The hardest part about filling out the exchange application form is deciding where to go. ANU has so many partner universities and exchange destinations that it becomes quite an arduous task to only write down a list of five institutions. Of course, it gets even tougher when you realise that you can just experience life at one of those universities. To make it easier, here is a list of things you should consider when determining which partner university is best suited for you:
- The main reason you want to go on exchange: Is it to make friends, to travel, to work, experience something new, to learn a foreign language or to study subjects that you would not otherwise be able to take at the ANU?
- Your eligibility to apply for the program or partner university: To be eligible for the student exchange program, you must first meet the criteria outlined by ANU Global Programs (e.g. completing at least 48 credits at ANU before going on exchange etc.). Certain partner universities also require students to maintain/obtain a specific GPA.
- Whether you will be able to receive credit for the courses they offer at that university or not: It is very important to check this with your course advisor and your College before you go on exchange or you might not receive any credit for your study – i.e. you may have to spend an extra semester or two at ANU (which some may enjoy :)).
- The university’s proximity to the places you want to travel to: If you go on exchange, chances are that you probably have a few places in mind that you really want to visit. It is always good if these destinations are close to your university because you can then spend your weekends travelling. It is likely that you will not have a car, so consider public transport, hiring, other methods of travelling and the costs associated with these.
- The university’s reputation and its strengths: Read about the experiences of other students at the universities you are considering, check out the university’s website, consider the subjects/degrees the university is famous for and whether it corresponds to what you are studying.
SUNY Stony Brook was the perfect exchange destination for me and here is why:
- It is so close to New York City: This university is the closest to New York City out of those that are listed as ANU’s partner universities. There is a train station on campus and a train that goes directly to Manhattan. The journey only takes 90 minutes, which means that day trips to NYC are quite easy to do. As a music major, this was ideal because I could spend the weekends watching Broadway shows or going to concerts in Carnegie Hall. I also enjoyed visiting the distinguished Juilliard School, exploring Central Park and eating at the various fashionable cafés and restaurants in the city.
- Long Island is beautiful: Stony Brook is located in Long Island, New York. The island stretches east from New York City and features beautiful beaches and greenery. Popular tourist locations are Fire Island, Monatuk Point, Hampton Bays and Long Beach.
- The campus is huge: The size of the ANU campus does not even compare to the size of this university. With its own transit system, 8200 seat football stadium, hotel, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pool, gymnasiums, numerous dining halls, train station and the amazing Staller Centre for the Arts (which features many renowned concerts and shows – e.g. the Metropolitan Opera etc.), it is hard to get bored here. The walk from my dormitory to class usually took about 20-25 minutes because the campus is so big (lucky there is also a bus you can catch every five-ten minutes if you are running late :))
- The campus events and residences gave me an insight into American culture: Events such as Wolfstock: The Homecoming Game Tradition (where everyone celebrates the biggest football game of the season with a concert, barbeque, activities throughout the week, the crowning of the homecoming King and Queen and then attendance at the game) and the Opening Activities (that can be compared to O-week at ANU), gave me an insight into American culture. American football, in particular, is very popular in the U.S. and everyone gets really excited about the game. One of my goals before going on exchange was to immerse myself in this culture and attend the events that were ‘typical’ of an American college experience. Although Hollywood movies do tend to exaggerate some aspects of this, the grandeur of the Homecoming Game was an understatement if anything.
Living in the residences was a very different experience from living at Unilodge ANU. I initially had a roommate from South Korea and the fact that we had to sleep in the same room enabled us to become friends very quickly. However, it was a little difficult, at first, to adjust to this lifestyle after having my own bathroom and kitchen at ANU. However, one aspect of living at the residences that I liked was that people would often leave their doors open and so it was easier to interact with other students in the corridors and make new friends.
- The classes were challenging and interesting: The classes here are quite different from those at ANU. Firstly, there are no tutorials – only lectures and seminars. Classes are quite small and attendance is compulsory for most subjects because lectures are not recorded. The classroom environment reminded me of a high school situation. The teacher would take the roll and most students never called a professor by the first name. I took a few subjects that were not offered at ANU, such as, music analysis and advanced composition. These challenged me to think more analytically about the music I was composing.
- I made friends from all over the world: This is probably the best part about exchange. You meet people from all over the world and for six months they become your family as you travel, study and live together with them.