Exchange to West Virginia University, USA
Semester 2, 2017
West Virginia University offers seemingly endless opportunities for travelling America, meeting friends. These include club sports, university societies, recreational centre activities, sporting events, bars, clubs and so much more. Because a clear majority of students live right by the university everyone is much more willing to join a group of some description. It also helps that the school has around 30 000 students all mostly living within a short distance of each other.
The first group I joined was the West Virginia University men’s rugby team. This team was made up a squad of around 30 guys training twice a week and then playing another university on the weekend, some away games were as far as 6-hours’ drive away but most were around 3-4. Season highlights included overnight stays in north Ohio and Philadelphia. The long drives were hardly strenuous as the socializing on the buses was of exceptional quality. For our 6-hour trip to Philadelphia we even brought a tv and Xbox onto our mini bus to further fuel the entertainment. Results were mixed but the social outings and parties were always of a high quality.
Another club I joined was the West Virginia University forest products society. This was a group of people who meet once a week in the school wood workshop and make a variety of items for themselves and the school for enjoyment and donation. This was another way to meet people and explore American working culture.
Nightlife in Morgantown during the academic is better than any place I’ve been to in Australia. On the high street of Morgantown where the university I located there are 8 notable hotspots for socializing on most nights and drinking if you’re 21 or older. Prices are incredibly cheap when compared to Sydney with some venues charging as little as 25cents for drinks on Thursday nights making for a cost effective good time. On weekends most students meet at grant street for numerous house parties where unfamiliar, unamerican accents draw positive attention and spark conversation.
West Virginia major Sporting events are without a doubt a highlight even if spectating sport isn’t normally for you. During the 3rd week of semester myself and 5 other friends from Australia and the UK hired a car and drive to Washington DC for the opening American football game of the season against rivals Virginia tech. During the journey we stayed at and Air BNB in a place called capital heights. We didn’t realise it when we booked but upon arrival we were informed not to leave our car parked on the street or it will be broken into and whilst in a local shop buying food a kind local man informed us that we were “in the ghetto” and “need to get out of here before we get mugged”. Fortunately, neither of these things happened and we forever laugh about the quality of our stay. Our room was a single room with 5 thin mattresses on the floor and we had to take it in turns to sleep on the hard, dirty floor. It sounds awful but the floor wasn’t much worse than the mattresses. We woke up after a good night in the nation’s capital and got to the tailgate party at FedEx field. We were made most welcome by our fellow West Virginia fanbase. The game resulted in a narrow lost to West Virginia that came down to a dropped ball on the last play. Despite the disappointment it was an unforgettable experience to see a college game with 80 000 other people.
When the fall semester football season is over basketball season starts and carries on through the spring. These games are good as they are mostly mid-week and help students get their minds off the stress college life may bring them. Pictured below is a photo of myself with the official mascot of the West Virginia Mountaineers. His name is Troy and he is awarded a full year scholarship for completing the role. The gun he carries is loaded with just powder and shot at the end of every half of every major sporting fixture. These include men’s and women’s soccer and basketball and American football games.
During the closing weeks of the semester the end was dawning. My social group made up of mostly other internationals and their room-mates made the most of our time left to say our goodbyes. I had my last exam on the 13th of December and stayed with a friend from the women’s rugby team on long island NY and flew to London for Christmas. This marked the end of my semester abroad and my university life. If I could do one thing differently I would have completed and exchange in my 2nd year of study so I could do another in my 4th.