Taylah - University of Virginia

B Nursing/Midwifery
Semester 1, 2019
School spirit is like nothing you have ever experienced before and everyone is so friendly!

Academic experience

Once I was accepted by both UQ and The University of Virginia (UVa) enrolment and registration was all done for me by the staff at UVa. I was enrolled into 4 subjects which were paediatrics (lectures, 3 small exams, small assignments + 86 hours practical), oncology (small assignments, a lecture every 2 weeks and 64 hours practical), a research subject (lectures and small assignments); and an independent practicum subject which is similar to what we do in our final year at UQ which is basically just 88 hours practical and reflective writing. At first I was very overwhelmed by the thought of doing classes, practical and the extra independent practicum subject which the students in the US weren't doing as  we still needed to meet Australian registration requirements. However, come week 3-4 I settled into the schedule and it didn't feel as intense as I first believed. Assignments were small and discussed fully in class with drafts being able to be submitted if you felt like you needed it. The teachers were very supportive, and we had weekly check-in's with one lecturer who was very helpful in finding out dates or answering questions. What I loved most about the different academic systems was the variety of placement settings I got to experience in one semester. These included: paediatrics, orthopaedic paediatrics, hospice, neurological ICU, medical ICU, long term acute care, oncology, Gamma Knife (really interesting) and transplant (I got to watch a robotic kidney transplant) to name a few. Overall, I believed there was a good balance of study and free time with no practical or classes on the weekends and no night shifts!!

Personal experience

I have gained so much looking back on this exchange experience and couldn't recommend UVa highly enough! I got to experience snow for the first time, I made so many new friendships and got to visit places I have never been before! During our free weekends we would go on hikes, experience greek life parties and the schools team spirit. During our semester at UVa the school’s basketball team won the national championships which was an experience in itself. Was so cool to see how much the students gets behind and support their school sports teams. Watching the games were fun and the celebrations of the wins always spilled out into the streets... nothing like I have ever experienced. Spring break gave us also an opportunity to travel for a week, so I got to spend a week with friends in Florida that we met at school which was a lot of fun as well.


As I went over with another student from UQ we found it easier to arrange on campus accommodation as off campus was more expensive, we didn't really have an idea of a good location, would have to arrange furniture and utility bills and it was just easier. We ended up getting an apartment in Lambeth Fields which was quite basic however was only a 20 minute walk to class/ the hospital and 10 minute walk to the shops for groceries. It was shared rooms and there were three rooms so six girls living in an apartment. daunting at first but we didn't really see the other housemates very much and they weren't really a bother to live with. I would recommend you do your research first and start looking early as registration for on grounds housing closes early and we only just applied luckily on the last day.


Living in America generally cost more than it did for me in Australia. Housing was just over $5000AUD for the semester which included utilities, health insurance was just over $2000AUD as they didn't accept UQ's insurance they provided us, food generally cost about $80-100 AUD a week however I like fruit and vegetables so I know it could cost a lot less if you could handle more rice and pasta in your diet. Food was quite a bit more more expensive than Australia I noticed, with things like a loaf of bread or carton of eggs costing you at least $5-6USD if you don't get one packed with preservatives and sugar or the weird white shell eggs they have. Overall, I went over will $20,000AUD and came back with virtually nothing, however I travelled for two weeks before school to LA and NYC, spent a week in Florida for spring break and then visited Nashville, New Orleans and Mexico at the end and didn't feel like I had to budget too much. After housing and insurance was paid for I aimed to budget around $100-150AUD a week during school because all I was paying for was groceries and maybe dinner or drinks on the weekend. I found myself not spending very much money during a normal school week.


I think the biggest challenge for me was adjusting to the different schedule and assessment layouts. I was so overwhelmed at the start seeing 10-15 plus assignment dates across all the subjects. After, 2 weeks or so it wasn't as daunting as I realised a lot of the assignments are group work and most were under 500 words which you could smash out in like an hour. I think my biggest advice for overcoming this fear if assignments are something that stresses you out is to talk to the teachers. They are so supportive and are happy to take the time to explain something or push back the date for you if you explain you have too much due that week. They are very understanding and want to see you do well.

Professional Development

I think the largest professional development I found myself achieving is being able to handle long shifts in the future. All shifts in the US are usually 12 hours and by the end you got very use to it. As many American hospitals are online it was interesting to work with this technological advancement. At first, I didn't enjoy the online charting etc but by the end I appreciated the ease of it and how it can benefit patients. I'm excited to see this move to Australia in the coming years and feel like I'll be ahead on knowing its benefits when it does. Finally, I felt I learnt a lot of finer detailed stuff that we aren't taught or don't do as much in Australia like routinely listening to all patient’s lungs and knowing what is normal and abnormal, or discovering/ knowing what a heart murmur sounds like on a new born or child. I learnt a lot about blood work biochemistry values such as what a person’s creatine, Hb, pH etc should be as nurses are expected to know this, check it and to then flag it to the doctors if it's abnormal. I just found myself learning little things here and there thought my time about things I don't think I would have got the opportunity to learn in Australia as they have different roles and focuses than nurses here in Australia.


The highlight of my experience was experiencing the school spirit during the national championships and the celebrations after our school won. That was definitely a once in a life time opportunity and we were so lucky to be there to experience it. Nothing like we have in Australia!!

Top tips

My top tip would be to start saving early!! As my visa didn't allow me to work I had to live off what I had and I would have been able to experience as much as I did if I didn't save as well as I did. Get involved and take up every opportunity you have whether that be a ride a long too DC or going on a hike on the weekend with friends you meet. So much to do you just have to mingle, mingle, mingle!