Keya - Boston College

Bachelor of Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I’m a film and television major, with minors in writing and philosophy, and I also have a strong background in theatre production. American colleges have an incredible array of course options on very specific topics, so I took advantage of that and chose classes that weren't offered at UQ.
There’s a major emphasis on attendance and participation in classes at BC. Lectures aren’t recorded, and they don’t always post things online, so it’s so important to go to class and keep track of any handouts they give.
The class size is also totally dependent on the courses you take, as I had a class that had 100 students, and another that had 6. I actually really liked the smaller class sizes, and formed really good relationships with both my classmates and professors – many of whom I’m still in touch with.
Professors are also really supportive, and are always more than happy to chat about class, as well as just checking in to see how you’re doing. Assignments were often weighted less (5-20% each), and although that meant I almost always had two or three things due every week, they weren’t overly difficult and I was able to stay on top of everything.

Personal experience

I made some incredible friends, both American and international, and had amazing opportunities both through my courses and outside them that lead to experiences that I’m going to remember for many years to come. It was also really interesting experiencing the 2016 US election from such a politically involved city like Boston.

Accommodation

Boston College doesn’t guarantee on-campus accommodation for exchange students, so although I applied, I ended up having to live off campus – which was the case for most exchange students. I lived in an apartment that was right on the train line, and a 15min bus ride from campus (BC has a free shuttle bus!). However, I actually really enjoyed living off campus. Although I missed out on being right in the heart of the college, having a meal plan, and perhaps missed out on some aspects of the ‘American college experience’, I appreciated the flexibility and quiet of living off campus, especially on game days, when the campus was flooded with people arriving to watch the college football team. If possible, start looking into accommodation as soon as you can, as places are snatched up pretty quickly – Boston is very much a college town. That being said, it wasn’t uncommon for exchange students to confirm their accommodation a week or two after they had arrived in Boston.

Costs

Living costs in Boston are pretty high, although the US is cheaper than Australia overall, especially in terms of food, travel, and general shopping. I spent about $7900 AUD for accommodation, and about $13 000 AUD total. I didn’t do any major travelling after my semester ended, so I’d recommend budgeting more if you intend to do that.

Professional Development

Being surrounded by other exchange students gives you such an interesting insight into other cultures. Living alone in a different country also really improved my confidence, and encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and take advantage of all opportunities I could.

Highlight

I have a strong interest and background in theatre production, especially stage management, so my highlight was definitely getting the opportunity to go to New York and meet the stage manager for Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and then getting to see the show from the stage manager’s desk. This was an opportunity that I was offered only through one of the courses I took at BC, and was something I’d never even considered as an experience I’d have the opportunity to have. Boston college professors are so supportive of their students, and try to give them as many opportunities as possible – if you take advantage of them, you’ll end up having incredible experiences.

Getting to see falling snow for the first time was also pretty incredible.

Top tips

Get involved as much as you can in clubs and events. There are so many unusual ones on offer at BC, alongside typical sports, activist, cultural, or language clubs - everything from a geology club to a baking club. There was even a Monty Python club. The closest friends I made while on exchange, and some of my most treasured experiences, came from the activities I did outside of my academics.

If you have the opportunity to go for the whole year, do it. About halfway through my exchange I regretted only applying for a semester, even though I had been very sure of my decision before I left. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, and it’s so much easier to cut your exchange short than it is to extend it.

If you’re choosing between semesters to go, I absolutely recommend the fall semester (UQ’s second semester). Fall in New England is gorgeous, and the weather is beautiful. It starts to get fairly cold around November and December, often dropping below freezing, and you’re likely to get a day or two of snow, but you avoid the blizzards and intense cold during January and February. 

Explore! Boston is a beautiful and amazing city; it’s got a rich history in the Revolutionary War, and many different neighbourhoods – each with their own character and places to visit. Also, explore outside of Boston – American states are so close together that it makes travelling so easy. You can take day trips out to places like Salem and Cape Cod, or weekend trips to New York or Washington DC, which are only a few hours away via bus or train.