Exchange students experience life as a Wildcat
Students walk up and down the UA mall, adorned with tents, on Aug. 23.
Contrary to popular belief, I will not start this piece off with “G’day” because I have never greeted anyone like that before, despite living in Australia my whole life. Being an Australian exchange student at the University of Arizona this semester has certainly opened my eyes to a whole new world.
I come from busy Melbourne, Australia, and college town Tucson is certainly a change of pace. I'm earning a double degree in arts and law at Monash University, but since law is only offered at the graduate level in America, I am taking journalism courses here for my art major.
College life in Tucson is entirely different from my university back home. Firstly, most students do not leave home when starting college, so doing my first ever home-ware shopping trip when I moved into my apartment was more dramatic than an advertisement for "The Bachelor." Never have I felt pain like when I was standing in Walmart at 10 p.m., eyes glazing over the 48 different toilet paper options and wondering whether I really needed “lavender scented paper.”
The actual studying at college is also vastly different. In Australia, I am accustomed to only having two big assignments during the semester, whereas here, I have actual homework like I did back in high school. The work is more constant, but as long as you do it regularly, it is difficult to fall behind.
Coming from Australia, a country which has copied much of American culture, I thought there would be little cultural differences between the two. However, I’ve been proven wrong on many occasions. We don’t have any Greek Life organizations at colleges in Australia, so it was extremely surreal seeing sorority and fraternity houses in real life, as they are depicted in a Zac Efron movie. Further, being asked whether Australians use the U.S. dollar in Australia really made me realize how far away we are.
Minanne Kong comes from even further across the pond, and hails from Auckland, New Zealand. Kong, majoring in media, film and television and screen production, is here on exchange for a full year at the UA. She has been shocked by the sheer size of the campus.
“My home university is right in the city center, and our buildings are all pretty tall, so we can walk through the city campus in about 10 minutes,” Kong said.
Coming from the relatively small New Zealand, people have been even more confused as to where it is on the map.
“I was asked why my English is so good. Turns out [the girl] was under the impression that New Zealand is in Europe,” she said.
Speaking of Europe, Laury van Enckevort is from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and is studying for a Bachelor's of Science. She said the school spirit at the UA is the biggest difference between here and home.
“The sports make the Wildcat pride an experience I’ve never had before," van Enckevort said. "In the Netherlands, universities do not have their own sports teams, which means that there’s no such thing as school rivalries."
As exchange students, we would be lying if we said our studies had our first priority. For Minnane, Laury and myself, being in a foreign country — especially one as vast and diverse as the United States — opens up amazing opportunities to travel and explore.
We have plans to travel during the semester and are spending a dream Christmas in New York. I hope this serves as a reminder to local students that traveling is easier than expected and to make the most of this amazing country they live in.
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