Mikayla – Semester Exchange to Catholic University of America, USA
Semester 1, 2017
Hey! My name is Mikayla, I’m a Brisbane ACU student and I’m currently studying nursing at the Catholic University of America! If you are reading this you are probably anticipating your trip to America for the same program, right? Well get keen because it will be the most amazing experience of your life, trust me!
It is Day 21 of my trip and I am well and truly settled into college life. I’ve made some incredible friends already, saw snow for the first time and have eaten a lifetimes worth of greasy cafeteria food. With 105 Days to go of this amazing trip I am more than on top of the world with every experience I have done so far and am yet to do in the future.
For my first blog post I have decided to talk about my initial thoughts and feelings while it is all still fresh in my mind. I will talk about flights, home-sickness, housing and a few other tips that I would have found helpful to know before my trip!
SO! Australia is a great place to live (trust me after 3 weeks in the US this will be a reoccurring thought), however travelling anywhere internationally from Australia is more than annoying. I chose to fly with QANTAS by going Brisbane to Syndey, Sydney to Dallas, Texas and Dallas, Texas to Dulles International, Washington DC.
Let me just put your arrival into perspective: you’ve just left your friends/family/partners at home, you arrive in a foreign country, you catch an uber/shuttle/taxi to CUA at 12am, you arrive and have no idea where the buildings are, it’s damn freezing and you’re tired from an almost 24 hour flight from Australia- if you’re anything like me you’re bound to break into tears!
Fortunately this can be resolved a few ways.
- Firstly, one of the biggest tips I have for those who are participating in this trip is to plan your flight so that it arrives during the day between 7am-7pm. This makes it much, much easier for arrival. This way you arrive during daylight hours, the office is open so you can get your key for your room and you ID card to get into your building. You have time to set up your room, find somewhere to get food (&pizza, Potbellys, Busboys and poets & Chipotle across the road on Monroe st) and finally, go to sleep at a reasonable hour to start getting used to the time difference.
- If you would like to arrive out of these hours, you could of course stay in a hotel for a night just to have a warm bed to stay in. Additionally, you could stay a night in a hotel from where your connecting flight is (LAX, JFK etc) then plan your flight to DC for the next day.
- This last option is for those hard nuts that can tolerate below zero temperatures and high stress environments (not me). If you do decide to arrive out of office hours, here are a few of the best tips I have. First of all, before you leave Australia download the app Maps.me, this will be your best friend before you get an international sim-card (more on this later, stay tuned), this app allows you to download a whole map of Washington DC, to access offline (including the CUA campus). The building you will be looking for is Leahy hall and it is on Harewood Rd, NE (write this down) it is open 24 hours and this is where you will be collected from. I would suggest catching an uber at this time of night, they’re cheap and they will most likely help you with your 43kg worth of luggage. Lastly, I would suggest having a decent amount of time between your connecting flights, mainly because you will want to have layers in your carry on to put on underneath your clothes to prepare yourself for artic conditions in the middle of the night. Trust me, nothing will prepare you for the temperature drop of coming from the middle of a summer scorcher to the icy winds of DC.
- Okay next topic: HOMESICKNESS
I hope you’re still reading because this one is important.
So homesickness for me was something that I was a stranger to. To begin with, I had never been on an international flight by myself, I had never been away from my mum for more than 4 weeks and honestly had never been so independent in my life. This was all just daunting thoughts for me before I left as I struggled to believe that I was embarking on this adventure (all solo), I was actually leaving my home country for 4 months by myself to study Nursing (pretty bad-ass if you ask me). As a newly 19-year-old girl I was pretty terrified of this reality, which first hit me whilst waiting for my shuttle in the DC airport. I was exhausted, I was sore from sitting for hours on end and I was missing my mother’s help more than anything. This was my first glimpse at what homesickness felt like. Fast forward 2 days and this glimpse turned into a face-to-face battle with homesickness. The night before, I had dropped my phone- causing it to crack, I broke my new sim-card and skyped my mum who broke into tears as soon as she heard my voice. From that point onwards I did not stop crying for a solid 24 hours. Not to say that your experience will be the same as mine (or unlucky as mine). I just wanted to point out how completely normal it is to begin your adventure with a big, sobbing mess of a sook. It wasn’t until I was going to sleep the next day that I said to myself ‘Mikayla, stop feeling sorry for yourself, you are experiencing the trip of a lifetime and you’re doing it all by yourself! You’re a damn legend’ since then I haven’t had another cry! If by any chance you are feeling homesick, please do not hesitate to message me on facebook (add me now: Mikayla Camilleri). I will make sure to make myself available during all hours on the arrival days of the ACU students to CUA. I know how hard this was to experience and although not everyone experienced the same sort of feelings; I definitely wasn’t the only one. I would also like to add that if you can’t stop thinking that you can’t wait to go home, this is completely normal! Do not feel guilty or like you don’t appreciate the opportunity because it is not like that at all! Most of my Aussie friends feel exactly the same and its just part of the experience!
So this one will be fairly quick, if you are struggling to decide which housing to pick, I highly suggest Gibbons Hall. It is the cheapest, the most fun and super American-College like. You do have to share the bathroom with like 10 other girls, but you will get used to it. Also, having a double or triple is a very cool way to make friends with American students! They’re all incredibly nice and you might get lucky and get a triple room all to yourself where you can host sleepovers with your Aussie friend that chose a dorm in Centennial Village (paying $1000USD more) thinking that Gibbons was an all male dorm (I’m the Aussie friend).
This one is also fairly quick, I think I was the fastest to get over jetlag and I believe this is because of a few things:
- Sleep on the plane! (To begin with I gotta give kudos to my mum for this one! Remember kids Mum knows best!!)Even when you can’t sleep don’t watch TV just close your eyes and try! This will help a lot while you wait for your connecting flight as well
- Take Vitamins. The two vitamins I am currently taking are a general Women’s Vitamin and an over the counter vitamin called ‘KI’ it contains a variety of ingredients that helps assists digestion, increase immunity and helps fight fatigue. I suggest starting these about a week before you leave so you don’t get sick in the first week in DC (Also one of the only students who haven’t got a cold, (touch wood!!) Trust me these vitamins are life changing)
- DO NOT TAKE NAPS! I repeat DO NOT TAKE NAPS!! This is sooooo important. The best way to overcome jetlag is to stay awake from 8am to 10pm for the first few days, I know that you will be homesick and you want to sleep away the exhaustion of long haul flights but it is 110% not worth it. Please don’t take naps, the first week is vital to making new American friends and if you miss this opportunity because you slept through lunch and dinner or a class its just not worth it for the rest of the trip.
This section will just cover a few of the basic necessities that will help you a lot for the first couple of weeks:
- Get a SmarTrip card, you can get them at the metro station just outside campus! Don’t be afraid to ask the officers for help, that’s there job and if you start with G’day they’ll just about do anything for you
- Wear waterproof everything! Try get a jacket like the one I am wearing in the photo, the snow literally just slides off it and it has wool inside to keep me warm! For shoes I have found that Timberlands are the best for waterproof shoes, if not regular snow boots (again like the ones in the photo are fine).
- Assuming that you will be doing clinical as well during your stay, I highly suggest ordering your scrubs online before your departure from the CUA Barnes and Noble so that they’re ready for pickup when you get there (website below). They’re a massive make and because we weren’t aware of the need for buying scrubs once we got there, my friend and I had to get a size Large because there were no mediums in stock. On the subject of uniforms, you will need to wear white sneakers to the clinicals here. (http://cua.bncollege.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/BNCBHomePage?storeId=65229&catalogId=10001&langId=-1)
- For sim-cards, take an uber to the Walmart Supercentre on Georgia Ave, this one has the best variety of sim cards, I got the T-Mobile sim-card for $30 it came with Unlimited data with 5gb high speed 4g, unlimited texts domestic and international and 100mins of calls. While you’re there get snacks, clothes hangers, ziplock bags, a Tupperware type container for lunches on clinical days, washing detergent/wash basket/bag and bed linen if you didn’t bring it from home.
- Bring copies of all your health forms that you needed for placement back home. Also, organize getting your American flu shot as soon as possible when you arrive to avoid them running out of stock. There is a CVS Pharmacy that is a 5-minute walk from campus that is easily found by your Maps.me app!
Okay potential CUA students! I think I have covered all the initial stressors that myself and the rest of the Aussies overcame during our first week. Like I said, don’t hesitate to add me on facebook, you can have a quick stalk and find my photos from my adventure and you can ask me any questions you like about the trip! I am more than happy to help in anyway! Stay tuned for my future blog posts throughout my experience, good luck with everything and I hope you get accepted!
Love Mika xo