Michael - University of Florida

B Arts
Semester 1, 2019
My exchange was terrifying, incredible, life-changing and one of the best things I’ve ever done”

Academic experience

I studied at the University of Florida for Semester 1 of 2019. I wanted to go on exchange to challenge myself and study subjects that I was passionate about but were not all offered in Queensland. I studied 'Women & Film' which looked at how women were depicted throughout the film industry from the 1920s onwards, 'European Art Cinema' which looked at how films depicted the post communism shift in Europe and finally I studied 'History of Film Part 3' which examined how film had changed in relation to genres, actors, cinematography etc.

The American grading system was quite different compared to the Australian system. The pass rate is around 75%, however, it is easier to score higher marks. I enjoyed challenging myself with harder subjects. Though I also found it quite difficult at times as I felt quite behind in the beginning compared to the other students doing these 4th year courses. 

The enrolment process for UF was fairly straight-forward. They do not have lectures or tutorials. It is just classes in which you are expected to attend each one. Classes usually have about 20 students and run 3 times a week. There were holds that had to be overcome to register and these included proving immunisations and insurance.

Personal experience

I gained so much from my time abroad. Firstly, I made lots of friends and connections who have very similar interests to me. It was easy to meet people, as you are literally surrounded by students who are in similar circumstances if you choose to stay in the university accommodation. 

I went to New York, Washington DC, Orlando, Jacksonville, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Philadelphia. It was super easy and cheap to get around USA because of the bus services (such as Greyhound, Megabus and Flixbus). The bus journeys are long, but you can get overnight transfers, which works out cheap. I would recommend reserving seats (option on Megabus) so that you can comfortably know that you'll have a seat. I strongly recommend New Orleans and Chicago as places to visit. I love the TV show, "Ru Paul's Drag Race". Chicago is home to lots of Drag Queens from the show who often perform at local bars. Unfortunately these bars are of course 21+.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus. I liked being able to easily meet people and socialise. I would recommend getting a single room. I had a double room and even though my roommate was lovely, I constantly felt like I didn't have my own space, which is something I really do need. However, a double room maybe perfect for those that really want the Exchange/ American experience. The host university was super easy to contact if ever there was a problem. The RA's had a 24/7 phone number you could ring.

Costs

The living costs really depends on the type of person you are. For food, you can always cook your own meals and entertainment would also vary between people. For me, I love to eat out and I love to socialise. I think all up I spent about $10,000. This includes my month of travelling post exchange. 

Rent was not too badly priced. From memory it was approximately A$200 a week, or more expensive if you got a single room. 

Transport was free for UF students around Gainesville and the buses were very convenient. When I travelled around America I paid as low as $1 for interstate travel with Megabuses and as high as $50 for others. Busses are definitely a lot cheaper than airfares, but definitely wouldn't suit everyone. 

I study film so I of course constantly went to the cinemas. They cost $11 USD per movie (which compared to Brisbane is quite pricey). The cinemas have reward programs, which I would recommend joining.

Challenge

My biggest challenge was something that could not be helped. I had an unfortunate family situation that occurred which made me extremely homesick. It’s super hard when you’re so far away from everyone and something goes wrong. However, it truly does make you a stronger and more independent person. You really do have to take each day at a time. Homesickness is super hard, but it does get easier and easier. You become busier and distracted and so the time passes quickly.

Professional Development

Something I truly learnt on exchange was how dependent I am on my friends and family. I have definitely learnt how to be more independent. Another key thing I learnt while studying abroad was how to budget. As I couldn’t really work overseas, I had to truly budget to ensure that I had money for food and entertainment but also enough to travel at the end. I found that planning ahead and using apps was a super handy way to budget.

Highlight

My number one highlight of the exchange was going to Chicago and Milwaukee. To be completely honest, the only reason I went to Milwaukee was to see a gig but it was so beautiful and homey. Chicago was stunning and so picturesque. I would strongly recommend going to Chicago and Milwaukee if you go to the States on exchange, as they are truly beautiful.

Top tips

Look at travelling the US via bus rather than planes. When I arrived I spent approximately $150 on a 30min flight into my college town, the bus was $5 and only 5 hours.

Plan your spending. I spent way too much in the first month of my trip and then regretting it after. 

Always carry small bills. Sometimes random people will do stuff to “help you” and then expect you to pay them for it. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with absolutely no money and then have a confrontation over tipping.