Maxwell - University of Massachusetts

B. Mechanical Engineering and Commerce
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I studied a wide range of courses which covered both aspects in Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics, Management and Marketing. Specifically, MIE413, MIE313, MIE273, MKTG301and MATH331. I thoroughly enjoyed the far more engaging approach to lectures, tutorials and other classes that was employed throughout my exchange. I felt as though the lecturer genuinely knew who I was in a majority of classes, and was able to identify when and where I could contribute to the class. This, however, did make it difficult if you ever needed to skip class for other requirements as usually you would lose participation marks for doing so. Overall, the educational aspect of the exchange was thoroughly impressive, albeit perhaps not as effectively assessed as it is at UQ.

Personal experience

There is no question, in my mind, that my time abroad was one of the most rewarding social experiences of my life. I met people that I'll say, without hesitation, that I will know for the rest of my life and some who I still stay in touch with in Australia and throughout the world. Undeniably, there is something to be said for the confidence you gain from completing a 6 month trip abroad, and that probably stems from the amount of solo travelling, experiences in a different culture and the variety of personalities you meet along the way. Perhaps the hardest aspect of the trip is coming home due to the difficulty of leaving the relationships you have made behind, but there is no question in my mind that this simply builds character and helps develop vital social skills moving forward.

Accommodation

During my time in Amherst, I lived on campus in the Washington Tower located in Southwest. Those travelling to Umass should know that Southwest isn't entirely all its cracked up to be, purely because the people you meet are already so heavily involved with their existing groups of friends. It is definitely the party living area, but you will quickly find that you meet a number of exchange students, with similar plans as you, that live in Sylvan. I realised that in some ways, I probably would have preferred to have been stationed in Sylvan because we ended up spending so much time there! If you are planning to do a year, I would highly recommend considering off campus residency as it helps significantly with meeting new people and with hosting social events.

Budget

Travelling Canada for Thanksgiving!
Trip to Canada for Thanksgiving

My living costs totalled approximately 13,000 AUD (20,000 AUD including board and meal plan). With the current US exchange rate (0.75 approx) living costs are almost on par with Australia, apart from alcohol which is significantly cheaper. I did not budget effectively, having saved a significant amount of money for the trip, and I believe if you were frugal, you could probably save $5000 compared to what I ended up spending. But with the opportunities you are presented with, such as ski trips, travel to NYC and various social events, you simply do not want to be limited by a budget. I highly recommend over budgeting, because you will undoubtedly end up shopping, travelling and heading out more than you think!

Professional development and employability

During my time abroad, I believe the most valuable skills I developed stemmed from the people I met and the travel I experienced. Primarily, I improved my ability to problem solve in unexpected situations (whether they be professional or personal), improved conversational ability, networked with various future professionals in wide range of fields that will live internationally and also dramatically increased my desire to live and work overseas at some point in the future. It is hard to pinpoint specific developments in my professional self, however, it is fair to say that the very experience of living in another country has helped widen my perspective on the business world and the way certain problems should be tackled.

Highlight

It is impossible to pinpoint a single highlight of the trip. The entire exchange was filled with incredible memories, however, I would have to say that the people I met and the relationships I created would top the list of experiences. Rarely are you placed in a situation where you have to so quickly develop friendships, and although daunting at first, it was unbelievably rewarding and I will never forget the lessons I learned as a result!

Top tips

Looking back, I have two tips for future students heading out on exchange. Firstly, force yourself to get out there in the first month of your time abroad. It's tough dealing with being away from home and knowing you have an extended period away from family and friends, but that quickly subsides and you don't want to be wasting time because it's all over so quickly! Secondly, the only thing I regret about my exchange was not staying for longer. Seriously consider doing the year because you will quickly realise that at the end of 6 months, you are only just getting comfortable and happy with the way you've set yourself up. The extra semester would have been simply fantastic.

Maxwell - University of Massachusetts