Mark - Purdue University

Bachelors/Master of Engineering
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

Unlike UQ, Purdue has a minimum of 15 credit hours and so I had to take more than the standard 4 subjects to meet the required workload. I studied 3 courses that were equivalent to UQ courses (MATE700 – MSE576, MECH4304 – MSE330, METR4201 – AAE364), and three elective courses (ME434- Gas Turbine Engineering, PES111 – Lifetime Fitness and PES115 – Bowling). As I undertook exchange in my fourth year, the subjects were very involved and often quite specialised. For example, MSE576 was a post-graduate course at Purdue but part of my standard degree at UQ. 
The American academic system has a stronger emphasis on consistent work throughout the semester. As a result, the final exams are usually only worth approximately 20-30% whilst the remainder of your grades comes from weekly homework, mid-semester exams and attendance. 

Whilst this may seem daunting, I found that the consistent homework meant that I didn’t really need to study for mid-semester exams and finals because I was constantly reinforcing existing content. I recommend carefully checking your UQ courses against courses at Purdue as I was required to do two post-graduate courses at Purdue to meet the UQ requirements (and these were very time consuming). However, the two post-graduate courses were the most enjoyable and I made several industry contacts through them. 

Personal experience

Moving overseas for 5 months and not knowing a single person was definitely a challenge. However, it was definitely the best decision I have made throughout university so far. Not only did I make countless friends (both Americans and international students) but I got to explore Chicago, walk through Times Square at 1am and ski the steepest slope in America as part of the Purdue University Ski and Snowboard Club (PUSSC) Spring Break trip. 
Sport at Purdue is amazing so definitely get involved in any way you can. I played intramural Ultimate Disc and Softball with friends from my dorm floor, and it’s an amazing opportunity to get immersed in the culture. 

Accommodation

I lived in Hillenbrand Hall, which is one of the dorms furthest from classes (takes 10 mins to walk to centre of campus). However, Hillenbrand has the benefit of being close to Earhart Dining Court and Harrison Grille (for late night snacks), it has the largest room size (with a bathroom shared between two rooms rather than a whole floor), and there is a bus stop right outside (to catch the Silver Loop bus which takes you right through campus). It is also close to the Co-Rec sport facility and the intra-mural sport fields. Staying in a shared dorm with a roommate was the best decision I made whilst on exchange. I got to meet lots of new people through him and ended up making friends with my entire dorm floor. I’d strongly recommend living at Hillenbrand, Earhart, Wiley or Owen, but avoid Cary and Meredith. Whilst accommodation seems like one of the hardest choices on exchange, you will have an amazing time regardless of where you stay. In terms of meal plans at Purdue, I’d recommend the 13-Meal Track as you will find that you often won’t eat breakfast or that an event will be offering free food and you don’t need to use a meal swipe.

Costs

Purdue wasn’t that expensive however the exchange rate when I went was quite unfavourable and that was the main issue. Whilst on campus, you won’t be spending much money as your food and accommodation are all accounted for. Dining courts are not open on a Sunday evening so budget 10-15US for a good meal. Snacks and food can be bought on campus from any of the markets or from Harrison Grille or Cary Knight Spot using credit (Dining Dollars) that comes with your meal plan. Buses around Purdue and greater Lafayette are all free for students. 

I travelled to NYC, Chicago, Wyoming (skiing) and then to Belgium for a month which contributed heavily to my costs. Overall I’d say my budget was approximately $14000 ($10000 excluding Belgium). 

Professional Development

Studying in a different country demonstrates independence, the ability to move to different parts of the world and makes you more culturally sensitive to local customs and behavioural expectations. I found this awareness is an excellent skill when in a professional setting. I made several important contacts at Purdue and learnt new methods for networking/interviewing. Whilst at Purdue I was given the opportunity to work on a USAF project and go to Belgium for an internship which has opened even more avenues and career options and improved my overall employability. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I hadn’t gone on exchange.

Highlight

Of all the amazing experiences, a particular highlight was going to Jackson Hole Ski Resort as part of the Purdue University Ski and Snowboard Club. Not only did I get to ski some of the best terrain in the world, but I got to make friends with past and present Purdue students in a wide range of faculties. A close second would be seeing ‘Wicked’ on Broadway.

Top tips

My top tips are:
1. Stay in a dorm and get to know people on your dorm floor (don’t just attend the international students events and make friends that way) 
2. Get to know your academic advisor because they can be really helpful in organising career opportunities 
3. Purdue’s campus is enormous so bring a good pair of walking/hiking shoes and a CAMERA!
4. Play intramural sports and get involved with local events (Purdue runs many free concerts like ‘Rock the Quad’ and has guest musical artists like Panic! At the Disco each semester)
5. Open a bank account whilst over there and get a phone plan (it’s so much easier than trying to organise an international plan in Australia). 
6. Prepare to BOILER UP!