Helena - University of Richmond

B. Business Management / Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

Whilst on my semester abroad, I was able to take electives under my Bachelor of Arts degree. I decided to take courses outside of my major and was able to do classes in political science, geography and journalism. 

The academic system at the University of Richmond is very different to the one here at UQ. Be prepared for much smaller class sizes, more class work every week, and no recorded lectures. The classes were very open for conversation and the professors were always trying to get students to engage. There is a lot less content presented in class than at standard UQ lectures, as you are expected to do readings before class and come prepared for discussion. This was one of the many challenges - to get use to doing so many readings before class and learning the content to make sure I was ready to partake in class discussion. This however became one of the things I enjoyed the most as I not only got to hear a range of different perspectives from other classmates, but also because the class was more of an open discussion where we were encouraged to think independently and critically, keeping the classroom a fun and energetic place to learn.

Personal experience

Trip to Disney World, Florida!
Trip to Disney World, Florida!

I had such a great experience at the University of Richmond (U of R)- I met so many different people, made so many great friends for life, explored so many different parts of the USA and got to learn more about the rich history that Virginia holds. Richmond is in a great location because you can easily go North up to DC, New York, Philadelphia, and so forth, as well as go South to Orlando, Miami and other great Southern cities of the like. Owing to that, I got to see a lot of the country and visited about 13 other states during my stay. 
Since U of R is such a small college, the international group basically become family and you get to meet the American students very easily as everyone knows each other! I have made so many great friends, both American and International that I plan to visit in the near future. It's great because you get to meet people from all over the world, learn about different cultures and places, and then have a place to stay when you want to visit your friend's country!

Accommodation

All exchange students had to live on campus, and I wouldn't have it any other way! Most students at U of R will stay on campus for their whole undergraduate degree, and it is no wonder why! Living on campus you get to meet so many people, both in your dorm, and also just walking out and about. Almost all of the campus events and parties will be on campus, so it is super easy to just walk to the events if you live on campus. In addition to that, if you want to go to an off-campus Frat party, the shuttles are usually from on campus, so it definitely pays to be on campus! Not to mention, the dining hall and all of the other food outlets are all on campus. 
I loved living on campus, and sharing a room with my two roommates was probably the best thing about my living arrangement! Although it may seem weird to share a room, it is very common in America and you get to know your roommate super well and always have someone there for you. Living on campus definitely made my life on exchange super easy and gave me the true American college experience. If you're looking at going to U of R, I would definitely recommend living on campus in a dorm.

Budget

Once you pay for accommodation, your dining plan and health insurance, there isn't too much that you need to pay for. Accommodation can range from $US2000-$US3000 depending on your room type, the meal plan that I would recommend is around $US3000 and the health insurance is mandatory and costs about $US800. The dining plan I got was the Unlimited Spider Plan and it gives you unlimited 'swipes' into the dining hall as well as $750 'dining dollars' to use at the different food outlets on campus. This is the best way to go in my opinion because you don't have to worry about cooking or buying your own food and there is always food on campus that you can use your dining dollars on, or you can go to the dining hall, which is where most people eat their meals.

Washington, D.C. is only a two-hour bus trip away!
Washington, D.C. is only a two-hour bus trip away!



All up, including flights to America and back, I budgeted $10,000 (AU dollar) as a minimum amount. If you want to go travelling around the states, I would recommend about another $2000 at least. It is hard to give a budget because everyone has different ideas about what they want to do and where they want to go. I will say that public transport is scarce in Richmond and therefore I found myself paying a lot more for Ubers than I originally expected. Some off-campus Frat parties also require tickets, usually about $10-15 each. If you want to go out for food and drinks as well and to explore the city, you will need extra money for that as well. In short, if you want to stay on campus and not travel around too much, with the expenses you pay for up front for U of R you should be able to get by without spending more money on top of that. I would highly recommend however saving as much as you can because once you are there you will find out about all of these great things to see and do that you will need extra money for! To give a ballpark figure, I spent about $AU15,000 including the upfront payments and got to do a lot of travelling throughout the semester.

Professional development and employability

By partaking in the exchange program I have gained an experience that tested my adaptability and flexibility to live in a new country. Whilst I had the ease of everyone speaking English, it was a very different country to Australia and there are many cultural differences between our two countries. I was able to learn about these differences, which have enhanced my cross-cultural awareness skills and communication skills. I am able to now exemplify this to employers and showcase that I am an adaptable person who is willing to get out of their comfort zone.

Highlight

There were so many great aspects of my exchange experience but the one that was the greatest was definitely all of the people I met and the friends I made. My greatest memories are those built with people, and it was the people I met, the places I went with them, and the conversations I had that was the best part of my exchange. I know without a doubt that my exchange wouldn't have been as memorable as it was without the friendships I made and thus realise the people I met and got to know were the highlight of my experience.

Top tips

  • If you are considering doing an exchange program, do it! It will be one of the greatest experiences of your life and you can look back at the time you had for your whole life. You will get to explore a whole new culture and way of life, meet so many different people, make new great friends for life, and depending on where you go you may even get to learn a new language! This was my second semester abroad and if I could do it again, I would! Everyone I know that has graduated, and considered doing an exchange but then did not, has regretted it, and so if you are thinking about it - don't hold back! There are also a lot of ways to get financial help to help you in your exchange endeavours if you need it. 
  • Specifically for U of R, if you go to this school, take advantage of the Host Family Program and the Ambassador Program! My host mum was awesome and took me to so many places that I wouldn't have been able to get to without her! We still stay in touch and it was nice to have a mum-like figure there for me when I needed it. The ambassador club is also a great way to meet new Americans and your fellow exchange students, and they organise fun stuff for you to do throughout the semester!
  • All I can say for anyone considering doing an exchange (wherever that may be) is to just do it! You won't regret it and you will have so many great friends and memories afterwards.
Helena - University of Richmond