Visun - University of Richmond

Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Business Management
Semester 1, 2023
The best weekend trip I did was to Charlotte, North Carolina and in a way had nothing to do with the city itself.


I was excited to go on exchange because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and experience another culture while still making progress in my degree. Both of my older siblings had completed student exchanges in years previous (in England and in Ireland) and had spoken quite highly of the experience. I knew it was going to be an interesting opportunity to be thrust into an entirely new environment and to make new friends. While I have no particular desire to permanently reside in the United States, I figured a 6-month exchange would be an interesting way to experience life in arguably the most influential country in the world for more than just a holiday.

Personal Development

Exchange has definitely helped me develop my sense of confidence in meeting new friends. It was super easy to make friends at the start since every exchange student was keen to get to know each other. From there, it was also quite natural to form stronger friendships with the people I clicked with and some of these friendships I'm sure will last long term, even if we don't exactly speak every day. It felt very unique to become friends with people from all over the world and now I have contacts in various countries that I fully intend on visiting someday. Additionally, becoming better friends with American students was a great experience and pretty much everyone I met was kind, welcoming, and inclusive. Travelling through the United States gave me a much better appreciation and perspective on the country as a whole. It was only through travelling to different cities that I realised how diverse the country really is. This was both positive and negative as I was also able to see firsthand some of the issues that plague the US such as homelessness and poverty. I also developed my skills in navigating and planning trips during my exchange. I felt more confident as time went on in getting myself from place to place and organising things such as transport or accommodation. Funnily enough, my exchange has made me appreciate Brisbane and Australia more. As a child of immigrants I'd always had an urge to move away and experience something different and I definitely got that with this exchange. But it also illustrated just how many things Australia has going for it that I often take for granted. While I would probably say I was lucky enough to never truly feel homesick, comparing experiences with friends from various backgrounds often made me think "Damn, I've got it pretty good in Brisbane." Whether that be because of the weather, public transport, or the beautiful nature around us, exchange has made me both keen to travel more, and comfortable in returning to the place I think I'll always call home.

Academic Development

Keep in mind everything below is in reference to the law school. Law in the US is strictly a post-grad qualification so I cannot comment on how the experience would be if you were participating in undergad classes.I think adjusting to a new educational style for 6 months helped prove to myself that I can adapt to pretty much anything as long as I put the work in. Going to classes and having attendance marked was a difference that I was aware of beforehand and quickly adjusted to, even if it did feel strange after 4 years at UQ doing the opposite. Small class sizes was another thing that I honestly loved. It's very true that it's much easier to get to know your teachers in the American system, especially at a university like the University of Richmond which only has about 4,000 students (Undergrad + Law School). I struggled at first to keep up with the readings but I managed to come to a healthy balance of getting all my assignments done on time and doing the readings where I saw fit (keeping in mind that I just needed to pass in order to achieve credit for my UQ degree). The workload felt simultaneously less and more than at UQ. There are no lectures the way we are used to, there are only classes and readings, and in some classes, they expect a lot of reading. However, at UQ we have lectures, classes, and readings (at least for most law courses this is the standard). The workload per week ends up feeling mostly comparable to UQ, but it definitely feels different. Part of this is attendance being mandatory and part of your grade. When it comes to assessments, the US system generally has more assignments which means you really need to keep on top of due dates. This is obviously the same for UQ but at UR it was definitely a bit more hectic. I think I had a week where I had 4-5 assessments due within a 2-week span across my 5 subjects. The trade-off is that most of these assignments counted for less than 15% of my final grade for that course. So, my advice would be kept on top of due dates, but make sure the time and effort you put into the assessments is somewhat proportional to the size of the task.

Professional Development

The greatest professional skills I developed was probably being able to put adaptability into practice. It's a big task adjusting to an entirely new country and not having strong links you've known for years behind you. Further, being able to connect with people from different backgrounds is a vital skill in any workforce. For my own personal professional development, I'm aiming to work in Public Policy in the Education sphere so I think learning how a different country's system works gave me valuable insight into the attributes and shortcomings of Australia's system. In terms of employability, the whole experience of going on exchange should hopefully communicate independence and resilience.


UR requires you to live on campus and have a meal plan which you pay up front before your semester. With UR's mandatory health insurance, this came to a total of about ~$10,000 AUD (~$6,500 USD). I was required to enroll in the Spider 40 Meal Plan as I was living in the Law Dorm. I'll break down the meal plans below in the accommodation section because they go hand in hand. Either way, paying for meals and accommodation in full before the semester meant I was not spending any money from Sunday-Thursday. It was weekends where I would have been better advised to save money. My advice would be the same as in any city in the world, be aware of how expensive going out with your friends can really be. For food day to day, make use of your dining dollars and your swipes at the dining hall (again I'll elaborate in the accommodation section because they go hand in hand). I had multiple friends tell me they didn't use all their dining dollars before the end of the semester so make sure you do since you can't get that money back. While I am so so glad I travelled as much as I did during my exchange, it did manage to burn the largest hole in my bank account. I'm not gonna estimate how much I spent because I think looking at my bank account may be detrimental to my mental health. Eating out, accommodation, and travel are all more expensive that you may think. Try to go for cheapest option when eating out as things are generally quite expensive in the US. Asking friends to split things with you is an obvious life hack that I only started using later in the semester. Apps like Splitwise which track who paid for what are very useful when travelling together. Generally, eating out is more expensive than I thought in the US. I was expecting things to be cheaper, even when taking into account the difference in the dollar value. But surprisingly, the prices I was seeing were virtually the same as back home, which meant that things were quite expensive. For example, some restaurants would charge about $18 USD for a main dish which would feel the same as Brisbane until you factor in the dollar difference and account for tax and tip which ends up being more like $21USD and then you're paying $32 AUD just for one meal! I would be aware that things are quite expensive and try to eat cheap when you do go and eat out. This will honestly be difficult as there is a lot of amazing food in the States, especially from different cultures. So just be aware when travelling that you are going to spend more than you expect. Another big thing with eating out and buying drinks is tax and tip. I knew that these weren't included in the advertised price but consistently throughout the 6 months I would be a little annoyed at how much the final charge to my card was since the price you see on the menu doesn't factor in tax, or the minimum 15% tip you are expected to give. My American friends said that $1 on each drink is fine but it was a frustrating state of affairs and I would be aware of this before you go. When planning trips, do your due diligence and explore all options. For accommodation I mostly used Hostelworld, AirBnB, and to try and find the best deal available. For transport, I used Flixbus and Greyhound the most as there were often cheap trips available especially when booked in advance. Washington DC is only a 2-hour bus trip away from Richmond and the bus was $15 USD for a 5am Friday trip so I would definitely take advantage of that at some point. Flixbus and Greyhound have merged but Flixbus displays all available bus trips and makes it easy to compare cost, travel time, and locations. I used them many times in the 6 months and overall had a good experience. However, I think I had 2 mishaps with delayed buses and buses never arriving so keep that in mind and stay alert and be ready to adapt. Their customer support is pretty quick to give you a refund if they mess up your bus time. I never ended up using Amtrak trains because by the time we were booking trips, they were much more expensive than a bus trip. However, I heard from other friends that if you book an Amtrak train well in advance, then it is very cheap and obviously more comfortable than a bus seat. One of the UR students did once tell me that trains are often late though so take that as you will. I'd say for something like Spring Break (or whatever they call it for the middle of the Fall semester), consider booking a train since you have those dates right at the start of the semester. For renting cars we almost always used Turo, which is like AirBnB for cars. This was a great option, however the price they show you at first does not accurately reflect the final price as there is often a young driver's fee, extra tax added on, an insurance option to select, and then gas is extra since you have to fill it up to the level it was when you rented it. Gas prices can get expensive but to be honest it was hard to properly conceptualise compared to Brisbane since you have to convert the dollar and convert litres to gallons so I'll just say I think it was pretty expensive. We used a rental car for 3 of the trips I went on and it was definitely super fun and often was worth it once split up between everyone.


The funding granted by UQ was definitely beneficial. I can't remember the exact names as they all kinda sound the same but I received $2,000 quite early on which I believe was a grant which I don't have to pay back. I also received $7,000 which is added onto my HECS-Debt and I believe is called a OS-Help loan. You only receive this loan after the census date for the UQ semester. So since I was at UR for their Spring Semester (UQ Sem 1), I received this loan in late March, which was well over the halfway point of my exchange. So keep that in mind. In effect, I would say these pieces of funding paid for most of my accommodation/meals/insurance which as I said above was about $10,000 AUD. So all travel and money spent on weekends was out of my own money and not paid for by funding.


You are required to stay on campus for your exchange semester at UR but it's really the best option since most students live on campus (in the undergraduate sphere at least). UR gives you various webpages that describe the living options but in my opinion,  they aren't very illustrative of the experience so I'll do my best to summarise the options as well as the associated meal plans and options. I'll start with undergraduate accommodation but keep in mind that I stayed in the law dorm so the only firsthand experience I have is from that living arrangement. Dorms (Grey Court, South Court, Residence Hall 1/2, etc): Most of the exchange students I knew were either in the dorms I named or the University Forest Apartments but things may be different for you, especially based on the semester you attend. The dorms consist of a room with either 2 or 3 beds and a shared bathroom with another dorm room on the other side (your suite-mates). You will likely be paired up with other exchange students if you are in a dorm. Sharing a room is obviously not ideal for anyone but most of my exchange friends said it was barely an issue for them. You are given a twin single bed (that you have to bring or buy sheets and bedding for), and a desk and chair each. There are common areas in the dorm buildings but I'm not entirely sure how often people used them. There is no kitchen or fridge available in these dorms so students are required to enrol in the Spider Unlimited meal plan (you can go to dining hall an unlimited amount of times, I'll elaborate below). To my knowledge you're not allowed a minifridge or microwave or anything, but with Spider Unlimited, people just ended up going to Dining Hall for all of their meals basically. Many of my friends in these dorms would end up going to spaces such as Boatwright library or Tyler Haynes Commons to study rather than study in their rooms as it is a bigger space. The dorms I mentioned are all fairly central, being a short walk to the dining hall and other locations like Tyler Haynes. They are fairly far from the UFAs and the law housing. Socially, I don't think people made strong friends with their suite-mates or others in the same building, but obviously the person you share a room with often became a good friend. University Forest Apartments (UFAs): This is a collection of apartments that are on campus but are all the way in the far south east corner. They have a kitchen with a fridge, a table with high chairs, and a living room with a couch and table. They generally house 4 people, 2 in each room with single twin beds and the same desk chair setup as in the dorms. They are 1.5-bathroom houses with a toilet and sink downstairs and then a shower/toilet upstairs. This is definitely the best option for exchange students as the Gateway Apartments (which have single rooms), are reserved for senior UR students with high GPAs. If you are in the UFAs you have the option of the Spider Unlimited or Spider 40 meal plan (and there may be another that I've forgotten but these are the two important options). I think most students went for Spider 40 as it is much cheaper and the students who went for unlimited said they didn't use their kitchen much. Keep in mind you will have to buy all of your own cookware. The biggest downside of the UFAs is just the location. To get to dining hall it will be a 15-minute walk and to get to the other side of campus for things such as the gym/recreation centre it could be about 25-30 minutes. While this obviously isn't astronomical, in terms of location, the dorms are probably the best option. Socially, UFAs were often great for hanging out together in the living room and people who lived together would often become good friends. Law Dorm/Law Bostwick Houses: I'll combine this section since most students going to UR will be undergraduates and not eligible for these housing assignments. The Law Bostwick houses are located essentially one street away off campus and are basically a fully-fledged house with I believe 5 single rooms and a full kitchen and living room. The walk from these houses to campus is generally minimum 15 minutes and to get to dining hall would be a further 10-15 minutes due to their location. The Bostwick houses are generally nice but their location can get annoying, especially if you are planning to eat at dining hall and not make use of your kitchen, as most students did. These houses will be mostly populated by American law students and in my semester there was only 1 exchange student placed there. I lived in the Law Dorm as I was told this was mandatory as an incoming exchange law student. To be frank, at first glance it was not ideal. It is situated in the far north west corner of campus, meaning it is far from the Dining Hall which is mostly in the centre of campus. The law dorm is almost a 25-30 minute walk to the UFAs where most of your exchange friends will be. An upside of the location was its proximity to the Law Library and Refectory where law classes are held, and proximity to the Center for Recreation where the gym is located. Furthermore, the law dorm is a small single story building with 7 single rooms, 2 shared bathrooms that are quite small, a common living area with a fridge, and importantly, no kitchen. While the UFAs and the Bostwick houses enjoy a kitchen and the dorms enjoy an unlimited meal plan, exchange law students are told they are required to enrol in Spider 40 if residing in the law dorm. Which means no kitchen and being somewhat far from the dining hall where you only have 40 swipes before you have to pay with dining dollars. Overall this was not as bad as it sounds, but it was definitely a surprise when I first arrived. I ended up eating my daytime meals at other campus dining locations using my dining dollars and generally would eat dinner at the dining hall. While I have listed all the negatives, in a way I am eternally grateful that I got placed in the law dorm because I was there with 5 American law students, 1 German exchange student who arrived at the same time as me, and 1 Japanese teaching assistant who kept to herself and was a fair bit older. The 6 of us who were students had a lot of really fun memories living in the law dorm and the opportunity to live with and truly become friends with American students was invaluable. If you are a law student going in, I would honestly recommend the law dorm as you will be placed with first year law students and might luck out and meet some super cool people. Bostwick is objectively better, but their houses weren't nearly as cohesive as ours was and their location definitely added to the feeling of being separate. Sometimes the best friendships are formed out of complaining about common experiences and the law dorm definitely checked that box. Now the meal plans and dining options. Note: Dining Dollars are basically just prepaid funds that you can use at all on-campus dining locations and are tax free. This includes all cafes, the two convenience stores on campus. The whole process is super streamlined as they have integrated the app Grubhub into their entire campus system. So for any location other than the dining hall, you can order on Grubhub using your dining dollars, and go pick up your food/drink whenever it is ready and it will have your name on it. You don't get dining dollars back at the end of your semester so make sure you spend it all! Spider Unlimited Meal Plan ($4,320 USD = ~$6,600 AUD): You can go to the Dining Hall as may times as you want throughout the semester. Here you swipe your card and then have access to an all you can eat buffet with food that is honestly pretty good and changes every few days. You are also given $875 Dining Dollars to use anywhere else. Spider 40 Meal Plan ($1,730 USD = ~$2,600 AUD): You have 40 swipes to use at Dining Hall throughout the semester and after these run out you will be using your Dining Dollars and then your own funds to purchase meals at the Dining Hall (Breakfast: $8.50 Lunch: $11.25 Dinner: $13.50). You are also given $1,200 dining dollars. I was on Spider 40 and at the start was worried about budgeting my meals and making it last. It was much less stressful than I thought and depending on where you are living you'll settle into some sort of routine. If you are on Spider Unlimited you'll likely eat almost all of your meals in dining hall and be spending your dining dollars on drinks at the Cellar. If you are on Spider 40 and are in the UFAs, I would recommend eating breakfast and lunch at home or at one of the other campus dining locations with Dining Dollars and then eating dinner at the Dining Hall, or some combination of that. If you are in the law dorm and have no kitchen and are on Spider 40, then the same applies but without the benefit of a kitchen. Personally, I would recommend the Passport Cafe which has incredible paninis. It was to the point where I was eating these every single day. On weekends there are less campus dining options available but the Dining Hall is open every day. Also, the Dining Hall stops serving food at 8pm which is honestly quite early so make sure you plan your meal times. Most of the exchange students ended up going into dining hall around 7ish and then eating and sitting around chatting until the place was entirely closed by about 8:30pm. These were some of the nicest moments of exchange so don't miss out on this!


There are honestly way too many to count. The best weekend trip I did was to Charlotte, North Carolina and in a way had nothing to do with the city itself. It was the best trip because we had 8 exchange students crammed into a minivan and spending the weekend exploring a new city. The memories of that trip are hard to replicate and some of the strongest friendships I formed on exchange started from that trip. Living in the law dorm was honestly so much fun and every night felt like a highlight, even when we were sitting around watching a TV show together. Being so close to DC and New York was wonderful and I ended up going to each of those locations more than 5 times each as the buses were very manageable durations. You will be given a 30 day grace period on your visa at the conclusion of your semester and I would highly recommend finding exchange students who want to take advantage and travel during this time. Because one of my house-mates was driving back home to Texas for the summer, myself and 2 other exchange students were lucky enough to do a cross country road trip and drive all the way to the West Coast. Over 2 and a half weeks we saw Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Midland, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles. We also fit in a trip to the Grand Canyon while in Arizona. That trip is arguably the greatest thing I've ever done in my life and is by far the highlight. Those are the big trips but some other highlights include just staying up drinking and chatting with friends I'd made and the little moments like going and sitting by the lake and listening to music. The gym facilities at the campus are also wonderful and I managed to go to the gym way more often than I would back home. I'm a big NBA fan so being able to attend some NBA games in person was also a major highlight.

Advice/Top Tips

My general advice would be to lean into the social aspect of exchange. Being pass/fail gives you the freedom to spend your evenings with the people around you and as long as you keep on top of your assessments you can definitely stay afloat. Other than that, I only really have a few regrets about exchange. I didn't make many friends through my actual classes as I fell into the same trap that happens back home at UQ. I would often be going to class and not participating much or talking much at all, and then getting out of class and going straight to hang out with exchange friends or my housemates. While this was fine, I do wish I had made more of an effort to make friends in my classes. People are generally more vocal than they are at UQ but the vibe of "get in, get out" is still a little bit present so just be aware. I also somewhat regret not getting involved in any clubs or societies. There are quite a few but I felt so busy with the friends circles I already had that I didn't end up joining any. Again, this was fine but it would have been cool to try something new and maybe get out of my comfort zone. I also didn't feel like I got to know the city of Richmond much at all. It's interesting, since students at US universities tend to stay on campus, you really don't get to know the city much at all since you spend the majority of your time on campus. I didn't really explore Richmond much and if I could do it over I definitely would. My advice would be to follow some Instagram pages or other webpages that let you know of free events and festivals that are happening in Richmond and try and encourage people to go with you. Finally, it was only at the end of my semester during the road trip that I fully felt like I started to take advantage of the beautiful National Parks that the US has to offer. It's definitely one of the country's greatest attributes but the first 3/4 of my semester we didn't do any day trips really. Granted, if you go in the Spring Semester, you'll be arriving in the tail end of winter and it simply won't be the right time to do nature trips, but you should do it anyway and take advantage. Definitely go to Shenandoah which is the closest National Park to UR. Other than that, savour the memories. Exchange is an experience that can't be replicated and it's going to be really hard to say goodbye to the friends you make, mostly because you have genuinely no idea when you'll next see them. But that's the beauty of it. The friendships I've made were so strong that I am now fully intent on doing a trip to Europe after my graduation and seeing some of the absolutely lovely people I became friends with.