Katie - Texas A&M University

B. Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I took tropical meteorology, independent studies, tumbling, archery, painting and BBQ ... for credit ... 'merica values extracurriculars! 
UQ only exchanges with the Agriculture and Life Sciences Department at A&M but Ag and Life Sci don't mind if you take a few courses outside of the department so make sure you check out all of the awesome active and creative courses not offered at UQ if you can fit it into your study plan. 
Only a few of my courses were typical courses but I didn't find the academics overly challenging. They do things a lot more hands-on at A&M than at UQ though so expect attendance to be mandatory and checked for all your courses and lots of little tests and assignments rather than big exams and reports. 

Personal experience

I had an awesome time on exchange! Through my classes, I learnt a bunch of new skills and outside of class A&M is the place to be if you want crazy traditions. I joined the Kruger Bonfire crew, where I spent the weekends cutting down trees to make the massive bonfire burnt the night before the Thanksgiving football game. The bonfire crews are each associated with a residence hall and are great for taking you under their wing and taking you along to football games and out dancing.

I also joined Alpha Zeta Chi, a service sorority, where I made friends who really do feel like sisters. A&M is not a very Greek focused university but they do have a few serious ones, which have a rush before the year starts and require a pretty big financial and time commitment with the chance to live in the house in the second year. But I joined a service sorority which was much more low key but still an excellent way of meeting people. 

Alpha Zeta Chi sorority sisters
Alpha Zeta Chi sorority sisters



Making friends is also great because then they can take you places! Texas' public transport is close to nonexistent so getting around is really hard. 

I should probably also say that while I had a great time, being in the US at the time of Trump's Presidential election was an eye-opener. The general views on guns, religion, abortion etc. are really different from what I was used to at home.That being said, individuals views varied just as they do at home.

Accommodation

I lived on campus and loved it. I was in Moses, one of the less expensive old dorms and didn't have any troubles. Yes most US students do share a room with the bunks for at least their first year, just like in the movies. Roommate allocation is luck of the draw but I got on great with my roommate Sam! It was excellent to have an automatic friend and someone to ask questions and take me along to stuff. 
Most of the students living on campus are freshmen (18-19) and are therefore underage. 
I didn't mind being older because they were new to A&m like me so we were in the same place so did lots of the new student traditions together. 
Older students generally move out into apartments which are like share houses but semi-controlled by the university. They are generally around the same price as living on campus and you get a room to yourself but be aware that even though its a small town College Station can be hard to get around

Budget

My dorm cost $2600 USD ish for the semester and I spent about the same to get my food meal plans on campus. I would definitely recommend getting the smallest possible meal plan, most people end up with lots left over at the end of the semester and there is no way to get your money back. 

Oh, and the 'freshman fifteen' (where new uni students gain fifteen pounds when they start university) is definitely a thing! Texans eat donuts for breakfast. 

At least the campus gym is awesome and free for students. 

Flights and travel obviously change a lot and depend on where you want to go.

Professional development and employability

Archery is going to be dead handy in a dystopian future. 

Seriously though, I did an 'independent studies' course where I arranged a supervisor and we worked together to get me work experience opportunities in the local community. It was a wonderful way for me to focus what I would like to do with my life and build some valuable skills and connections.

Highlight

I loved going out dancing at Hurricane Harry's and going to the Dixie Chicken. 

Where men are men, women are women and cowboy boots are for all. If you want to visit an authentic western saloon both are within walking distance from campus (for Australian's, Texans don't walk anywhere!) and full of locals who would be delighted to teach you to dance. Oh and definitely try the chicken fried steak sandwich at the Chicken.

Top tips

Get out of your room! It takes initiative to have a great time.

Katie - Texas A&M University