Scott - University of Wisconsin-Madison

B Economics
Semester 2, 2019
Experience of a lifetime, you’re missing out if you don’t do it.

Academic experience

The four courses I studied were Environmental Economics (AAE343), International Industrial Organisations (ECON467), Evolution and Extinction (GEOSCI110) and Nutrition Today (NUTRSCI132).

Weekly graded homework was much more common, I liked this as it gave more incentive to stay on top of studies week to week. Another thing I liked was how common extra credit options were, it felt good doing extra work in my free time when I knew clearly how much it was worth to me. 

The main challenge I encountered was the lack of lecture content available online after the lecture, there were no recordings and two of my four courses didn’t even upload the slides. Not being able to revise in a manner I was used to was sometimes a struggle, I was forced to jump into broader readings to find what I was looking for. In hindsight this was a beneficial process as it exposed me to more than just what I was required to know, as a result my knowledge of content became more comprehensive.

The enrolment process was quick and easy, UW Madison uses a ‘course search and enrol’ application that is convenient to use. All information needed was available in app or online, there were plenty of help icons which gave deeper descriptions of anything I was unsure about.

Personal experience

Friendships and improvement of my soft skills would have to be the main things I have gained from my time abroad. My communication skills improved, by interacting with people of different backgrounds and cultures many of which spoke English as a second language. I have become a more patient and focused listener, clearer speaker and have found myself better at conveying my thoughts concisely. The friendships I made opened my eyes to the cultural differences of people, I became more self-aware and have learnt to respect a see strength in people’s differences.


My housing situation is a bit of a story. For a majority of the decent accommodation on campus leases sell-out around 10-12 months in advance. By the time my exchange application had be fully approved and I was ready to book accommodation there were about 3 months till I arrive and next to zero availability for the fall semester leases I was hunting for. The university helped by getting students a (usually not offered) fall semester lease to an overpriced, mediocre apartment in the heart of town.

Thinking of my budget I decided that on-campus accommodation wasn’t that important, renting a bike and riding in each day would be fine. On craigslist I found a cheap place, 30 minute ride away that had a month-month lease, a share house with another working adult. Quickly I discovered that although I was saving a bunch of money, the travel time into campus was a massive liability. Optional events on campus and meet ups with friends were almost a chore. Luckily for me I found a solution, I found a 4 month sublease for a room in an apartment shared by other students. It was more expensive than what I had but far cheaper than the option the university provided. Having my roommates as peers that I could get along with and being walking distance from everything on campus was a game changer, my experience abroad improved immensely. 

My recommendations for accommodation
•    Don’t get a full year lease if you’re not staying a full year. Some people who go for the fall semester get locked into full year leases, they are told to just “sublet your room to someone else for spring semester”. But often when the time comes to sublet, supply outweighs demand and to entice someone to take the tail end of your lease you have to offer discounts by means of agreeing to pay part of the rent for the period you won’t even be there. 
•    If you can only go for one semester of exchange, go in the spring semester. For the reason listed above, you should be able to find a place for a discounted price. 

•    Try to get close to campus, don’t be too frugal. The benefits of being amongst it within walking distance of everything on campus are huge. 

•    Find apartments where you can be lined up to live with other students. You don’t need to know anyone or have a group of friends before signing a lease. Most places have systems for rooming you with other similar age students, meet new people, make new friends. 

•    Don’t live in the dorms. This one is kind of subjective but I’ll tell you what I think. They aren’t worth it, the novelty wears off fast and not having your own bathroom/kitchen would suck.

•    If all you can find prior to arriving is something subpar, make sure the lease is flexible. You never know what opportunities might come up, you don’t want to be locked into something when there are better options.


You have got to look hard for a good place with fair rent, a few people I know paid over $1000 a month. You can find places for much cheaper if you search, after utilities my rent ended up at about $700 a month. Some places have different durations for their leases, “short leases” can be either 4, 5 or 6 months long. If you’re only there for one semester (4 months) you shouldn’t pay more than $4000 USD for rent over the course of your stay.
For the rest, it really depends on your lifestyle. Do you eat out a lot or cook yourself, will you travel interstate on long weekends or are you a big drinker? Do some research, think ahead and consider what spending will be like for you. My recommendation is to overestimate how much you will spend on food and drink and save for that. You don’t want to be worrying about money every time you go out for a night with friends.


My biggest challenge was my accommodation situation, I talked about that in a previous response and shared what I learned as recommendations.

Professional Development

Reiterating on a previous response, improvement of my soft skills would have to be my biggest takeaway as far as personal and professional development. The way I lived changed and the way I did things adapted through the course of the semester. Interacting with people of different cultures with varying English levels made me reflect on and improve my own communicative skills. My challenges with accommodation gave me experience in working through stressful situations independently. As a whole, setting out alone on this exchange has improved my self-reliance and made me a more confident person.


The friends I made and the memories I have of them.

Top tips

Just do it, you won’t regret it. If money is an issue ask how the university can help.  Putting yourself out there and breaking your comfort zone is more rewarding than you could know. Don’t delay, if you wait until 3rd year or later in your degree it can be hard to find courses overseas that satisfy your degree requirements.