James - University of Virginia

B. Commerce / Economics
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

The topics I learned were Economics of Labour, the Economics of American History, Introduction to Computer Programming, Introduction to the Sky and Solar System (Astronomy).

The main difference between the two academic systems, Australian (UQ) and American (UVa) appeared to range between the first and fourth-year subjects from the repetition of facts to acute application of general theory to outside-of-the-box examples.

A challenge, as an economics student, was undertaking the history subject as it is quite different in terms of approach to study and style of test that is given.

Personal experience

The main thing I learned was how to say, “yes” to everything. The environment that I entered into, a small college town in the northern-south, incubated the positive characteristics that result from collaboration and openness to new experiences and ideas. Due to this, making new friends, exploring new locations, experiencing unique experiences came around extremely easily.


I lived off-campus with three other people in the same apartment. We were all open communicators and arranged the type of habits we all had. One of the most enjoyable factors to living with the people that I did was the appreciation of a study-life balance between all of us. Future advice would include being open and honest about your living habits, and to also be understandable of others habits.


Falling leaves in Charlottesville, Virginia
Leaves falling in Charlottesville, Virginia

This exchange encouraged me to try all aspects of the town, so, I spent a little more than a shoe-stringer might; approximately $15,000 AUD on accommodation, food and miscellaneous activities. In terms of the local restaurants, food was priced relative to Australian standards, however, keep in mind that all service industries are based on tipping. If you travel around, I highly suggest doing so with a few people as this can help to cut costs in areas like transport and accommodation.

Professional development and employability

By gaining more of an understanding and appreciation of a different culture within a field that I’m interested in pursuing for my professional career, I feel more comfortable in the understanding that the primary hurdle is much lower- cultural adaptability.


One of the highlights included the fact that I was studying in an extraordinary academic institution around incredibly smart and amazing people interested in new ideas, activities, and perspectives.

Top tips

  • Say “yes” so as many things as practical
  • At the end of the day, the main part of this experience is networking and connecting with people that you may not normally have the chance to do on any given day
  •  A wide array of opportunities can present themselves in the most unexpected of circumstances and situations, all by saying, “yes.”
James - University of Virginia