Bachelor of Journalism, 3rd year
Bachelor of Journalism, 3rd year

Academic Experience

Past Connie did a smart thing and saved up a semester full of electives so I could essentially study whatever interested me, the only catch was that all of my courses had to be upper division but I didn't find that restraint difficult at all. I knew I wanted to do fun, practical classes in fields I've never studied before to both take me outside my comfort zone, and more importantly LEARN SOMETHING NEW. SDSU had countless fascinating courses but I managed to narrow mine down to four: History of Hip Hop, Jewellery and Metals, Ceramics: Throwing, and Childhood Literature.

History of Hip Hop was hands down my favourite class, I learnt so much about the genre I've always loved and the assessment was not hard. My arts subjects (metals and ceramics) were not too challenging but very time consuming. I spent more time outside of class on these two subjects than any other. Both were very rewarding in that I got to design and create objects with my own two hands. I will say that I do not recommend taking the ceramics class at SDSU because my professors and the whole department in general were not very supportive and did not push for my success: I managed the class by making friends with intermediate students who helped me outside of class hours. Luckily, this is the only course where I felt unsupported and (sometimes) oppressed. Metals was incredibly fun yet very difficult, we many things based on our own design such as earrings, boxes, rings and a necklace. Childhood Literature was an easy pass class, not much else needs to be said there: I didn 't learn much.

Overall, I managed to pass all my classes with only minor breakdowns.

Personal Experience

Since coming home, the most common question has been "HOW WAS YOUR EXCHANGE?!" and being honest, to verbally encapsulate everything I felt, saw, tasted, heard, loved, hated, it would take me precisely the amount of time I was gone. Every moment was precious and I think back to this time in my life with a fondness I fear cannot be matched.

San Diego State University is a gorgeous school in an even more beautiful city. It is huge in area and offers so much for students. The first 4 weeks were filled with Aztec Nights events where students pour into campus at night to socialise, enjoy activities organised by the school, and perhaps most importantly, find a frat party to continue the celebration of a brave new semester.

Greek life (fraternities and sororities) is a big deal here, I came for the classic American College experience and that is exactly what I got. Girls- don't bother joining a sorority, it's a waste of money and time when you can get into frat parties regardless. Boys- it might be worth your while to join a fraternity because it is difficult for guys to get into frat parties unless you know someone.

I went on this journey alone and ended up making some of the best friends of my life: no surprises there. During orientation you are bombarded with new faces and names, it can be super overwhelming but soon you will be completely surrounded by a new group(s) of friends. My Spanish roommate became my best friend. I got a matching taco tattoo with one of my best bros (sorry if UQ doesn't want me saying this, I'm just trying to sell the e. I met people all over the place, not just at school but at concerts and through local American friends. Don't be afraid to branch out and speak to everyone because they will be absolutely thrilled to hear your Australian accent and stories of the terrifying wildlife in your homeland.

I travelled heaps over the exchange period of 5.5 months:
- 1 week in LA before my semester started.
- 4 months in San Diego during the semester with trips to Tijuana (Mexico), Seattle, LA, Rosarito (Mexico), and countless beaches.
- 5 weeks of miscellaneous travelling after the semester including: San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Austin (I KNOW IT'S IN TEXAS BUT I PROMISE IT'S LIT) and New York City.

San Diego is hard to get around if you don't have a car so start making some friends with cars asap or save up and buy a car there then sell it at the end of the semester (a very great idea I wish I thought of it before I left). Don't be too bummed if you don't get to travel much during the semester: just enjoy being in sunny California, trust me, you'll miss it.

I read a fantastic quote on the wall of a toilet in one of my hostels:
"good decisions come from experience,
which unfortunately comes from bad decisions."
I'll let you interpret that as you will...

Accommodation

I lived on campus in a lovely residence called Villa Alvarado. It is essentially dozens of apartments clustered together in a small gated community, 15 minutes walk from campus. I grew to love this place and the people it housed like no other. At any time, you're a two minute walk or less from your closest buddies. I got so used to never being alone. Only thing is it is pricey, I was paying around USD$1000 per month. VA mostly houses older students (rarely see freshmen here) and exchange students. Most of my Exchange friends lived either here or at Tarastec (they have a pool there but that's about the only pro).

The housing did not come with any kitchen utensils but luckily my lovely American roommate did (bless her). There is a Ralphs supermarket very close by car, so carpool to get groceries! I had this idea I'd get crazy great at cooking living out of home but I clearly overestimated myself because that did not happen. You will likely be eating the poor college student diet of instant noodles and frozen vegetables, but hey, less time on cooking means more time for activities! Also, DO NOT GET THE MEAL PLAN. So expensive and unnecessary.

Living on campus vs not living on campus:
Live on campus if you want to be involved with uni activities and like having friends at your fingertips. Also all parties are held around the campus, the whole area around SDSU if filled with college students, great if you're under 21 and can't go out.
Live off campus if you want easier access to Downtown (the City) and beaches such Mission, Ocean (very hippy, very chill), Pacific (where the Gaslamp district is for going out) and La Jolla (just stunning, and seals!).

Other advice:
- There is a shuttle that will take you to or from campus if you are walking alone at night or are simply just lazy.
- Don't buy a fake ID unless you have money to blow. San Diego is super strict on checking ID at clubs.

Budget

The sooner you come to accept that everything is expensive- the happier you will be.

I spent around USD$14,000 in total in my 5.5months abroad, which is around AUD$20,000 because the exchange rate at the time I left Australia was absolutely atrocious.

This is approximately how I spent the money:
Rent- USD$4000
All Flights- USD$2300
Food- $2500
Travel- $3000
Entertainment & Other- $2200

I did a lot with the money I had but I could have always done more with more money! So know you can have a good time on my budget of USD$14,000!

Note: If you want to buy a car add around $4000 to that total for a ride that will get you through the semester.

Professional Development & Employability

Exchange was a once in a lifetime opportunity. To say that I have studied and lived in the United States is a huge power-up for my resume.

I've grown in confidence having seen and experienced the world on my own in those six months which seemed to last both forever and no time at all. Exchange has made me feel like I can tackle anything life throws at me; to see complications as a challenge not a deterrent.

Highlights

A huge part of the reason I chose the United States was for it's omnipresent Hip Hop scene. I wanted to see shows all the time. One of the best weekends of my exchange was going up to LA for the Odd Future Music Festival, it was absolutely surreal seeing artists who rarely come to Australia and celebrities walking around (don't want to namedrop but Denzel Curry?!).

My favourite cities that I visited were Austin and San Francisco.

Obvious additions to highlights are the phenomenal people I met and grew to love as if I'd known them my whole life.

Top Tips

1. Persist through the paperwork! I know it is tedious and frustrating but I would do double that amount to be able to go back and do it again.

2. Save up! I cannot stress this enough, you will NEVER have an opportunity like this again. Aim for a minimum of USD$14,000. Save/borrow as much money as you can so you don't have to say no to a single experience! Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Also, easiest to open a US bank account when you get there and wire all your money over.

3. Save your electives! The US has so many cool classes you'll wish you did.

4. Live on campus! If you have never had the college experience, now is your time to have a taste.

5. Come with as little luggage/clothing as you can. The US is arguably the cultural centre of the world, you will find beautiful clothes and not be able to resist buying it. I went with 2/3 full of one suitcase and came back with two packed suitcases.

4. Make friends who have cars!

5. Take loads of photos and back them up along your journey!

6. If you're a fan of food- go to Louisiana.

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