Mirei - Kansas State University

B. Science / Arts

Academic experience

Kansas State University (better known by the students as K-State) is located in the town of Manhattan aka. ‘The Little Apple’ and home to mascot Willie the Wildcat. Being in my 4th year, I studied mostly 3rd year/senior level courses to mostly help complete my degree. As a dual degree student studying the majors of biomedical science, psychology and Japanese, trying to find courses which complied with all three majors was a little difficult. As such, I decided to take courses towards my only biomedical science major and psychology major. In total, I studied 5 courses, total of 15 credits on exchange.
BIOL530 Pathogenic Microbiology
PSYCH520 Life Span Personality Development
PSYCH556 Multicultural Psychology
PSYCH425 Judgement and Decision Making
MUSIC249 Introduction to Music of the World

Personally, the content was just as challenging as UQ’s, with smaller class sizes, so the teaching style was much more personalised – which I found to be a blessing. There were no lecture recordings, with a majority of my courses having compulsory attendance. In some cases, I was graded on participation too, which ended up being a good thing. It actively made me think about what I was learning during lectures and helped a lot when it came to studying for weekly in-class quizzes in the pathogenic microbiology course, weekly homework tasks, exams and writing reflection essays!

I did find myself working really hard during the week and some Sundays, which admittedly was mentally and physically draining at times. However, the lecturers I had, my friends I made and the people at K-State were extremely kind, helpful and encouraging – everyone looked out for each other on campus!

Personal experience

The heart-warming nature of mid-westerners did not disappoint. Coincidentally, a lot of other exchange students, lived on the floor of my dorm, so I was able to make special connections not just locally but all over the world! I didn’t have a part-time job like I did back home, so I took advantage that spending my Friday afternoons checking out the rest of Manhattan, going to Tuttle Creek Lake and being awed by the beautiful Konza Prairie in the Flint Hills. The great thing about Manhattan, being a college town, is that everything you need is relatively close and places are open till extremely late/early in the morning: regular late-night Wal-Mart trips, or a walk to Pizza Shuttle for a 1 am feed, was very much so the American way of college life! On weekends, I found myself driving out with others visiting Kansas City (only a 2-hour drive) and the main city, Topeka (only an hour-drive). If you’re not into driving so much, the town has a regional airport which has flights to Chicago and Dallas daily. During the Thanksgiving break I visited Florida and also used the visa “grace period” after the semester to travel to other parts of the USA; such as San Francisco, road tripped to Las Vegas, New Year’s Eve in New York and did a TopDeck tour that took me through Washington D.C., Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans.

Accommodation

To get the authentic American college experience and freely meet people, I decided to live On-campus in one of the 10 residence halls, Marlatt Hall. The great thing about living here was that it was one of the more quieter dorms (good for when I needed to do some intense study). Lafene Health Centre was also right across the road, with the gym/recreational centre and football stadium a 7-10 min walk away. Although you do have to share the bathroom, these were cleaned daily and all rooms were fully furnished. I actually enjoyed the shared situation, plus, there was the added bonus that it was slightly closer to my classes. If you ever get stressed from a hectic week, the floor lobby is the best place to relax and chill. There’s always someone that’ll come hang out with you or dabble together in your uni woes!
If you decide dorm life isn’t exactly your thing, the Jardine apartments situated near gym is your other best option. I knew of some people who wanted more of a share-house environment and wanted their own kitchen (good especially for those who have special dietary requirements) and for a bit more privacy.

Budget

Representing Australia in the Homecoming Parade!
Representing Australia in the Homecoming Parade!

Living in Kansas was very affordable. My budget spending for food and entertainment combined varied from $50-$100 USD per week. On-campus living cost me about $2,300 USD and living in the dorms automatically enrol you for a meal plan which cost $1,910. I chose the 14-meal plan that allowed me to not depend too closely on the dining centre and actually go explore for some other foods Manhattan had to offer! Eating out was also slightly cheaper than in Australia. In particular, at an area in-walking distance of campus called Aggieville, where you can find student bars, family friendly restaurants, dessert places such as Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, So Long Saloon, Varsity donuts to name a few. The gym/rec centre is free for all students with their ID card, so I ended up going once a week on the treadmill to sweat it out, or did fun activities such as rock climbing and tennis – a good incentive for trying to stay fit from all the hearty food! Public transport is scarce, however, most people at K-State have cars and are usually happy to offer lifts, alternatively splitting the fare of an Uber amongst friends works too. In total, would recommend budgeting $9,000 – $10,000 USD for your semester abroad. Depending on how much travel you decide to exploit during the semester, this can change, but I personally found my pockets being drained at the end when I travelled around other states.

Professional development and employability

Studying abroad has not only allowed me to make lifelong worldly connections but also gave me the opportunity to study some courses that UQ didn’t offer! Including my exchange experience on my resume, I think will allow future employers see that I have the ability to be flexible and adaptable when working in a new environment. I also hope to share some the positive family spirit which the university has marked in me, and integrate some of the knowledge I’ve gained to enhance my abilities back at UQ.

Highlight

The few that stick out in my mind, was having the amazing opportunity to participate in the homecoming parade representing Australia alongside the international coordinating council. There was also the controversial election between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump which took place whilst I was on exchange – I learnt to be very open about opinions from just being physically present and able to observe reactions.

Probably my favourite part of the university was the positive student atmosphere! Although the campus is relatively large, I felt I was in a close-knit, friendly community! FAMILY is something which KSU endorses a lot and this comradery echoes across the campus. Students during football season tailgate hard, deck out in the colour purple and proudly wear merchandise that has K-State Power cat logo. Even some football players run out holding a plank of wood with the word “family” painted on it! K-State has another interesting tradition called the Wabash Cannonball, a fight song that’s played at sporting events with rocking back and forth movements (basically an awesome, fun, non-painful version of headbanging) accompanied by the marching band. In a stadium surrounded by your fellow Wildcats, the spirit is phenomenal – you can’t help but clap and cheer! It really is “One Big Happy Purple Family”.

Top tips

Stunning view from the edge of Grand Canyon National Park
Stunning view from the edge of Grand Canyon National Park
  1. Do your research on what universities you’d like to attend and start planning early if possible. There is a lot of tedious paperwork involved before going but… IT’S SO WORTH IT!
  2. If you decide to take some compulsory courses over, I recommend getting a couple extra courses than the minimum approved as backups.
  3. If your study schedule ends up being a tough one, don’t panic, plan ahead a little and go bowling or something to give yourself breaks.
  4. Save up as many funds as you can before you go! The more you save, the more travel you can do to immerse yourself in the American culture! The USA is a whoppingly big country and has so many things to see. Each state and city is usually known for something which has contributed to the history of the country.
  5. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Time is precious on exchange, so getting involved in student clubs/events is one of the best ways to meet like-minded friends! I was a part of 2 student-run clubs whilst on my exchange and had an absolute blast hanging out with these people every week. 
  6. WAL-MART will become your bestie!
  7. Go to Arrow Coffee Co. they’ve got some darn good coffee and service. It’s also a great study spot alternative if you’re not the biggest fan of the library!
Mirei - Kansas State University