Monica - University of Washington

B Environmental Management
Semester 1, 2019
UW was everything I could have hoped for and more

Academic experience

Over Winter and Spring quarter I took 3 electives and 1 core environmental economics course. Most courses are 5 credits but minimum full-time quarterly enrolment is 12 credits, so I also had to take a 2-credit filler course (seminar) each quarter. In Winter, I took a Sustainability Seminar that only required me to show up and listen to guest speakers for credit, which was super easy and interesting. If you have off-list electives left I’d recommend finding fun or unique courses to enrol in, but be careful as enrolment can sometimes be difficult/competitive, so always have backup courses. 

American classes are overall really different to UQ courses: no lecture recordings, you have to go to class to get the content, and most classes assign 15-20% just for your participation grade. In saying that, professors seemed to mark a lot easier, are a lot more willing to help you pass, and I managed to find a good balance between going to class vs. missing a few weeks to go travelling without any problems passing.

Personal experience

Overall my experience at UW was everything I had hoped for and more. Before I went I was worried about the rain and thought it would be hard to make any friends (‘Seattle Freeze’ is kind of a myth) but ended up loving the weather and meeting some of the best people I know. I think you definitely get out what you put into exchange, so just put yourself out there, pursue all the experiences and adventures you want, and you won’t leave with any regrets.


On campus accommodation is a lot safer and more convenient, but the meal plans are compulsory, which makes living in the dorms pretty expensive. If you’re wanting to save money and still live on campus, apply for the North Campus halls; they’re a lot older but a lot cheaper and generally more social. 

Due to the cost and abundance of freshman in the dorms, I opted to live off campus in the University District and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I saved heaps of money to put towards travel and lived in a sharehouse with students instead, who became some of my closest friends. However, if you do decide to live off campus, do your research because a lot of sharehouses may not have the best people or be in the safest area. I honestly just got really lucky with my sharehouse and the people in it. 

Also, be prepared to share a room with someone, it’s part of the American experience.


Seattle is not a cheap city to live in and I ended up getting a casual job to make some extra cash for travelling. I’d recommend taking more money than you expect to spend and if you’re in the U.S. for long enough, I found that opening a bank account and wiring my money over (Transferwise) saved me way more money than using a travel currency card. 

One of the biggest costs of studying abroad is accommodation. Living on campus for Winter/Spring would have cost me $6k-7k USD + $2k for a dining plan. In comparison, the total rent + bills for my sharehouse was roughly $3.5k, which was significantly cheaper but the tradeoff was that I shared a room, lived in a house of 12 people, and both our neighbours were halfway houses. 

Travel was definitely my second largest expense. Long weekends and Spring Break trips are unavoidably expensive but for the most part, travelling cheap in the U.S. isn’t that hard. Seattle’s close proximity to Canada and other West Coast states means that you can easily find $30 round trip Boltbus tickets to Vancouver/Portland or $50 Spirit airline flights to Vegas. Hostels are your best friend on a budget and also a great way to meet other travellers in new cities.


Although the U.S. isn’t a place that gave me much of a culture shock, safety was something I soon realised I take for granted in Australia. Feeling much more vulnerable was a challenge sometimes but I soon adjusted and learnt how to keep myself safe.

Professional Development

As an enviro student, I was lucky enough to be in the Pacific Northwest, where sustainability is a big deal and I got to see firsthand how well Washington is tackling environmental issues. This was not only inspiring but gave me ideas and experiences that I can now apply to my current degree and future jobs.


- All the national parks 
- Cherry blossom season at UW
- Travelling to New York for a festival
- Road tripping from Seattle to San Francisco, down through Oregon (Crater Lake is incredible) and the beautiful California Redwoods 
- Day trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon during the snowfall

Top tips

- My number one piece of advice is go to the FIUTS Embark session and all the Orientation activities to meet as many people as you can! If I hadn’t gone to all these events I wouldn’t have met all my closest friends, the people I travelled with and spent 90% of my time with
- Eat at Thai Tom on The Ave at least once
- Be extra extra careful with your passport, especially if you’re in a city like Seattle where there’s no Australian consulate (learnt this one the hard way)
- Starbucks coffee is terrible, go to Storyville in Downtown Seattle if you want some decent coffee
- Try and make friends with Americans who have cars, it makes road trips and going for hikes a lot easier
- Buy some purple dawg merch and go to as many sports game as you can, UW games are stereotypically American (in the best way) and school spirit is taken very seriously
- Take advantage of all your free time and take every possible opportunity you can to travel!