5 Things I Learnt on Exchange

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.

Grand Canyon, AZ

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!

Scantron Exam
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.

Wells Fargo Arena, Arizona State University
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!

ASU Tailgate Party
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.

Old Main, Arizona State University
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; and I ran with this! I said yes to the travel and the parties, but also to joining clubs and associations that I gained a lot from. Some of these associations I know will be beneficial in my long term marketing career (ASU Sports Business Association), where other clubs allowed me really push outside of my comfort zone (Arizona Outdoors Club). Joining these clubs not only expanded my networks and friendships, but allowed me to develop so many new skills; such as agility, resilience, perseverance and adaptability, which I know will be incredibly useful in building my future career. I’ve also become a very accomplished Quidditch player after trying out for the ASU Quidditch team – the possibilities are endless!

AOC Trip to Grand Canyon, AZ

Vicki Brown

One Reply to “5 Things I Learnt on Exchange”

  1. I’ve been considering doing an overseas exchange, so hearing about your experience has been very valuable. Glad to see you had such a rewarding and fun time. Would be interested in hearing some more about your overseas adventures, it sounds like you had a lot of them!

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