Elise - University of Richmond

B. Psychological Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I used my electives for my subjects at Richmond, which meant I was more flexible in the subjects I was able to take. However, I did need to take one psychology subject to fit into my psychology degree, which I was unable to do due to submitting my preferences late! So my recommendation for future students would be to make sure you submit your preferences early in order to ensure you keep on track with your degree! I took French, Greek, Latin and Sociology, which was an interesting mixture, but exciting and rewarding. My professors took great interest in their students, and the classes were very small compared to UQ – there were only 8 people in my Greek class! Compared to UQ, to me studying at Richmond seemed a little like being back in high school, with the small classes and blackboards/whiteboards that all the professors used during class. Although I am shy and was initially nervous about the small class sizes, they were probably my favourite part of studying, due to the connections you gain with the teachers. If I didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving the teachers would’ve invited me over to their place, how lovely is that! 

Personal experience

I gained a lot of personal experience from my exchange at Richmond. I made lifelong friendships with other international students, which I truly treasure and I know I’ll always have a home to go to on the other side of the world. Additionally, I haven’t been a part of college at UQ, so being a part of the college life in the US was an eye-opening and fun experience, with all the events happening all the time. My first event which was ‘Color Wars’ was one of my favourite, where many students from all 4 years of college (Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors) battled with paint. Travelling was also an incredible opportunity which I took advantage of when studying at Richmond. One memorable experience, in particular, was when we road-tripped to Nashville for Thanksgiving. Being a part of the Thanksgiving experience was interesting as we shared a meal with strangers and all passed the meals around the table. I would strongly encourage future exchange students to make use of the fact that Richmond is in a great spot geographically, being only 2 hours away from D.C.! 

Accommodation

I lived on campus, which is a required for all exchange students going to Richmond. I lived in a resident hall with 2nd/3rd years, however, I was put in a small hall with all other international students. Although this made it more difficult to make friends with American students, it didn’t matter because everyone in the hall became great friends! It was strange at first living with a roommate (most people have either 1 or 2 roommates), however, you soon begin to develop a great friendship. I would recommend to future students to make the room yours, put decorations and photos up (within the uni guidelines) so you feel more comfortable. My favourite part of living on campus in close proximity to others is exactly that – the proximity! I would walk to breakfast each morning with someone from my hall, and there is always someone there (either in the halls or somewhere else on campus) to help you out when you need it. It is also really easy to go to D-Hall (aka the dining hall) and swipe your ID card for food, as well using your dining dollars at the other on-campus stores (café, salad bar), an experience extremely different to here in Australia which I loved.

Budget

Trip to Chicago in Fall!
Trip to Chicago in Fall!

It was good that we paid for accommodation (on-campus living)/on-campus food before arriving at Richmond because it meant it was one less thing to focus on. I would take what the UQ website says regarding accommodation into account, and also remember you need to pay a compulsory medical insurance. I would recommend taking additional money to what the UQ website recommends for living costs, depending on how much travel/entertainment off-campus you are wanting to do (there are many events on campus to do too). Transport to the shops, as well as other locations such as the movies, is easy and free from campus with the shuttle. If you want to travel somewhere like D.C. and you are unable to drive, I would recommend taking a bus as it is cheap and one of the most effective was to travel around the US. Also look into getting a travel card from your bank, to save on credit card costs!

Professional development and employability

I think I have definitely developed better communication skills from interacting with people from different cultures who may not have the same background as me – not only Americans but also other international students. I also learned to adapt to environments, as living in a dorm with a roommate was challenging at times (for example when you want to sleep but your roommate is studying, or there are parties going on in another room). I can bring both of these skills to my professional development, with communicating with a wide range of people. 

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was definitely the friendships I’ve gained, and the many experiences that I gained during exchange – for example, I did a lot more things than I would normally do in Australia – I really got out and explored and tried to experience many things – something I would highly recommend future students to do, but also remember it’s okay to relax if you need to! Also experiencing Fall with all the beautiful leaf colours was amazing! And experiencing Halloween and Thanksgiving were experiences I won't forget!

Top tips

  • Just do it!
  • Go and have fun!
  • Remember you are on exchange so don’t stress too much about the academic work (if you are a stressor like me!), but remember to still put the work in and you will be rewarded with an amazing experience!
  • Explore as much as you can and try new things. 
Elise - University of Richmond