3 months in!
So it’s been almost 3 months since I moved to Tucson, Arizona to study at the University of Arizona, and I can easily say it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. So far, my hopes and expectations have both been fulfilled and well exceeded! I’ll sum up my experiences into the below categories to help paint a picture of what life has been like on exchange, and give some helpful information. I’ll also add that I have loved my experiences so much here that I have decided to extend my time abroad to another semester. I’ve recently gotten a job on campus to help with this!
I live at the Cadence Student Apartment Complex off campus with two American girls [whom] I was selected to live with by the Cadence. I love the Cadence complex, the facilities are very modern, and it’s got some great social places and the location is very conveniently located right down town, and 1 mile from campus. Especially if you are 21 it is on the same strip as the bars, nightclubs and food places. However, before leaving Australia I did not realise how many off campus options there were, and so far in my experience from going to other ones my favourites are the Cadence, or the Retreat.
I have friends who I met here who did not organise their accommodation until they arrived in Tucson, and had no trouble with vacancies, so that is also an option if you’d like to hold off and see who you meet in International Orientation.
I’ve really enjoyed some of the teaching styles here, as well as the topic content. Attendance requirements are much higher in the United States than at Flinders, for example no lectures are recorded, and attendance is taken in most classes and you can be withdrawn from your classes by the professor for lack of attendance. As exchange students it is really important to ensure you don’t get dropped from any classes, as it could result in a violation of your visa. So expect much more contact hours!
I have found the layout of requirements for my topics to be quite different from Flinders, for example one of my classes’ assessments includes 3 midterms, a final and multiple tests throughout the semester and no assignments.
However, in saying that on exchange we are also on a pass or fail basis which means the grades while studying abroad cannot affect your GPA back at Flinders. This has made me feel as though I can enjoy my time more and not over stress, allowing more time to go away on the weekends with friends to site see.
The social life in America, as expected is huge! With UA having a very active Greek Life, there is always something going on, whether more academic based or party based. UA also offers so many different clubs you can join; I have joined the Surf Club, as well as the Ski and Snowboarding club, which have both allowed me to meet a lot of new, cool people. I went on a surf trip with the club over a month ago, which was very casually organised between the club where we car pooled and 24 of us went and camped on the beach in San Diego for Labor Day weekend. In January I will be going to the Ski clubs major annual trip, which next year will be held in Aspen, Colorado.
In the International Orientation is where I met a bunch of other Aussies which was the best thing to have made me feel at home very quickly. Our exchange group has gone away on numerous trips together, as well as our American friends coming with!
The sports here at UA are also huge! Football is currently in season, and we have the first Basketball games this week and Ice Hockey will also start soon!
The energy and atmosphere at the football games is massive, there is definitely a lot of UA and Wildcat spirit everywhere around Tucson. If you love sports, UA is the place to be.
I have been lucky enough to have become friends with a lot of like minded people who have had the same interests as me with where they have wanted to travel and site see. Tucson has so many great places to travel to which aren’t too far, below is a list of the places I have visited in the last 3 months.
• Venice Beach and Santa Monica
• San Diego on two occasions for surf trips
• Las Vegas for the Life is Beautiful Music festival, if music is your forte would strongly recommend!
• Camped in the woods just outside The Grand Canyon national park
• Horseshoe Bend
• Camped on the beach at Lake Powel, Utah
• Camped in Sedona, where we hiked and visited Slide Rock. One of my favourites!
• Hiked Mt Lemon in Tucson
I also have an upcoming canyoneering trip at a place called Salome Jug with UA’s Outdoor Adventure department. I’m really happy with the amount of weekend trips away I have been able to do, and all of these trips can be done at relatively low costs!
Outdoor Adventures is a place on campus at the recreation centre where you can hire equipment (what we have done for our camping trips), as well as get involved in any of their weekend trips away to travel, and explore.
Check out the link below to see what type of things are offered-
Big tip before you leave Australia, if you want to keep your options open for the unexpected based off my own, and my friends experiences I would highly recommend any one studying in the United States, Canada or Mexico to obtain their B1/B2 travel visa before leaving Australia.
These can be obtained in the same interview as your J1 student visa, and come in both a 1 year and 5 years form. I suggest this because it allows you to alter your travel plans as your J1 travel visa restricts you to only 30 days of travel before and after your semester starts and finishes.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea on what on exchange can be like, and what you could expect – especially if you come to UA!
To finish off, if you’re thinking about going on exchange but still unsure, just go for it! Work hard to get the grades, work an extra job if that’s what it takes to save the funds, and make it happen!
The people I have met along the way, have been from all walks of life, and have amazing stories and are such unique characters. I have learnt something from each of them and about their home cultures, and some I can honestly already say I’ll be friends with them for a very long time, and the memories made here will most definitely last a lifetime!
Emily Cocks, Bachelor of International Tourism student, Semester 2 2016 exchange at University of Arizona, the United States
- Read Emily’s pre-departure post here