The main reason I chose to go on an exchange was to experience life outside of Australia, as well as putting myself out of my comfort zone, and away from my support system of family and friends. I’ve always been slightly fascinated by the American college system, as it’s often portrayed in movies and TV shows. The reality is more similar to the portrayed one than I would have believed prior. There are fraternities and sororities just off campus, there are classes such as ‘Harry Potter theory’, and everyone is generally really social and happy to get to know you (the Australian accent definitely helps you along there). I’ve always felt that somewhere like Europe I just want to travel around, but I wanted to see what it was like to live out of Australia.
Living in a dormitory has many advantages. I’ve managed to get to know more people here than I did in my first semester at ACU, simply because I am living here with other people of my age. In getting to know, and becoming friends with, a lot of the Americans that live here I’ve been able to get a lot of inside knowledge about places to visit in New York City, amongst other states, because they’ve had a lot more time to explore than I have! I’ve also been bale to go on weekend trips around campus, and see places that aren’t normally on the tourist route. That’s definitely one reason to go on a student exchange, it’s such a different to what those who just visit as tourists experience. You end up with stories and experiences that are completely different to what your friends from home have experienced. They’re stories that don’t sound similar to anyone else’s, because you’ve seen places that no one else from home has seen. Living away from home, though it makes me miss my mum’s cooking, has forced me to become independent, and has definitely given me a lot more confidence, particularly when it comes to navigating a foreign country by myself. There are so many activities on campus, and because you live only about 5-10 minutes away from any of their locations, you become more inclined to actually attend a lot of them, because there’s no travel time involved!
Going overseas gives you the opportunity to experience a culture in a way that you don’t when you’re just a tourist. Living in a college dormitory, and getting to know the people that live here allows you to directly compare everything. I knew that there were some things in America that were different than those in Australia, particularly when it comes to slang, but there were many more things that I may have never discovered had I just been a tourist. Almost every day either I’ve confused an American with something I’ve said (for example, asking where the ‘bin’ was or substituting the word ‘arvo’ for ‘afternoon’), or they’ve had to explain something to me. Several of the people on my floor have adopted the phrase ‘woop woop’ when talking about our location, as Oswego is fairly far away from anything. It’s definitely been interesting to discover just how different our two countries are, even though we speak the same language and partake in many of the same activities.