Bachelor of Science (Marine biology)
Exchange @ University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA
University of Miami
UM have excellent facilities with large new classrooms, libraries and food outlets. The University grounds are absolutely stunning with beautiful water features, gardens and lawns. The on campus accommodation is not modern however it is very practical. The dining halls are excellent and cater for a variety of tastes.
Studying at University of Miami
Studying at UM was somewhat different to JCU, the majority of assessable work comes in the form of frequent small tests and quizzes rather than larger assignments and finals. There also appeared to be a significant oral/presentation component in the subjects I studied. Overall I would say that the work load is probably less than what you would expect from JCU subjects. Undergraduate subjects seemed easier than at JCU, however UM has a variety of very well structured graduate classes which typically have a small number of students making the teaching style more interactive.
Living in USA
Miami is a very fun city and is a gateway to many other travel destinations. The lifestyle is typically very expensive (for both the USA and Australia), however you will find that certain things are simply cheaper in the US. Miami is made up of a diverse array of cultures with a heavy Latin influence. In general I found people more rude than in Australia and less willing to help you out with problems, however in the service industry (i.e jobs that receive tips) employees are very helpful and respectful. I felt safe most of the time in Miami, however there is a sharp dichotomy that exists between the rich and poor in Miami and one only has to cross a single road to go from a wealthy area to an urban “ghetto”. The crime rate is relatively high in Miami and unfortunately this does sometimes spill over onto the UM campus due to the proximity of poorer neighbourhoods.
What were the most rewarding aspects of the exchange experience?
I think the most rewarding part of the exchange experience was being able to act as an ambassador for Australia. I believe that in general Americans do not know a whole heap about our country and culture outside what has been shown through commercial media. It was really nice to be able to tell people about my own country and why I love it so much. I think our attitudes were also something that left a really good impression on people on campus; the Australians were known for always being friendly, outgoing and well mannered. It was also very rewarding to be able to travel and see the world whilst still completing the same studies you would at home.
Did you experience any difficulties?
I believe everyone experiences a slight culture shock moving from Australia with such a laid back attitude and low population to the US which is such a boiling pot of different cultures and different social issues. It is always a bit shocking being exposed to things such as poverty and crime as well. Miami is not too different from a large Australian city though and the lifestyles one would have living there are comparable to those who live in places such as Sydney or Surfers Paradise. I believe the biggest difficulties I faced in the US was anything to do with bureaucrats, government/uni departments (e.g transport + housing) and policies (e.g health insurance)
What advice would you give to a JCU student going to your host university?
Make sure you read the health insurance policy carefully and find a provider who will cover everything required by UM. Make sure you get the waiver form filled out and send it to UM and remember to hassle them for a response, they are hopeless when it comes to getting back to you or anything logistical. This is important because the University insurance is overpriced (around $1000 AUD) and doesn’t even cover travel (e.g vaccinations).
Take care of your University fees as soon as possible and remember a few weeks prior to departing UM to organise to pick up your housing deposit check.
There is always an array of activities and events going on around campus (e.g art gallery, cinema, concerts, sports) and get involved in as many as possible.
Organise your post study travel plans perfectly as you get “kicked out” of on campus accommodation as soon as exam period finishes.