Kai - Arizona State University

B Regional & Town Planning
Semester 2, 2018
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Academic experience

At Arizona State University I studied Geography of USA and Canada, Public Participation in Planning, Sustainable Cities, Law in Planning and Woodwork. So essentially, I studied two core subjects and three electives. I would recommend saving up electives for while you’re over there as there is so many interesting subjects to choose from. Woodwork was definitely something I never thought I would end up studying in university but in saying that was actually very enjoyable. From what I found most courses at ASU a pass is 70% instead of the normal 50%. However, don’t be worried as the course load and assessment is to put it in the easiest of words, very simple. As long as you attend lectures as they aren’t recorded and are generally compulsory you should be alright. Most of my exams were multiple choice which definitely made everything a lot easier. While I say that everything was quite easy, it was also quite informative, and I did learn a bit. Due to the more laid-back academic experience, you were able to experience other things and able to travel and see the country more without any worries.

Personal experience

When looking back at my exchange the one thing that I believe I have gained from the exchange is friendship. I know everyone says it, but it is true that some of the people that you meet on exchange will become your mates for life, wherever they’re from. Visiting some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen like Glacier National Park in Montana or Crater Lake in Oregon are just breathtaking. In my belief, America is just something else, the landscapes you will encounter are like nothing you’ve ever seen and beat anything that I’ve seen before. Originally, I had chosen Arizona State to experience the stereotypical US college life, however, I got so much more and I’m so happy that I went on exchange there. The social life is like nothing else and there is always going to be something on. Going to US college football games was also quite the experience and definitely one you should not miss out on. The students are definitely heavily invested in the team and the school spirit is like nothing I’ve seen.

Accommodation

Originally, I had opted to live on-campus at one of the housing options called Sonora Centre, however, for a variety of reasons decided it was not for me at all so luckily one week was able to move off-campus. I lived off-campus at a brand-new student accommodation apartment building called Union Tempe. The building itself was actually closer to my classes than the on-campus hall was funnily enough and even better it was right off Mill Avenue (the main st of Tempe) which is the place to be after university hours. The facilities at Union included a pool with a couple of tv’s to watch sport come game day, bbqs and a nice area to eat, a spa and a few pool tables. Yes, the rent is dear, but all in all is around the same price as on-campus living and supersedes it in every way. In my opinion, Union Tempe is the best-off campus accommodation available, however, most of them differ so little. Other options include University House, District on Apache, 922 Place and Rise on Apache. The other benefit to Union was the 5-month lease rather than the 12 months at District or 922 which can become a hassle when trying to find someone to take over your lease. My only major piece of advice would be to live off campus as it trumps living on campus in every way.

Costs

Surprisingly, USA is not as cheap as you are led on to believe (probably because of exchange rate), yes, some things are ridiculously cheap but from my accounts there are a lot of things that are just the same price back home. Rent is going to cost you between $800-900usd a month, which is quite a hefty price, however, the places for that are quite nice. Eating out is relatively similar to Australia once you factor in tax and possibly tip, however, the supermarkets for some products are significantly cheaper. The cheapest supermarket is on Apache Ave and is called Food City. Entertainment is very cheap, with most bars offering happy hour deals and even free party buses to and from the entertainment district in Scottsdale which saves a bit of coin. Travelling around the country via air is definitely more expensive than Australia unless you score a ripper deal. Hiring a car through an app called Turo and road tripping is definitely your best bet due to cheap fuel prices. One sting to the budget was the mandatory health insurance which from memory was $1000usd, however, there is nothing to do about this, so you just have to move on. All in all, I would’ve brought over around $15,000aud and this did me comfortably including an extra month of travelling.

Challenge

I guess the greatest challenge is living in an area that is completely different to what you are used to. The only way to overcome it was just to give it time, eventually everything started to feel very normal. For some living away from home is a challenge in itself, however, I moved away from home for university so didn’t find it too bad. Adjusting to a few subtle differences in culture was also a bit of a shock, however, that being said was quite easy to overcome.

Professional Development

Exchange has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the world and experience a similar culture that in itself is completely different to ours. Mainly though I believe that my exchange allowed me to come out of my shell a bit more and help me gain a lot of confidence due to some of the unfamiliar territory that you will encounter, which is a great thing.

Highlight

Without a doubt the highlight for me on exchange has been the lifelong friends I have made from all over the world. The experiences that I have shared with people I didn’t even know six months ago have been unforgettable to say the least. Travelling around the country was definitely the major highlight. Seeing surreal places like Yellowstone, Zion National Park or Grand Canyon were just unbelievable. Being able to go to places like Sedona or Flagstaff for a weekend with a few mates and camp was definitely something that Ill miss. There’s nothing quite like camping and Arizona has plenty of places to see. Having four of my mates coming out from Australia and experiencing a bit of the college lifestyle would also have to go down as a great highlight, they’re still saying that it was the best trip of their life.

Top tips

If you are even thinking of doing exchange I would just say don’t hold back and just do it, because there is no doubt it will be the best time of your life. Arizona State is the perfect place to do it in too, with the lifestyle and the social environment something in itself. One piece of advice I’d give is that if you’re looking to join a fraternity, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s all it lives up to and cost around $800usd, which in my opinion is better spent travelling. Other than that, make heaps of mates, travel as much as possible and see the beautiful country and have a good time, don't take it for granted because it won't last forever.