Alexandra - University of South Carolina

B Business Management/Arts
Semester 2, 2018
A quintessential American College experience filled with football, southern hospitality, new adventures and amazing friends

Academic experience

I studied MKTG465, MKTG455, IBUS301, MKTG352 and SPTE490. The business of soccer course was unlike anything I had previously done and was very fun and engaging. The marketing courses were similarly structured to UQ. In general, students are held much more accountable for attendance and engagement during class, which was initially a shock, but I grew to love this. It was awesome to have no work commitments or other distractions and really engage in my learning experience. Although a pass is usually 70% +, it is easier to get that 70% than a 50% at UQ, I found. The learning environment feels more like high school in that you have relationships with your teachers and it is less formal than UQ ie. you can bring a coffee and a bunch of stuff into exams and ask teachers questions in the middle of exams! Make sure when you choose courses, you meet the U of SC pre req's, I nearly didn't get let into a course for not doing a prerequisite of theirs. Also have multiple course options because you cannot sign on until you get there and sometimes classes are full.

Personal experience

I made some wonderful life long friends on exchange - we formed a group of international girls really quickly and we stayed friends throughout the whole semester. I roomed with Americans and I loved my roomies but I found that I had more in common with my international mates due to being more like-minded. I had already developed travel skills from doing a gap year such as organisation, being outgoing, independent, but I definitely practised these on exchange. Americans are quite insular, which was a shock to me that they knew so little about the rest of the world, and they do NOT cope with Australian slang haha. They will stare at you blankly until you translate yourself - but I definitely learnt to be more tolerant and understanding of this.

I didn't prioritise travelling on exchange as my perspective was, I can be an Aussie tourist in America any time in my life, but I will only be a USC student once - so I prioritised immersing myself in the college experience. I travelled only on breaks, so the Fall Break my boyfriend visited and we drove to Nashville (AMAZING CITY) and Asheville (cool mountain town in NC). I also visited a friend who I'd met when she studied abroad at UQ at her home in New Hampshire for thanksgiving. I experienced a true Ameircan thanksgiving and was able to visit and explore Boston too. I also took two day trips to Charleston which is a must do for visiting SC.

Accommodation

I lived on campus as is compulsory for exchange students and it was THE BEST. I was lucky with my random allocation to my room being in Rutledge which is on the horseshoe. Although I didn't get the crazy dorm experience like you get in Maxcy and other large residences, I got to have my own room and space which meant my boyfriend could stay with me for free when he visited, and still got to get to know 4 American girls who I roomed with and made good friends with. I was able to save money by cooking in my kitchen and also had a laundry in my apartment which many residences didn't have. Due to having my own apartment with own entrance, I could have people over whenever I liked without signing them in which gave me a lot more freedom. Rutledge is one of the most expensive but was definitely worth it. It is located very close to everything on campus and five points for nights out and grocery shopping at Food Lion.

Costs

Exchange is expensive - even with OS Help loan, UQ Travel grant and youth allowance payments, I still got stressed about running out of money. I saved somewhere between 8-10k of my own money so overall the exchange cost about 15k. I barely travelled and also ate out very rarely, so if you plan to do these things I would want at least 20k including loans to cover the exchange. Domestic flights in the states are quite exxy - most RT flights are at least 200USD. Public transport sucks in Columbia, so if you can handle walking with groceries you can get away with walking most places, otherwise you will Uber. This can get expensive but also be offset with splitting with friends. Groceries in the states are the same if not as expensive as here, so with the exchange rate groceries add up! Eating out however is cheaper than Aus and alcohol is dirt cheap.

Challenge

The biggest challenge was getting used to handing in work every week or sometimes every class, but I got used to that quickly. Also, adapting to the culture shock I experienced with American people - it was hard to relate to them sometimes when they had no context for my experiences and could not understand the way I talked. I did not expect this at all considering both countries speak English.

Professional Development

I got a lot more out of my learning experience due to having less responsibilities while I was on exchange. When I’m at home, I work, I intern, i have sporting and family commitments, but there my only real responsibility was my study, and this allowed me to immerse myself more. The professors were really supportive and they inspired me to pursue a career in marketing.

Highlight

Without a doubt the highlight was the football game days. I chose University of South Carolina and semester 2 to experience college football and it did not disappoint. When the gamecocks have a home game, the entire city shuts down and is dedicated to football. Alumni flood in from all over the country and it truly is an amazing atmosphere. The tailgates were just like the movies and the stadium atmosphere, especially when sandstorm played (Youtube  - sandstorm gamecocks) was electric. 
Also, Jay z and Beyonce played at the football stadium on their tour and students got 25USD tickets! It was a blast and best way to start my first week on exchange.

Top tips

First of all - don't hesistate and just go! Skip the meal plan, unless you hate cooking and have lots of money. I think they are a rip off. Join societies and clubs - I joined the rugby team and the Mountain White Water rafting club and met lots of people that way, I was finding myself having to decide on what social event to go to because there were too many!