Samuel - University of Washington

B. Science
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

While studying at the University of Washington (UW) I took four courses; Genom372, Biol340, Microm301 and Microm302. These courses were equivalent to BIOL2202 (Genetics), MICRO2000 (Microbiology) and two elective courses at UQ. One thing that is definitely different, and good, about the America system is that the final exams are not weighted as heavily as UQ. However, this is only possible by considerably increasing the amount of weekly work required of students. While on exchange you have to get into the swing of completing the weekly pileup swiftly to leave time to experience the new world. You will soon realize that professors do not mark extremely hard on weekly assessment so perfection is not a necessity. Majority of courses/professors will also alter the weightings to give the highest possible grade to the majority of students. Nonetheless, it is not easy going. The biggest challenge is to distinguish the key points of each lecture. At UQ the lecturer usually bullet points what they want you to know. This doesn’t happen in the US so you have to get to know your lecturer to understand what they’re asking of you.

Personal experience

Travelling to the US on exchange has been the greatest experience of my life so far. This is my first time living away from home. I had to organize my daily meals, transport and be completely independent. I loved it! Planning to move on upon arrival back in Australia. Academically, it was really useful to be in complete control of one’s day. It was so easy to complete the work and get into a good study rhythm. The best thing about this was that it left heaps of time to meet up with friends and plan weekend trips to Vancouver and Portland! (I love Vancouver). My closest friends were all European exchange students. You do pick up a few words from each language especially if you spend a lot of time with them. More importantly, I now have a list of places I can stay in when I travel to Europe.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus in Poplar Dorm. It was one of the more expensive dorms however, it was a 10-minute walk to class so that was really useful. Additionally, it was a 5minute walk to the library; where I did the majority of my study. The gym was the next block over and the sports grounds were a 15minute walk across campus. As close as it was to the University the best thing about it was that I was within a 10-minutes walk of all the other exchange students! Whether living off campus or in the other dorms it was really fun having them so close. If I were to redo this experience, which I definitely would, I'd have looked into living in off-campus housing. It was awesome having meals and the gym so close by, however, I had mates who were living 15-minute walk to the University and were paying less than me. The freedom associated with off-campus housing is the big selling point. Realistically, if you’re like me and not too picky, you can’t go wrong with either option.

Budget

I will do my best to member the costs accurately. The dorm room was around 2.5 to 3 thousand dollars for the three months. Poplar was one of the expensive dorm complexes. One thing to remember is that the university selects your dorm from your ordered list. Poplar was my third option (one of my mates got his 6th option even though his 1st option was Poplar - so it can jump about considerably). I paid for the food plan at local point (Canteen on campus) which cost around two thousand dollars which gave me around 4 days’ worth of meals each week. I ate at friend’s houses, off-campus or ate out with friends on the Ave (UW’s student street) the other days of the week. You will be surprised how often you eat out at or with friends. It was $80 for an unlimited transit pass which lasts for a quarter and is organised by the University.

For entertainment, it is around $25 to go to football and basketball games which are must go!

At the Husky Stadium for my first football match!
At the Husky Stadium for my first football match!

While studying we took a trip to Portland and Vancouver. Both trips were for three days and two nights. We stayed in hostels ($50-70 per night) and used the bus to travel ($20-40 depending on when you book it). The website ‘wanderu.com’ is really easy to organize your bus travel; it is also really cheap. The budget recommended by the university was a little higher than necessary however, it is probably a good place to be at in case you stumble onto an amazing opportunity towards the end of your exchange (Something that can definitely happen as it did for me – we went to Leavenworth for a weekend – so much fun).

Professional development and employability

Living independently, estimating the cost and organizing myself have been the biggest changes. I really enjoyed having complete control over my week. The constant deadlines associated with American study and the weekly events meant you really had to organize your week to get the work done and enable time to travel/meet up with friends. The subjects I completed also really opened my eyes to the professional side of my major and the work associated with its completion.

Highlight

Without a doubt, the highlight of my exchange was the friends I have made. I made one really close group of friends from a diverse array of European countries plus another Australian. We travelled to Vancouver, Portland and Leaven Worth together. We went on trips around Seattle together and I meet up with many of these awesome people every day or every other day. It was great fun.

Top tips

  • My biggest, number one piece of advice…STAY FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
  • Make sure you sign up for the longest time possible depending on your University of choice! I only did one semester (which equated to one quarter or three months at UW). Even though I have no regrets I know that a full year would have been absolute, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, without question, worth it! I don’t know if you caught my point there but stay for as long as possible! I will definitely be telling UQ Abroad that they should push students towards the full year.
  • By the time you get your visa sorted, complete the long list of forms and organised all the travel details you will wish you were staying for a year!
  • Then, by the time you are halfway through the exchange, you will wish you were staying for multiple years!
  • The other suggestion would be to get involved in weekly sports through UW.
  • All other tips that come to mind are nit-picking when compared to what is written above. Everyone learns differently and you’ll learn a lot from making the odd mistake yourself so I’ll leave it at that.
Samuel - University of Washington