Eliza - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

B. Arts
UQ Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

Between meeting amazing people, weekends away and spending every other night out on Franklin St, I promise you I did study! Actually, never in my life have I attended so many classes. At first the mandatory attendance at 8am lectures (as nothing was recorded) was something I remorsefully admit I moaned about. However, what surprised me is how quickly this dread disappeared as the incredibly dynamic and interactive classes reignited my curiosity and love of learning (corny I know) and made me actually want to attend class.

The classes are far more interactive than anything you are used to! The professors are constantly developing the curriculum to keep up with the industry and are very invested in your development. The one thing you need to prepare yourself for (and it took me a while to adjust) is having constant little pieces of assessment but they are relatively simple and easy to bash out. Professors also give very realistic timeframes for the assessment to be completed in (and frequently extended the due date).

At UNC the classes are shorter but meet more frequently – this, while at first I dreaded, was something I grew to love as it made it so much easier to stay on top of the content. It’s worth noting that all of the MJ-School classes are run as a workshop so be prepared to engage and interact with professors and students in every lesson. As the MJ-School is amongst the top 5 in the USA all of the other students are very passionate about the industry and their learning as they worked incredibly hard to be there. Being immersed in such a driven and forward-thinking environment certainly made me value my time there even more. Finally, I have never been so dedicated at attending classes … mandatory attendance will do that to you (if you missed more than 2 classes you would lose between 2-5 marks for each class missed).

COMM113 Introduction to Public Speaking
You are required to write and present three persuasive speeches throughout the semester to your tute group. It was so interesting hearing the topics people chose and why they were significant to them. I was asked to present my speech on Gun Regulation in Australia vs United States to the entire cohort which as you can imagine (in a red state) sparked a bit of controversy.

MEJO180 Introduction to Photojournalism
The school lends you all of the equipment you need (which is great but also nerve-racking). I learnt some really cool techniques and the professors are all still working in the field so provide fantastic real-life examples. Do not be fooled by how much work this class can be though as the weekly tasks can be quite time-consuming (especially if you do not have constant access to a car).

MEJO340 Media Law
I only found out after census date just how notoriously difficult this course is. While the tests you do need to study harder for than any other, the content is fascinating and the professor used current examples like the Confederate statue debate and how the first amendment did or didn’t apply, to articulate points. If you ever plan on working in the USA as a journalist though this course is invaluable.

MEJO477 New Media Technologies in the Future of Advertising, PR and Marketing
This class looked at how we can utilise new technologies to be successful in the advertising, marketing and PR world today. The assessment was interesting and rewarding. Our final project required us to create the Ultimate UNC Bucket List and battle against the other class utilising the branding strategies we had explored and social media targeting techniques we had been taught.

If you want to see what UNC is really about … look no further. Here is a link to the video we produced as part of our final project that went viral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k07OhNSjTX4&t=8s.

Personal experience

I had walked into a movie set. What’s more, just like on Pitch Perfect, acapella is considered cool and the whole school turns out to watch a hauntingly beautiful sunset performance at Wilson Library during O-Week.

UNC is a fantastic place for exchange because the number of exchange students each semester is relatively small which means you get to know the other exchange students really well but you make a real effort to step outside your comfort zone and make incredible American friends. Southern hospitality is real and with an 80% North Carolina resident intake requirement, there is no shortage of people welcoming you into their homes and friendship groups. Often, you’d be invited to your friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s party because more the merrier!

It is a world unto itself. I got to live in a little liberal bubble in the south. People are politically aware, opinionated, determined, polite, energetic and kind-hearted beyond belief. Most of all, UNC lives and breathes school spirit – GO TAR HEELS!!

I LOVED getting to explore every crevasse of the East Coast I could. I spent Labour Day weekend at a friend’s lake house, road tripped to Asheville, flew to Chicago for Fall Break and got my beach fix when I visited Wilmington and Charleston. However, as the semester worn on, I opted for weekends on campus over weekends away as I was so infatuated with UNC and could not bring myself to leave it.

I cannot write this without talking about my (not so little) exchange family – the biggest bunch of amazing misfits I ever did meet! No matter how many assignments we had due or mid-sems we should have been studying for we found time for Foodie Fridays, trips to the Raleigh Beer Garden and walks through the UNC forest. It was great having a group of friends who loved exploring and meeting new people as much as I do (hence why the fam kept growing in number).

Whilst becoming friends with people from every corner of the globe was amazing, it did come with its challenges …. I never realised just how thick my own accent is and how often I say ‘keen’ and ‘arvo’! But I also used it as an opportunity to expand my own vocabulary (my knowledge of German swear words is now quite comprehensive).

There is more to the place than getting a degree. It’s the people by your side that turns simple moments at UNC into treasured memories. In every brick, in every bell toll, we all feel it. Chapel Hill now and forever will feel like home.

If I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. My semester at UNC is absolutely unforgettable. UNC really reignited my love for learning and passion for being involved with everything and introduced me to some of the most incredible human beings, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Accommodation

I lived on campus, which I would highly recommend. I was fortunate to be placed in North Campus in Kenan. It was from a fairy tale! The first time I stepped foot onto the UNC campus I was in LOVE! I stared up at my dorm – a three-story exposed brick building complete with a luscious green lawn for picnics and a beautiful front porch with rocking chairs. Also, it is across the road from the Arboretum which is a great place to escape to for some peace and quiet occasionally.

I preferenced an American roommate and so glad I did because it made the first week so much easier and more enjoyable. I had someone who could instantly tell me the inside goss, show me around campus, drove me to Target and showed me the ropes. Another great thing about having a roommate (I know it is quite a foreign concept for most Australians) is that it really encouraged me to get up out of bed each morning and participate in campus life (as I didn’t want to be seen as lazy)!

What I loved most about living on campus is that everything and everyone was on my front doorstep. I was a 10min walk to class, my friends lived 5min away and Franklin St was mere steps away (this was my saving grace as all the cafes, bars and convenience stores are on this street).

Advice for future students: I would highly recommend living on campus purely for convenience but also to get the ‘true college experience’. I did have a few friends who lived off campus who loved it. I will say you just need to get a bike and master the bus system.

Budget

Budget: Budget between $12,000 - $16,000. This will cover housing, meals, flights, dorm and uni necessities, healthcare, social and travel. If you plan to travel before and/or after semester you will need to budget towards the higher end for sure.

Accommodation: This is where a good chunk of your money will go!

Food: I did not get a meal plan which I found to be the best choice. I was still able to put money on my Onecard and swipe myself into the dining hall but it also gave me the freedom to try far more places on Franklin St, eat the food I wanted when I was craving it and live off 2min noodles when finances were getting low. In general, restaurant pricing is pretty comparable to Australia, however, you need to remember that tips and tax are not included in the listed price.

Transport: If you stay on campus (particularly if you live in north campus) you will walk everywhere! There is a free bus that circles around the uni. Pretty much everyone who lived on south campus or off campus bought a second-hand bike (my one “care package” was not very conventional but I grew to love it – my mum sent me a hot pink bike from Walmart – it was quite the ordeal trying to pick it up from the package centre and even harder putting it together). Otherwise, you may catch the occasional Uber to the other side of town (especially when it is cold) or to the airport (note: the bus to the airport is $3 and pretty reliable, just make sure you have the exact change).

Healthcare: UNC's healthcare provider did not accept the UQ travel insurance. Don’t buy the UNC healthcare plan. Look into ISO insurance, it is half the cost and it is approved by campus health

Professional development and employability

The whole experience (plus planning our little weekend trips away and the pre and post exchange travel) definitely required well refined organisational skills. Interacting with a whole new group of friends who all had different budgets and wanted to visit different destinations meant I really learnt the importance and value of compromise. It has also equipped me with the ability to engage with new people, work well in a group environment and work through language barriers.

Employers are inclined to recognise that those who have gone on exchange are able to cope with change, can be thrown into new environments with a diverse range of people and thrive and are typically very driven and resilient individuals.

Having properly lived abroad (not just travelled) I now know that if I am offered the opportunity to partake in a secondment in a different state or country I will not only be able to do it but will thrive and make the most of my time away.

Highlight

Choosing ‘the highlight’ of my experience is simply impossible. Every day I woke up with a grin on my face because I couldn’t wait to see what adventure I would find myself in that day. However, I can narrow it down to five unforgettable moments:

  1. Halloween on Franklin St.
  2. Road trip to Asheville.
  3. The NC State Fair – true American culture and hours of fun.
  4. Standing in the risers at a basketball game.
  5. Riding in the back of a pick-up truck on my last night in Chapel Hill – the streets were silent, the air was crisp and I had my partners in crime by my side.

Top tips

Just do it! Make it happen! Give up that second coffee you buy each day and save. I started uni full of questions, open to all opportunities and unsure about where I wanted to end up. However, I was certain about one thing, that I wanted to go on exchange. Life did get in the way at times and I kept putting off going for different reasons but FINALLY, in my last semester (I had saved up all my electives), I made it happen! I stopped fearing the things I would miss back home and applied. A little secret …. Nothing changes that much while you’re away!

So apart from making it happen and not being scared about what you may be missing back home, my one other bit of advice is that unless there is no other time for you to go abroad try not to go in your very last semester, simply because you will not be eligible to receive OS funding.

Also…. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. It does take a couple of months to hop off of the exchange rollercoaster. Talk to your friends from exchange when you get back home, share with them your comparatively mundane day-to-day life as they undoubtedly feel the same sense of longing to be back as you do. You will wallow together a bit about how much you miss Chapel Hill and each other but then you’ll laugh until you cry as you recall some of the eventful nights out or midnight adventures you had trying to find snacks so you could pull an all-nighter in the library. Then you’ll chat about the next few days and weeks and with each chat you slowly realise that life does move on but you’ll always be able to share those ordinary and extraordinary moments with your wonderful new friends.

Other miscellaneous advice:

  • If you are a coffee addict like me invest in a Nespresso pod machine off Amazon as soon as you arrive, it will arrive within the week and you end up saving money plus the coffee is better than any on campus.
  • Put the time into really researching the subjects you want to take, research the professors, look into the type of assessment and take courses you are passionate about (even if they seem harder at the outset).
  • Really make an effort to step out of your comfort zone and be friends with some Americans/ North Carolinians - interacting with peers outside of class time and joining sporting teams and organisations is how you can truly immerse yourself in American college culture and live the true Tar Heel dream!

I’m a Tar Hell born, I’m a Tar Hell bred and when I die I’m a Tar Hell dead!

Eliza_UNC