Jeremy - University of Florida

B. Commerce (Accounting) / B. Science (Mathematics)
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I studied Introduction to Earth Science, Calculus III, Elementary Differential Equations, and Computer Programming Using JAVA. Classes were not recorded, and attendance was mandatory in my subjects. I found the American grading scale interesting in comparison to UQ's as a passing grade over there was a C, which was 70% of the course marks. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of their academic system for me was that assessment was provided on a routine basis, so there was not a lot of pressure on the final exams as they were not weighted at like 60% of the course marks like UQ. Having constant flow of assessment also made sure that you were on top of your work and kept up to date with course material, thus making it easier to retain information and perform better on exams.

Personal experience

Being at the University of Florida was truly an amazing experience. Being a college town, I was able to experience the full college experience and saw the amount of college spirit that students had, something which is not seen in UQ at all. Perhaps by far, the best experience from this exchange was the amazing people I have met, and the global friendships that I have forged for life.

Accommodation

I lived in Weaver Hall, an international dorm on-campus. Living in Weaver Hall was a great opportunity to meet students from all around the world as approximately half the residents were fellow exchange students and the other half were American students. I would highly recommend living on-campus as it made campus life a lot more convenient and it was always easy to meet up with other residents to go to the dining hall, do activities, study together or just talk.

Budget

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

Overall, I found that the cost of living in America was not much cheaper than Australia, and in fact, many things were more expensive than Australia. I went at a time when the exchange rate was poor (1 USD = 0.70 AUD) so this inflated a lot of my expenses. I would recommend opening a Citibank account as they offer some of the best exchange rates and incur no international transaction fees. To live comfortably, I would budget at least $15000 AUD for the trip, preferably a bit more due to the low exchange rate. Some of my expenses such as rent and meal plans (21 meals per week) were approximately $2000 USD each. Phone plans were expensive and were around $70-80 USD per month. The UF mandatory health insurance is around $800 USD and this can be waived with other cheaper insurance options, so be sure to shop around before signing onto the university's insurance.

Professional development and employability

This exchange has provided me with an opportunity to really develop my personal skills which will always be of benefit to my professional development. I have faced difficult situations and managed to navigate my way through successfully, stepped out of my comfort zone and thrived in an entirely new environment. I have also gained international perspectives, formed new networks, and experienced a diverse range of cultures. I am now more independent, confident and open-minded as a result of this trip.

Highlight

An incredible highlight of my exchange trip was experiencing the US presidential election during my semester abroad. I was able to attend a Donald Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida and witnessed the political passion, and fanaticism that Americans had for their presidential leaders, something which I do not see in Australia. I was also able to spend Thanksgiving with an American family, which was truly a delightful experience.

Top tips

  • Plan ahead! I can not stress this enough, as I could have saved a lot more money if I had researched and planned my trips earlier.
  • Try not having any classes on Monday or Friday, as a long weekend allows you more flexibility to travel to more places, and many other exchange students strive for this type of timetable as well.
  • Try getting the meal plan if you can, sharing a kitchen with every other resident in your floor was quite a hassle, and the meal plan was more than sufficient for a college student.
  • I would recommend attending UF in the Fall semester, as this is football season and many American holidays are celebrated during this period, giving you the full college experience and a taste of the American culture.
  • Lastly, have fun and put yourself out there! Many other exchange students are in the same boat as you and are keen to make new friends. The trip may seem daunting and expensive, but I am certain you will not regret embarking on this journey.
Jeremy - University of Florida