Eliza - University of South Carolina

B. Engineering (Honours)/Commerce
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

While at USC I studied five commerce courses. Three of these courses went towards my finance major, one course went towards my core subjects and then the last course was a commerce related filler course. You have to complete 5 subjects to get credit for 4 UQ subjects.

The academic system was quite different to what I was used to at UQ. All classes were similar to a lecture but with more examples and class input. The majority of classes were also the size of tutorials. I enjoyed the smaller classes as it meant that I got to know my lecturer and also was able to meet other classmates more easily. The main challenge I faced though was at the start when signing onto classes. I had to go into the business school office and get them to manually sign me up to classes. I also had trouble knowing what I was allowed to enrol in for my 5th subject. This resulted in me having to change courses twice.

The assessment was also a lot more regular, with some classes having small assessment due weekly. There was pros and cons to this though. The pros were that the assessment pieces were smaller and easier as they were so frequent and final exams were weighted a lot less. You did have to be very careful to not miss any assessment though with so much constantly being due.

Personal experience

Exchange was a very positive experience for me. I learnt a lot about myself and became a lot more self sufficient. I made many great friends, both American and Australian, over the course of the semester. It was a great experience getting fully immersed in American culture and getting taught first hand from Americans about their food, society and way of life. This is not something that you often get when you are just holidaying around a country as your main interaction is with other travellers.

I travelled fairly extensively around both the US and Canada. I travelled for 6 weeks before the semester started in July and August. I visited Canada, New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC in this time. I then travelled for 2.5 weeks on the west coast of the US at the end of my exchange. During the semester I tried to travel as much as possible. I joined a mountaineering and whitewater club and went on two weekend hikes with them. I also went to one of my American friend's house in Virginia for Thanksgiving. This was a pretty special experience getting to see first-hand how American's celebrate this holiday.

The football (Gridiron) culture was also a massive way of life in South Carolina. Home games were an all day affair. The day started off with tailgates in the parking lots outside the football stadium. The tailgates varied from family tailgates with lots of good barbecue food to the fraternity and society tailgates which were more drinking focused. Everyone then piled into the stadium to watch the 3-4 hour football game. Luckily there was plenty of entertainment provided by the cheerleaders and college band along with countless chants from the crowd to pass the time a bit more quickly.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus in an apartment building. This was perfect as it was right in the middle of campus so getting to class and the gym was fairly close. It was also nice living in an apartment style building as it gave you a bit more privacy compared to living in dorm style accomodation and having to share a room. I shared the apartment with three other Australian girls. We all got along really well and had a great semester together. I would definitely recommend applying for apartment style accommodation.

Budget

Exchange group.

Exchange is quite expensive. The on-campus living was just over $5000 for the semester. I think I spent about $80-$100 on food each week. The food was similar to Australian prices. You could choose to have a meal plan if you wanted which was more expensive but I opted to cook for myself. There was also no public transport around so I had to rely on walking, Uber or getting lifts from American friends. I would definitely recommend trying to save as much as possible for travel as your money disappears quite quickly. It is all worth it for the experience though!

Professional development

I grew in my self-confidence after completing exchange as I travelled alone and also organised the whole exchange experience by myself. I also learnt to go out by myself and make new friends meaning that I can do the same in future workplaces or other settings. I also learnt a lot more about American culture which will help if I ever have future dealings with the US as a representative of my future workplace.

Highlight

The main highlight was making American friends which enabled me to get fully immersed in the culture. They are friendships I will cherish forever. Exchange also taught me to make the most of every opportunity and to go on more adventures. It was incredible seeing so many magnificent sites that the US had to offer.

Top tips

  • Save, save, save, save, save! You will be surprised how quickly your money goes.
  • Try and do something fun every weekend that you are on exchange because time flies by!
  • Join a club so that you get to make friends with local people.
  • Try and travel as much as possible especially before and after the semester but don't lock in too many plans for the end as you might find other people to travel with who are also doing exchange!
  • Attend the UQ Meet and Greet sessions before you go so you hopefully get to meet at least one other student going to the same host university.
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