Madeleine - University of Massachusetts

B Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I studied four courses within the Civil Engineering component of my degree. These were Transportation (CEE310), Intelligent Transportation Systems (CEE418), Foundation Engineering (CEE421) and Design of Steel Structures (CEE434). Given these were mostly final year courses, there was a considerable work load, so you were not left bored. I was still able to travel most weekends and found that as long as you were consistent with the work you kept up okay. The lectures were not recorded, and took more of a school approach with a tutorial/lecture hybrid format. I enjoyed this teaching style, keeping students more engaged in classes. Each lecturer knows each and every student, which made class hard to skip (can be taken as a good or bad aspect).

Personal experience

It was by far one of the most exciting semesters of my university career. Being one of over a thousand international students at UMass, it was a great opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world. I got to experience the traditional college lifestyle over in the United States, where everything is bigger and some argue, better. I was involved in a number of social sporting teams and societies. I also manage to fit in a lot of travel throughout the East Coast during my exchange, but the nature of America's regional railways/transportation made it a little tricky to get around, unless you had a car. I would definitely recommend booking a hire car in Amherst, well ahead of time, as there are limited cars in the university town.

Accommodation

All international students are required to stay on campus. I missed the sign-on date because of the time difference and ended up getting a spot in Johnson Hall in the North-East area of campus. This area of campus is definitely more relaxed and study-focused. If you are after a bigger party vibe, I'd snatch a spot over in the South West area as this is where most Freshman and Sophmore students are situated. Both are great areas, just depends what you want to get out of your time abroad. I found that North-East was a perfect location in the end, being 5 minutes walking distance (tops) from any of my classes, and I was still able to ride my bike down to South West to join my friends before an event/dinner etc. Also, Worcester (the Asian-style food hall) was right downstairs from my hall, which was convenient, especially in the colder months.

Costs

I travelled during my exchange every weekend, aside from two the UMass Football home games, as well as afterwards over the Christmas period. To get the most out of the semester, the last thing you want holding you back is money. Do what you have to do before you go, work as much as you can and if you can apply for scholarship that you're eligible for that's a bonus too! My bill (which was paid mid year) to the school for accomodation, food, insurance and all things UMass ended up converting to $10,000 AUD (the exchange rate was pretty ordinary).

Challenge

I am fortunate enough to know first hand that going on exchange allows a student to broaden their understanding of their studies, discover new career and academic opportunities and gain an unparalleled life experience in an international context. You are forced to become resilient and optimistic and forced to adapt to new situations, make new friends and become comfortable facing challenges. These attributes helped me face my greatest personal challenge of leaving my family and friends in Australia.

Professional Development

Studying at UMass allowed me to experience a different learning environment and take a closer look at engineering and its different teaching practises across the globe. As an aspiring engineer, I continually strive to stay relevant and up-to-date by developing myself both personally and professionally. Studying at UMass enabled me to further this ambition by forcing me to adapt to different assessment and teaching methods, interact with students whose backgrounds and experiences differ from my own and collaborate with experienced, unfamiliar professors.

Highlight

Definitely the friends I met along the way!

Top tips

1. Eat at every dining hall, try everything. UMass has been voted #1 in the US for the past 4 years. The quesidillas are epic! 
2. Say yes to everything. Sign up to as many social clubs that interest you, or atleast try out for the squads and it doesn't matter if you don't make the cut. 
3. UMass is hopeless at Football but you must go to the Tailgates beforehand. And get to a UMass Hockey game because we are ranked #1! 

Go Minutemen!