Dominic - University of Michigan

B. Exercise and Sports Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

Whilst at the University of Michigan, I studied 5 courses; all of which were very interesting with extremely professional and helpful professors. Courses had smaller numbers of students than I am used to at UQ, which made for a lot of 1-on-1 help with professors. I enjoyed this kind of academic experience, as it allowed for an easier transition into a completely new academic system. Professors were always really nice and welcoming, making it easy to approach them for help or when I needed questions answered. My professors always encouraged class engagement, which made it easier to make new friends within the class and get myself out there to meet the students in my classes. 

The courses I studied in Michigan were not all direct equivalents to the UQ courses I was missing out on. This was due to the courses Michigan offered in this semester (I required very specific courses for my time abroad). As a result, my UQ study plan was partially disrupted due to not all 8 UQ credits being given for my semester abroad. From this, I would recommend for any future UQ abroad students to ensure that the university they are attending abroad can offer each course they require to gain all credits back home at UQ, as this can be a frustrating situation as I have experienced.

Personal experience

Going on exchange was a life-changing experience which I will never forget. The whole concept of studying in a different country whilst meeting new friends from all over the world is great, and it definitely makes for a lot of stories to tell your friends and family when you arrive back home! I can now say I have long-term friends from each corner of the world, which is a great thing to have when you want to travel the whole world on a budget ;). The friendships I made were the highlight of my experience, as I immediately became friends with a group of ~15 international students, all like me! This brought us very close together, allowing us to share many experiences.

Together, we explored other areas of North America, going on 3 trips in total throughout the semester. We visited Sleeping Bear Dunes (on Lake Michigan), Chicago, and Toronto - all very worthwhile and relatively cheap places to visit when in Michigan. With groups of 10-12 people on each trip, endless fun was had whilst always getting to know each other and each person's cultural differences. Being a group of international students, I got to understand many different languages which they speak as their first language - Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Italian. This was a very interesting experience and really motivated me to start learning new languages. It was incredible to think people my age were speaking as fluent English as I was, as well as knowing 2 or 3 other languages!

Accommodation

I lived in campus accommodation for my semester abroad. The university campus accommodation is divided into north campus housing and central campus housing. It's very difficult to get a spot in central campus housing, however, it was largely recommended to me before I arrived due to being closer to most university buildings and where all of the parties happen! I was allocated a spot in north campus accommodation which ended up being a terrific experience. I chose a double dorm room with an American as my room-mate. We got along very well and shared the same friend group. I loved the experience of having friends around every minute of the day, as so many memories were made and always someone to talk to. 

The north campus accommodation I stayed at was a 15-minute bus from central campus, where all of my classes were. This was sometimes inconvenient when it was very cold, however, the buses are free and usually arrive every 5-10 minutes. Overall, I would definitely recommend staying in on-campus accommodation, especially north campus dorms!

Budget

With the help of my OS Help Loan, I was able to comfortably enjoy my experience abroad, which resulted in the whole experience being quite expensive - however, totally worth it! I spent approximately $1200 AUD on a one-way flight to Detroit fro Brisbane (which was more expensive than necessary due to delays in my Visa acceptance). Housing and food were combined for $7500. I then spent approximately another $1000 on the 3 trips I took, and a few hundred more for miscellaneous activities whilst in Michigan. HELPFUL HINT: make sure UQ's insurance covers your abroad university insurance policy also. I thought this was the case as I was told, however, this was not the case once I arrived in Michigan, which left me paying close to $1000 extra than I expected just on Michigan's insurance policy.

Professional development and employability

Watching the Michigan Wolverines play!
Watching the Michigan Wolverines play!

I have developed the ability to live independently whilst being abroad. Up until this experience, I lived at home with my parents, thus making this experience a big change in my lifestyle. Being able to live independently is very important I feel, as parents are not always going to be there to help with things like laundry or curing a sickness. 

I feel like going on exchange and understanding a new academic system can largely broaden the mind of a student and allow them to learn new systems and understand new ways of doing things easier and more quickly. This is a skill which will transfer into many different areas of life and will be very important for the future.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was the friendships I've made for life. The connection I made with the people I met whilst in Michigan was incredible as we shared so many new experiences together. I feel as though I've made friends all over the world for life and this is a great feeling. I also love the positive patriotism of universities in the United States. I came home with many free Michigan t-shirts as well as many other forms of Michigan clothing - they love to wear their own colours and clothes even on non-game days (so leave a lot of room in your suitcase when you go over there).

Top tips

Plan ahead and budget well! Always over-budget, as sudden expenses can arise which you have to be able to pay for. 

Open your mind and allow yourself to be immersed in the new culture! You're a completely new person when you arrive at your abroad university so make the most of it and try to meet as many people and have as much fun as you can (whilst focusing on studies still of course!). Try different groups and organisations and see what your new university has to offer compared to UQ. Experience as many things as possible, and definitely make the most of free weekends and days off throughout the week. Enrich yourself in every way possible and simply try to make the most of such a short time you have overseas at a new university - trust me, it goes extremely quick!

Dominic - University of Michigan