Nadia - American University

B. Arts
Semester 2, 2014

Academic experience

As you may have heard from other people, studying in the US is very different to studying at UQ. At AU I found that my workload was actually higher, but the expectations were a lot lower. So try not to stress out too much about the assessment. Instead, get involved on campus. AU has been voted the most politically active college in the US for three out of the last nine years. Students here really care. There are endless clubs to become a part of, protests to participate in, or panel discussions with high-ranking officials to attend on campus. The opportunities are endless.

Personal experience

My semester on exchange at American University was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. An exchange semester allows you the opportunity to broaden your horizons by meeting new people from all around the world, and engaging in a whole new learning experience. And an exchange semester in the US allows you to fulfil all of your college lifestyle dreams (yes, it really is like in the movies!). Over the course of my exchange I had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the States, experience the hype around college sports, attend political events, be immersed in the unique American culture, and best of all make friends with wonderful students from all over the world who have now become lifelong friends. I also learnt valuable new skills in independence, responsibility and organisation through my exchange.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at AU, which was incredibly convenient, and I was very happy with my choice to do so. It is great being so close to your classes, the cafeteria is handy, and you have free access to the campuses two gyms. Do be aware however that it is a dry (no alcohol) campus. Honestly though I didn’t find this to be much of a problem because the parties aren’t going to be on campus anyway. If you do want to stay off campus, there are several apartment buildings just a few minutes walk from the university that is very convenient.

Budget

DC is an expensive city. It doesn’t confer to the “US is cheaper” viewpoint. So allow for a little extra spending money to make sure that you get the most out of your trip. 

Professional development and employability

The university's sign
The university's sign

The opportunity to engage in a different style of learning was challenging, but definitely ... I believe that successfully completing an exchange semester demonstrates that you have the ability to take initiative and strive for things. The exchange itself also gives you invaluable skills in organisation, responsibility and communication which should positively impact upon your employability.

Highlight

Without a doubt, the highlight of my experience was the lifelong friendships that I made with people from all over the world. It is such a unique opportunity to be able to interact and build friendships with such a diverse range of people, and it is them that I will miss the most about my exchange.

Top tips

  • When thinking about going on exchange to the US, not many students consider Washington DC at the top of their list of places to go. However, I couldn’t have been happier with DC as my choice. Here’s why:
  • DC is the centre of both American, and in many respects, world politics. Thus particularly as a politics or international relations student, the opportunity to be immersed in such an environment is invaluable. 
  • You will never run out of things to do or see in this city. The National Mall with all of its monuments and memorials and Capitol Hill are here, as well as countless museums, archives and the National Zoo belonging to the Smithsonian Institute. And best of all, they are almost all free! You won’t find that anywhere else.
  • DC is a beautiful city! Not only that but, American University is in the really nice part of town, which not only means that it is a pleasant place to live, but also that it is very safe. 
  • Another big advantage of DC is that it is very close to the wonderful Northeast corner of the US. New York and Philadelphia are an easy bus ride away, and Boston is also reachable. This means that there are many opportunities for fun weekend trips with your new friends.


Given my wonderful experience, here are my top tips for going on exchange, studying at American University and making the most of your stay in DC:

  • The application process for going on exchange can be long and arduous, but persevere with it because it is absolutely worth it!
  • Try and attend a college football game while you are in the US. You won’t believe how huge it is until you see it. AU doesn’t have a football team, but the University of Maryland (about an hour away) does, so try and get to one of their games. 
  • In DC, Georgetown is a great spot in the city for shopping and a nice lunch or dinner on the weekend. It is also the place to go for a beautiful stroll along the river. For a night out the places to be are Adams Morgan or U Street.
  • Allow time to travel before you come home to Australia if possible, but don’t plan it too soon. Best bet is all of the people you are sharing your exchange with also want to travel, so make plans with them later on. I ended up doing a three week long road trip across the country with some of my friends which included Miami, New Orleans, all of Texas, Vegas, LA and San Francisco among many others. It was fantastic.
Nadia - American University