Jack - University of Washington

B. Science
Semester 2, 2014

Academic experience

I studied genetic, evolution and molecular biology. One of the things I least liked about the American education system was the constant stream of 'busy-work' with few meaningful pieces of assessment. I felt that they cared more for students to memorize information rather than to understand it. One interesting course though employed the concept of 'a flipped classroom', a style that was trialled at UQ and did pretty poorly. The way it was done here though I found really interesting and, giving the opportunity, I would gladly do other courses in this style of learning. The hardest things about the American system are probably trying to keep on top of all the worksheets and mini quizzes they make you do as there are so many it was impossible to keep track. Secondly was trying to understand the point of the courses. Here at UQ lecturers always make their goals and expectations really clear, but this wasn't the case in America, it's up to you to try to figure out what is supposed to be important or relevant and what the goals of the course are.

Personal experience

I feel this experience gave me a lot of insight into what I can be doing to help me progress in my career choices and to be a better scientist. It showed me a variety of ways people in the field, and science in general, work and how I can learn to accommodate my own needs and preferences into the work that I do.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus and was able to get a single room, which I'm pretty sure is given to exchange students where possible. This was great because it meant I could go entire days without speaking to anyone, a luxury you probably wouldn't get if you had to share a room. It also meant my time was my own, I could freely come and go at all hours in my residence hall, which wasn't the case in some of the others. Probably the only con was the students who lived across the street, I'm pretty sure it was some kind of sorority, who would often make a lot of noise well past midnight.

Budget

The Space Needle
The Space Needle

Things in America are so cheap, it's ridiculous, I know that the UQ Abroad site recommended saving up to $10 000, but I probably didn't spend more than $6 000. The accommodation on campus was way cheaper than it would be here, I'm pretty sure the plane tickets cost more than the accommodation. If you want to use buses, they are pretty cheap. A single ticket (about $2.50) can be used as many times as you want for the next eight or so hours. The food there is about half the price for twice the size, although it is American food expect a lot of fat, sugar and deep frying.

Professional development and employability

I largely went on this exchange as I had a desire to go to UW (or another American university) for my PhD, so while over there I was able to meet with people who were able to give me information and advice about things I could do to help me in my goals for an academic career and how to go about getting a PhD in America. Studying in America, while simultaneously finishing assessment from UQ, was also an interesting experience which helped me realize some important things about self-motivation and self-discipline.

Highlight

I think my biggest highlight of the experience was the time I spent talking with Dr Rika Anderson, who only recently completed the PhD program I'd like to do. She told me a lot about working in the field and how to get into it. On top of that I got to listen to her present what she is currently working on as part of her research with NASA and discuss her findings with her afterwards.

Top tips

If you plan on doing something or going somewhere specific while over there, start making plans for it as soo as you get over there because after the first week or two of classes you'll start to forget all about it until suddenly it a month later and you still haven't done it.

Jack - University of Washington