Ben - University of Connecticut

B Civil Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

At UConn I took 3 engineering courses and 1 business course. I took ECON1020, CE3220, CE3510 and CE4710. It was difficult to find courses to select as certain courses are only offered in certain semesters and being a dual degree limits my electives. Additionally it was hard to pick courses which I had done all the prerequisites for. Eventually I got an exception to take the business course because additionally the BEL faculty didn't want me taking a first year course. 

The overall academic experience is very different to UQ. A lot smaller classes with a lot less technology. No recorded lectures and no microphones to hear the lecturer. A lot more like high school style learning in a class room. This wasn't too bad as you got to engage more and meet people around you.

Personal experience

While at UConn I had many great experiences. I managed to travel all around to places like New York, Boston, New Jersey, Florida and even a road trip all through Canada in thanksgiving break. UConn is located in an excellent locations and you can easily do weekend trips to many different locations around Connecticut. I recommend finding a friend with a car or getting someone to sign up for zipcar which allows you to rent a car under 25. 

If you don't want to travel much there is plenty to do on campus such as sporting games like football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, ice hockey, field hockey etc. Most of these are really cheap if not free. The Recreation Center at UConn has lots of different activities it offers as well such as day trips/hikes, white water rafting trips, rockclimbing and even a big Grand Canyon hike in thanksgiving. I recommend creating or joining an intramural sport team in the semester which is free. It is like social sport that runs a couple nights a week and is great to get social and keep fit.

Accommodation

I lived on campus in Northwest Residence Hall. Northwest is one of the best places on campus and is right next to Northwest Dining Hall which is also one of the best. Most exchange students stay in North or McMahon, however if possible I recommend staying in Northwest. Housing selection is similar to class sign on at UQ. There is an allocated selection time which gives preference to seniors and older students. Due to this, exchange students generally don't have much options. I recommend applying for a room change request a couple weeks later and more spots will be open around campus. If possible avoid North, most exchange students stay there but it is the worst on campus.

Costs

The main thing to consider is the exchange rate. This heavily impacted the cost of my trip. I spent easily $10k just on accommodation, UConn Health insurance and a meal plan. After that you still need flights, $500+ on VISA fees and any other traveling money you need. The bare minimum I recommend to budget is $8-$10k of your own money PLUS UQ Scholarship (automatically receive if grades good enough) PLUS OS-HELP loan (up to $6k).

Challenge

The biggest challenge was balancing work/sleep/social life. It is very easy to get distracted when everyone lives on campus and there is so much going on around you. It is even hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle and find time to go to the gym. A lot of nights I didn't get home until quite late because at night you can always go to the gym and play soccer/basketball or the dining halls are open until 10pm and you can sit and chat with friends. It is a challenge managing this but that is also part of the fun.

Professional Development

Going on exchange is always a good way to improve professional skills. By doing so you are demonstrating you can deal with foreign situations and learn very quickly. Being an engineering student, I had to adjust to a whole new set of units like converting from kg to lb or meters to feet. This definitely expanded my knowledge and skill set for the professional world.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was seeing everything that you do in movies. Any American college stereotype you can think of probably exists and seeing this is truly amazing.

Top tips

1.) Don't worry too much about the work load, it is very manageable and you could probably walk into most exams without studying and still pass.
2.) Try and schedule classes to get a long weekend so you can travel around.
3.) Don't worry if you are under 21, there are ways around this.
4.) Don't say no to any opportunities
5.) Join a club or sports team (many things to keep you occupied)
6.) Enjoy it while it lasts because it goes quick!