Josephine - Arizona State University

Bachelor of Science/Journalism
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I took four courses that contributed to my Bachelor of Science. I did a first year course in astronomy, a second year course in nutrition and a third and fourth year course in social psychology. I found ASU's classes astoundingly easy - study time for my fourth year psychology course was about 20% of the time I would have required for the same course at home. The only challenge was that teachers at ASU expect you to be a lot more involved in class participation and attendance was often compulsory, and this could make up up to 30% of your grade.

Personal experience

The exchange gave me an incredible opportunity to develop an understanding of how the U.S. came to be the way it is. Being in The States over the course of the final months of the Clinton-Trump presidential election was a really intense experience, and I was even able to attend a Trump rally (in a red state) which was a crazy experience to say the least. My time at ASU allowed me to gain lifelong friends, and I opened myself up to an entirely different way of approaching life which I never even realised I was missing out on back in Brisbane.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus at a student accommodation apartment building called District on Apache. I would highly recommend living here to any prospective ASU students. Throughout the semester, exchange students in all accommodations unanimously agreed that District was by far the best place to live. District is so close to campus that it may as well be considered on-campus as it would only take me 5 minutes to walk to Vista del Sol, the main on-campus accommodation. The benefits of living off campus were that you have much more autonomy - you have all the freedom of living in your own apartment with other students without having RAs and ASU staff impeding on your life. The on-campus students often complained that RAs were invasive and bossy and students weren't allowed certain freedoms. District also has resort-like facilities and heaps of social life. It's expensive to live there, but the extra money you pay is worth it. Other similarly priced accommodations like University House were not as outstanding as District. Students complained that the facilities were often out of order, the staff were difficult and maintenance was slack, as well as experiencing a lot of difficulties with changing the lease for a new tenant when moving out at the end of semester (most accommodations only offer 12 month leases which is a pain for 1 semester exchange students). While District also only offers 12 month leases, I found the changeover process quite easy to arrange when I found a new tenant to take over from me.

Costs

Exchange was a lot more expensive than I expected it to be. Rent was $800 USD/month, utilities approximately $40/month and living expenses weren't too cheap either. I bought all my groceries and cooked my food and I would spend around $40 USD/week. I didn't need much transport as I lived so close to campus but I would need to take Ubers and Lyfts to the grocery store or if I was planning on going out. These would add up to about $20/week. Other entertainment costs like eating and drinking out would add up to at least another $30/week. I spent a LOT of money on travel as I was visiting another state almost every weekend. We would either fly or rent a car and drive. We did a road trip to Vegas where our car rental only cost $30 each and accommodation was $80 each for the weekend which was a really cheap trip, but we also did a trip to Florida one weekend where our return flights alone cost over $300 - it all depends on how much you want to see. I would recommend a minimum of $15k AUD if you intend to travel a lot or maybe around $12k if you are happy to stay in Arizona most of the semester.

Professional Development

Being on exchange helped me to diversify my understanding of the world, and of my life here in Australia. I developed an understanding of how different the education systems in other countries can be and I was able to make a variety of contacts from all over the world through meeting Americans and other exchange students.

Highlight

The highlights were all during my travels. There's nothing better than making incredible friends and then getting to travel with them every weekend. Watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon with my closest friends, flying to Orlando to go to a huge music festival and arriving in Colorado on the day of the first snow were some of my favourite moments.

Top tips

Don't panic if it's not amazing straight away. My whole first month I felt a bit lost and confused, and I kept wondering why I hadn't had any of these 'incredible experiences' everyone always talks about or made any really close friends. It takes time to get to know people and adjust, and the halfway mark was when everything started to get really good. The last two months were absolutely insane and that's when all the best memories happened. I also recommend that you budget enough to travel as much as you possibly can. Tempe is a pretty small town and as much as I grew to love it, it would be such a waste to stay there for the entire exchange. I think it's also pertinent to know when choosing your university that ASU no longer has much in the way of Greek life. I was really excited to get into the Greek life as that is such a famous part of American college culture, but ASU has actually bulldozed it's entire Greek row and they no longer have fraternity or sorority houses - all the frats and sororities live in apartments/student accommodation with everyone else. I was able to visit a few Greek rows while visiting friends at other universities in Texas and Los Angeles and I think it's a pretty cool thing to be a part of while in the U.S.