonderful and so supportive and I would not change anything about my experience.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus and whilst you do get bang for your buck in terms of complex amenities compared to Brisbane; I paid around $850USD for a 2 bedroom apartment shared with another exchange student in a complex with a pool, gym , sauna and an in-apartment laundry (truly the best part). However, the complex was relatively new and the stay had many issues in terms of building and administrative teething issues. It was also pretty close to classes because Charlottesville is a college town and the grounds are large and sprawling so if anything it is difficult to rent anywhere more than 25mins walk max from your classes.

Costs

In total for all costs - flights, food, tourist experiences, transport, accommodation and miscellaneous items I ended up spending around $12k. I also did a fair amount of personal travel around the US and getting places from Charlottesville can get unexpectedly a bit expensive because the town is so small you need to pay for connecting rides or buses to neighbouring bigger cities.

Challenge

Initially finding my feet was quite difficult when I came to UVA because I'd never been so far from home before. I'd lived my whole life in Brisbane and making new friends in this city is easy when you're three degrees of separation from everyone else in it. Coming out of my shell and being prepared to share and explore new experiences with people in a totally new environment was initially confronting, but it's sink or swim and it was one of the most valuable challenges I've ever faced. I would not change it for anything.

Professional Development

Urgency and planning are major skills you develop on exchange. You can only rely on yourself so you are solely responsible to make sure that your experience runs smoothly so punctuality, budgeting and organisational skills went for a major overhaul when I lived overseas. An unexpected benefit of the exchange is also the ability to build a global network which can serve to benefit you long after your graduation.

Highlight

Whilst extremely cliche, the friends I made on exchange mean the world to me. I still speak to them nearly everyday and it's incredible the kind of deep connections you can make with people in the space of a single semester. UVA also had a lot of word of mouth and oral traditions. My favourite one being that on the first big snow day of the year, everyone knew to come to The Lawn at midnight for a snow fight amongst the students. It isn't an officially organised event, every student just knows the tradition and it was indescribably joyful.

Top tips

Absolutely get involved with student societies. They'll end up being where you find the people you become closest to. These may not necessarily be students in your academic faculty but they'll end up being nearest and dearest to and can give you insight to perspectives you'd have never thought to consider before. UVA is one of the most supportive campus communities I could have possibly imagined. I'd strongly recommend joining The Washington Literary Society and Debating Union, they became my family and I wear my society t-shirt with pride.