Sophie - University of Wisconsin - Madison (ENG)

B. Engineering
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

At UW Madison, I studied the equivalent of three compulsory subjects for chemical engineering and took an elective to meet the full-time study load. The workload was similar to UQ's, however, UW Madison takes a much more theoretical approach to learning. Most lectures were presented on blackboards and you definitely have to make use of your textbooks. The assessment was relatively different but manageable, with subjects typically having multiple mid-term exams and a constant stream of assignments.

Personal experience

Choosing to go on exchange, without a doubt, has been the best decision I've ever made. I absolutely loved Madison and meet some amazing people both on exchange and during my travels. I made lifelong friendships and got to see some incredible places. During the semester, I did limited travel and that really wasn’t a worry since there was always something going on in Madison (sporting games, local hiking trips etc.). Post exchange, I travelled to Canada and a number of places in the US with other exchange students I had met. 
I would definitely recommend joining clubs/sports that might be of interest to you including ‘Bridge’ which was club specifically for exchange students and was equal parts international and American students.

Accommodation

I lived on campus in a residence hall called Ogg. I was late in the housing application so didn’t get to choose where to stay, but it ended up being the best case scenario. The residence hall was non-freshman, which suited me being a tad older than first-year students. There was a good mix of American but also other international/exchange students, many who I ended up making great friendships with and travelled with post exchange. I had an American roommate who I got along with really well. The location of the hall was also very convenient in comparison to the lakeshore dorms; close to town (if you enjoy nights out) but also very accessible to all my classes.

Budget

The biggest expense for me was definitely the University housing. In saying that, however, if you do choose to live on campus the dining halls provide discounted meals. Conveniently, almost all buses in Madison were free for students. I went to a few gigs and comedy shows during exchange, and all were incredibly cheap (would definitely recommend). If you do plan on travelling extensively post exchange, like myself, I would definitely try and save as much as you can and always remember to factor in the exchange rate!

Professional development and employability

Exchange was an incredible experience. It took me out of my comfort zone that is Brisbane and helped me grow as a person. It gave me a different perspective on so many different things which I’m sure will aid in my future endeavours. 

Highlight

Lake Superior hiking trail in Minnesota
Lake Superior hiking trail in Minnesota

What wasn’t a highlight! The standouts were a weekend hiking trip we took to Minnesota in the fall, experiencing American college sports (football, ice hockey, basketball), the first snowfall and all the places I was fortunate enough to travel to after exchange. Our travels took us to some incredible places (a fair few on a whim), my favourites being skiing at Lake Tahoe, the Grand Canyon and road tripping down the coast of California.

Top tips

  • If you’re considering going on exchange, do it!
  • It’s a lot of hard work (all the research, saving up, applications etc.) but totally worth it.
  • And, if you're considering Madison, I couldn’t recommend it enough, especially if you are looking for that typical American college town.
Sophie - University of Wisconsin - Madison (ENG)