Danni - State University of New York at Stony Brook

B. Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

While at Stony Brook University I used my elective classes (something I would definitely recommend if you want to avoid a painstaking amount of stress!) which meant I had the freedom to take almost any class I wanted. My two majors are English and Media Studies so I took a cinema class like the ones I have already taken for my Media major, an Introduction to French class, an Introduction to German class, and a theatre production class. I had a lot of fun in all of my classes and got to try things I would never have otherwise had an opportunity to do so, and now I've even decided to continue with French by adding a Diploma of Languages to my degree. In the US, it feels as though the academic standard for the classes is a little bit lower than it is at UQ and the lecturers are much more involved in helping with the assessment so as far as that goes, the classes feel a bit easier. On the other hand, however, the work and assessment starts immediately and you won't get a break so pace yourself and don't burn out! Also, don't forget that you only need to pass your classes so make sure you really make an effort to learn in more ways than just within the classroom!

Personal experience

I can honestly say that being on exchange was the best experience of my life! I made so many friends of not only American's but also other exchange students. The great thing about befriending other exchange students is that they're in the exact same boat as you from the get-go as they also moved to a different country by themselves so there's so much you can instantly bond over. With these friends, I travelled into Manhattan every weekend and around North-East America, and since most of them were European I was able to see them all in a few months afterwards while travelling Europe (and I got free tour guides!). I've learnt of so many different cultures and seen so many different views on life. I've travelled to Washington and Boston in rental cars and dingy buses, spent a Thanksgiving in snowy Canada with a German feast and got to know Manhattan like the back of my hand. I've gained so much confidence and feel as though I've never been happier or more at peace with myself, which is kind of weird since the whole six months was a fast-paced fiasco.

Accommodation

Washington D.C.
Washington D.C.

I lived on-campus in the dorms and I think that's compulsory. Anyway, it's not perfect but I can honestly say that I wouldn't have it any other way. I think exchange students normally are put straight into West Apartments, which are really nice, but for this semester myself and the other exchange students were put into Roosevelt Quad where the dorms are all corridor style. Imagine every movie you've ever seen and that's what it's like: getting a roommate (thankfully I became really good friends with mine so that made it a lot of fun andI even got to spend Christmas with her family!), sharing a bathroom with many others, hearing all kinds of conversations through opened doors and thin walls, and having the weirdest but most amazing friendships with the other people on your floor and in your building as you share midnight teeth-brushing conversations and complaints about power tools going off in the early morning. It was the best time and now I've learnt to appreciate having a shower without wearing shoes. My top tip, however, is that you get an unlimited meal plan even if you live in West Apartments and have a kitchen because this is how I met a lot of people and became really good friends with everyone. The food isn't the best and you'll probably develop a million and one nutritional deficiencies but when else will you be able to spend every meal with your best friends without having to worry about cooking and cleaning?

Budget

I recommend that you have at least double the money set aside for your trip than you think you'll need. There are so many opportunities that will come up and there's nothing worse than missing out on something because you can't afford it. Of course, there will be things that you won't do because of finances but seriously, it's worth taking up those extra shifts at work in the months prior to you leaving because you never know when you'll plan a spontaneous weekend road trip. I think I spent approximately $15000 during the semester and then an additional $10000 on flights and travelling afterwards. That's definitely a lot of money and you could definitely get by with $15000 but I'd been saving my money from part-time jobs since I was 14 and although I'm now the poorest I've been in years, I've had the best travel experience I could have ever imagined and seen 15 different countries in only 6 months. But long story short, I recommend you have as much money set aside for this as you possibly can.

Professional development and employability

I've definitely gained confidence and happiness, and I think those two attributes are such a crucial thing at our age.

Highlight

I honestly couldn't pinpoint it. I think I've made the best friends I'll ever make and now I have people who may as well be family scattered all over the world so that's definitely an incredible thing, and because of these friends, I've made some of the best memories in a state as magnificent as New York. It feels as though my life has become a movie!

Top tips

  • Go on exchange with the intention of learning as much as you possibly can, and by that, I don't mean just within a classroom. Teach yourself to have an open mind and you'll see so many new things. Travel, meet people, do things that you otherwise would have never done. Even if you make a bad decision here or there you learn something and I can almost entirely guarantee that you won't regret it.
  • If you can, take the classes that sound most interesting to you. Even if they have nothing to do with your degree, you'll have a much easier time if you're enjoying your homework (yeah, they actually call it that and I promise you'll have a few stressful flashback to high school) and assignments.
  • Be a tourist and be a local. Go and see the sights and take weekend trips without any shame, but also take your roommates advice and venture out to her favourite cafe to try that coffee she keeps on talking about. Go to the sporting matches even if the only sport you know anything about is Quidditch and chant the school chants and war cries until you lose your voice. It's fun, I promise.
 Danni - State University of New York at Stony Brook