Kara - SUNY Stony Brook

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

At Stony Brook I studied 4 different history courses at various levels to fill my requirements for a history major and electives. I enjoyed bring able to study different topics than those offered at UQ (especially courses in American history) and experience a different approach to studying history. The smaller class sizes and engaging professors made my academic experience very enjoyable. I also wished to continue studying my Spanish major while at Stony Brook but due to registration complications this wasn't possible.

Personal experience

Going on exchange was one of the best decisions I have made and the knowledge and experience you gain from it is invaluable. I made many friends, both with other exchange students and American students while I was at Stony Brook. New York City is only a train ride away from Stony Brook so from week one I was exploring New York and all it has to offer with the other students. By the end of semester I knew New York better than I know Brisbane. For me, this was the first time living away from home for an extended period and I learnt how to be independent and manage domestic chores, study and fun effectively.

Accommodation

I lived on campus in the West Apartments which have shared kitchen/living spaces as well as individual dorm rooms and shared bathrooms for each apartment. This housing was much more comfortable than regular college dorms and allowed you to cook your own meals and have more space to relax or study. Being able to cook your own meals was a necessity for me as there wasn't a huge variety of food available on campus. Living on campus is the best option for studying at Stony Brook as there are very few options off campus and living on campus is an experience in itself. My advice for future students who go into this housing arrangement is that you know the basics of cooking - so you don't set off the fire alarms or have to survive on pizza and takeaway for the semester.

Costs

I would recommend budgeting at minimum $12 000 for Stony Brook but this ultimately depends on how much travel you wish to do. On campus housing cost between US$3 000 and 4 000 (approximately) for the semester depending on whether you selected a single or double room. I was spending approximately US$50-US$60 a week on grocery shopping and food although this often changed due to events and travel. For me the biggest expense was travelling to and from New York City. The most convenient way was by train from the train station on campus as it is very reliable and easy to use but there were other options such as the 7 bus. Round trip tickets to Penn Station cost US$26 but the best value was to buy 10 trip tickets. There are lots of events on campus (often free) you can attend and even events where you had to purchase tickets were inexpensive.

Professional Development

Going on exchange gives you great experience in dealing with the unknown and learning things on the go. Arriving in a different country and not having any familiar faces around throws you into the deep end and challenges you. Working and travelling with people from different places all over the world takes you out of your comfort zone and teaches you to adapt and embrace new experiences. Navigating huge cities like New York City provides you with countless experiences and exposes you to many different cultures.

Highlight

There were many highlights to my exchange but one that stands out is my first trip to New York City. That week there had been a large snowstorm in north-eastern American and there was significant snowfall. Therefore, the first time I went to Central Park, it was covered in snow and many of the lakes were frozen over. The experience of seeing snow was also a highlight. Although, each time I visited New York was a highlight, seeing all of the iconic and historic places in person.

Top tips

First of all I would advise that you save as must money as you can before you leave and access any OS helps loans and travel grants you can because I came across other exchange students at Stony Brook who had run out of money and couldn't do all that they wanted to do. I would also suggest that you have very flexible subjects and are prepared to change these subjects if necessary or do thorough research to ensure you can study what you need to. Thirdly, you need to be open-minded and willing to give anything a go or otherwise you may miss out on great opportunities. I also recommend doing your reseach on where you are going before you get there - find out all you can about the university or city you are going to so you can make the most out of your exchange.