My name is Kate and I went on university exchange to Pitzer College, located in Claremont, California. I can say with confidence that it was the best experience of my life and I strongly encourage more Adelaide University students to step outside themselves and apply. There are, of course, some things I wish I’d known before I’d gone.
The workload is heavy; it takes up the most of your time and you shouldn’t go with the mindset that exchange is a holiday because it isn’t. Pitzer is a private college with just over a thousand students. It runs small, interactive classes and students need to be prepared and participate in discussions. Prepare to be called on in class by name–or nickname, which happened to some of my friends–because in a college this small your professor knows all their students. What I struggled with for the first month or so was the difference in writing essays, especially the length. Be ready to write A LOT–American colleges expect anywhere from five to twelve page essays. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but don’t let it scare you away. You get used to it and it improves your essay writing skills. Personally, due to these differences, I would recommend going for a year exchange and that way you have more time to adjust to their academic standards.
Though my friends and I had a lot of work, we found plenty of time to go on road trips on the weekends and this is the best way to see your host country. The more people you take, the cheaper it is and we often went on road trips with seven people. During my time at Pitzer, I was able to travel all over California and even to Las Vegas. My advice is to meet and make friends with as many people as possible. Bond with your roommate and their friends and know ALL of the other exchange students. They’re in the same boat as you and are good to talk to if you are having home sickness or culture shock troubles. You probably won’t miss home much, or at all–I didn’t, because you are having an amazing adventure.
Exchange is most likely going to be the most transformative experience of your life. I can personally say that it was for me. The best way to have a great exchange is to say YES to everything. Take everything as it comes and attempt to make the most out of not-so-good situations. When my friends and I were swamped with work, we thanked our lucky stars that at least we were all studying together because that made it easier.
On my exchange I met the most amazing people in the world and I was exposed to so many cultures, which was extremely rewarding. Ask your exchange friends to teach you their languages and expand your general knowledge. You will be a better person for it.
Don’t hesitate, just apply and get ready for the best experience of your life!