Ever since I was a young kid, I wanted the opportunity to have the real ‘college experience,’ so going on an exchange to the USA was a no brainer for me. Little did I know just how enriching this experience would be; it was a lot more fulfilling than it is normally portrayed in the movies – attending frat parties and drinking from red cups.
After a long process of applying, saving, quitting my job, saving, going back to uni full time, saving and finally getting the visa approved, I was on my way to Arizona State University (ASU) for the Fall Semester in 2018 (August – December).
I had an absolutely incredible time at ASU and could tell stories of my experiences for hours if you indulge me, however I have condensed my top 5 key takeaways below from my semester abroad:
1. Cultural awareness
This may seem like an obvious one, but what surprised me is how much I learnt about my own culture not just other cultures. Going on exchange is a fantastic way to be exposed to many different cultures in a short period of time, and it allowed me to talk to other people about my culture too. Although in saying that, when sharing stories of our lifestyles and home life, often by just taking a step back and listening to the insights of people from other countries, it has given me a far greater appreciation for cultural nuances. One of these nuances would be learning the hard way that in the US, you don’t complete a multiple choice exam in pen (only pencil), otherwise the Scantron machine gives you zero marks! Thankfully, I had a very understanding professor who took pity on me and marked my exam manually!
2. Skills are transferable
The great thing about marketing, is that the skills learned in one country can certainly be used and applied in another. In America, sport is a huge part of their culture and plays a large role in many brands’ marketing strategies, which is not dissimilar to the Australian sporting and marketing landscape. Learning valuable skills and theories around sports marketing and general marketing from one of the top business schools (W.P Carey School of Business) in the US, was exciting and I look forward to future opportunities where I can implement and develop these skills in the Australian or even global markets.
3. Learning is a two way street
In the majority of the classes I took in the US, there was a steep learning curve to understand the colloquialisms and the general education system that I had been dropped into. Additionally, undertaking sports marketing subjects, I had to quickly learn the ins and outs of the different sports and teams. However, this learning went both ways – as I had the opportunity to showcase my knowledge of sports and events that Americans are not normally exposed to, like Cricket, the Commonwealth Games and AFL. This was an awesome part of my time in the US and something I really embraced and valued, although I will admit – cricket isn’t for everyone!
4. Reverse culture shock is a thing
Upon returning back to Melbourne in mid-February, I had a challenging time adjusting back to my normal way of life. After being away from my family for 7 months, having my own agenda, travelling around a lot and spending most of my time with friends, it was a shock to come back and assimilate into a more structured lifestyle. I’m grateful to RMIT University for hosting an event where the students returning from overseas could network, as it made me realise that I wasn’t the only person feeling this way and this validation really helped me in my readjustment. Once I got back into a routine and uni started, things got a lot easier, but it was something I certainly wasn’t expecting as culture shock wasn’t really an issue when I was enjoying life to the full in the US.
5. Your comfort zone is as big or as small as you allow it to be
Before going on exchange I was given the advice to say yes to every opportunity