The End of My Study Abroad Experience

I started on this journey due to my love of travel and the opportunity to study at an American college was too good to pass up.

I have lived in the UK and in Canada so this was my chance to live in the USA. Although I have travelled to all 50 states, it is a totally different experience to live in a country. I am not ashamed to admit that Walmart trips were a weekly occurrence. I do love Walmart. Add to the mix TJ Maxx and Home Goods, and I needed an extra suitcase to come home. That was on top of my two suitcase allowance! It cost me $200usd to bring the third 23kg bag home but compared to posting 5kg home for $90usd, I felt it was a bargain. To be honest, I left so much behind I could have easily brought another two suitcases home.

Be Warned: The longer you are in a country the more you will bring home!

Yep, all for me.

What I learned:

In a previous blog post I described my reason for wanting to study abroad and in this post I will answer my points of interest. They are:

What impact does the legal drinking age have on university activities?

  • While studying at Appalachian State University I found that there was very limited events that promoted alcohol due to the legal drinking age being 21. Students do complete at least 4 years of study so by their Senior Year they are 21 but it is the local bars in town that benefit. There were many activities promoted by the university and student clubs so there was no need to organise any revolving around alcohol.
  • In Australia I find that pub crawls or events such as mystery bus tours that stop at drinking venues are common. La Trobe University itself does not promote any activities that I can see relating to alcohol, however it is the student association and clubs that do. It is important to keep in mind that the legal drinking age in Australia is 18 so it is a little easier to be inclusive. Australian’s do like to socialise over a cold beverage and I feel that may be a detriment to alternative activities that could be offered that I enjoyed at App State such as outdoor movie nights, hands on activities like tie dying t-shirts or hiking.

Lecture and learning styles. Is it really like what we see on TV?

  • Not in my experience. I attended classes in the Walker College of Business and while I was expecting big lecture theatres the reality was much different. Each classroom I was in was the same, a small version of a lecture theatre. There were three levels in a semicircle facing the whiteboard with pairs of seats fixed in place. Often there were more students in class than seats so there were extra seats located on the steps, in the back and next to the door. The building is quickly being outgrown as App State continues to increase student intake.
  • Each subject I studied had two classes per week of 1.25 hours in duration. In Australia I attend one tutorial class per week per subject for a duration of 2 hours. On occasion the subject may require a 1 hour lecture per week.
  • App State ran a 16 week semester compared to La Trobe at 12 weeks.
  • Exams were a main difference and boy do I prefer it at App State!! 3 of my classes had up to 4 exams per semester scattered throughout. The first three exams were based on the previous weeks since beginning of semester or the last exam. The final exam was cumulative and held at the end of semester when exams were held over five days with only one reading day to prepare. The lowest exam grade was dropped, hence if you were happy with your previous three exams you did not need to sit your exam as the zero mark for that exam would be dropped. I chose this option for all possible subjects. Plus almost ALL of my exams were multiple choice! The final for one of my subjects was a paper that was relatively easy for me. Overall the exam grade was generally worth the bulk of my grade with groups work being worth the least, for one it was 10%. For me at home, exams are spread out over three weeks and we have four days study break to prepare. Most of my subjects will have an exam worth around 50% each (give or take 10%). The remainder of the grade is made up of group work, individual assignments, quizzes and a small portion for participation.
Classrooms laid out like a mini-lecture theatre.

America is known for their school spirit but to what extent?

  • America puts Australia to shame in this category. I have never seen so much school spirit worn so proudly. I am not just talking about game day but every day. Students wear logo apparel or yellow and black clothing (the school colours) to class, on weekends and to any university event. The App State university bookstore sells many different collegiate items and it is worth a look, keep in mind not everything is online either! Walmart has a section dedicated to App State apparel, souvenirs and tailgating essentials plus there are many stores along the High Street that sell App State branded items.
  • Here in Australia I received a La Trobe University Bendigo branded t-shirt during orientation week. The first time I wore it was on my study abroad, a year and a half later. I did buy a logo hoodie to take with me to App State but I would never wear a uni logo items to class, outside of uni or even to uni events. I don’t know many of my friends who would either. There is a point in first semester where you can tell the first year students as some of them do wear their t-shirts. It’s not that I don’t like my university, it’s just a cultural difference and maybe also that our range of options is greatly limited. I was more than happy to wear my La Trobe pride while I was away, my t-shirt and hoodie had many days of wear but now I am home they will go back in the wardrobe until my next study abroad.
Representing LTU
Beni & I representing La Trobe University

How involved in campus life are the students?

  • The students at App State are encouraged to get involved in extra-curricular activities, like student clubs and with over 400 clubs on campus there is something for everyone. Students are well aware that extra involvement will help build their resume ready to find a job when they leave. There are two levels of clubs, the first are clubs that are sponsored by the university like INTAPP (the International Appalachian club) and the second level are the student clubs like the one I was involved with, iPals. With so many clubs students can be members of more than one but once you are on the committee the commitment of time increases.
  • Outside of clubs it seems the students are very keen to try everything. The line alone for Tie Dying when it comes up is insane! It has to be the most popular and eagerly anticipated activity on campus. When it comes to football games the students have their own section and do not pay for entry. Every game it is full. All activities seem to get a good turn out, more so if there are freebies. Who doesn’t love a freebie?!
iPals hiking trip.

#1 Tip

My number 1 tip for any student participating in a semester exchange at App State is:


Instead, use that money to load your express card. What’s the difference?

  • A meal plan can only be used on campus for perishable items. You can use it at any food outlet or market. However, money will not be refunded if you have any left over.
  • The express account can be used for food purchases, printing, washer/dryer, bookstore purchases, non perishable purchases in the markets. Basically anywhere on campus. It works like a debit card and your excess funds will be refunded when you leave.

I had a standard meal plan and I found I did not like much of the food on campus, especially in the cafeteria. This meant the coffee shop, deli and market received the majority of my money. I also struggled to spend it all by the end of semester. On top of that, I then had to load my express account for printing and laundry (I never had quarters). It also meant I did not need to carry cash with me on campus. Both the meal plan and express account are accessed by your student card. I have a picture of my student card below:

App Card 1

Am I sad it’s over?

Yes and No.

I am very grateful for the amazing experience and the people I met made it very memorable (Y’all know who you are). However it did cement in my mind the path I foresee my future taking, so for now I am ready to move on to my final year of study.

What’s Next?

I mentioned in my previous post, ‘Why Study Abroad’, that I may participate in another study abroad program possibly in Japan. Well, through CISAustralia I booked in to complete a 2 week program in Japan during my winter break in July. I will be studying Cross Cultural Communication & Global Citizenship which sounds like a lot of fun.

I am eagerly awaiting that experience and Beni will be along for the ride! Until then, please enjoy my favourite photos and videos from my study abroad on my Facebook page: Adventures of Backpacker Mel.

Sunrise on the morning of my departure from App State.

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