On Exchange – The Jesses go on Exchange in America

On Exchange – The Jesses go on Exchange in America

February 18, 2016

Jess McPherson, (Bachelor of Business Management, Retail Marketing) and Jess Good (Bachelor of Event Management), spent their January 2015 semester studying in San Francisco at one of our partner universities, San Francisco State University, California. They share their story.

How long did you go for?

We planned to go for the four months of university but instead bought ‘open return round the world trip’ tickets. So we came home seven months later… from Europe.

Wow, what an adventure! What did you need to organise before you could jet off?

San Francisco is a popular exchange destination and so they are a little stricter on GPAs. We applied in September 2014, sent in our marks along with a letter explaining why we should be chosen. We had to choose subjects and apply for student visas into the country. There was a lot of paperwork. We saved up about $12,000 each. This covered accommodation, food, drinks, going out, transport, adventures, road trips, weekends away, activities and more. We were surprised how far our money went in America (probably because we made the decision to spend our money on experiences rather than visiting the shops). We included within our budget a few thousand dollars to take on our road trip at the end of the term, and for travels, but aside from that our plan was to just come home with not a cent left.

Who did you go with?

Just the two of us, we ended up being called ‘the Aussie Jesses’ the whole trip.

What subjects did you complete?

Jess M: Three management subjects: philosophy, management and marketing and a retail subject.

Jess G: I also took three management subjects: philosophy, management and marketing and an events subject.

What did you learn from the experience?

To be more independent and open to new situations. It was so daunting at first, being in a place we didn’t know and having to just walk into all these different situations knowing absolutely nothing. But we learnt to take every moment as it comes and enjoy all the experiences that come with being on exchange. One of us also got thrown in the deep end and learnt how to drive through five states on the right hand side of the road.

What were your three favourite moments?

Three is not enough. Every day of the trip was, in some way, one of our favourite moments. But, if pressed, here are three of the best times, in order:

  1. Going to Newport, LA, for the weekend. We were really lucky with the friends we made. Most of them didn’t go to uni with us, but we met them through living in the city and going to different local events. Many of them had moved to San Francisco from interstate, and took us to their family’s places over weekends. Going to Newport Beach was one of our favourite moments of the trip, it was just a weekend of constant happiness. We were taken to local parties, rode our bikes all day and night, spent days on our friends’ boats and went hiking around Laguna Beach. We are still friends with some of these guys and are convincing them to come down under.
  2. Going to Berkley for St Patrick’s Day. This was our first experience of the frat and sorority life. Picture a street of about 20 huge houses, with Greek symbols out the front of each one – it was exactly like being in a movie. We spent the day on the rooftop of one of the frat mansions, followed by dinner and ‘a recoop’ before heading to the Berkley swimming pool, jumping in fully clothed and then covering the locker room floor in soap and sliding around the lockers and showers with a bunch of our friends. The parties then continued at various places along the street. It was one of the most American experiences we could ever have been a part of.
  3. At the end of the semester we hired a campervan and began our month long road trip of America. This was one of the coolest experiences of our lives, we had absolutely no plan except an end date and final destination. We slept wherever we would end up each night, and would drive to the next beach or destination after reading local guides, searching Instagram and asking Americans where they recommend. We spent nights in the middle of the desert with no reception, water, or signs of civilisation and then, two days later, we would be walking along the main strip of Las Vegas.

Oh and we have to add one more – being on the Ellen DeGeneres Show! We were selected to be part of a competition, and spent the afternoon running around a fitness store looking for items to win prizes.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?

We were members of the Study Abroad group, which had weekly meetups and events that were optional and pretty fun. We didn’t commit to weekly activities so we could keep our schedules as open as possible to have the freedom to take mini trips throughout the term.

What was it like to live in an American college?

We lived off campus actually. We found a place on Airbnb and it turned out to be the best decision ever. We were based one street back from Ocean Beach, in the middle of a great neighbourhood, among all of the friends we made in San Francisco, and surrounded by some of the best cafe and bars in the area. Living on campus in San Francisco isn’t very popular, unless you are under the age of 18 and in your first term of university. Most people live with friends.

Any tips for students who are looking to study abroad?

If you’re confident to go by yourself, do it. For us, having someone else to enjoy the experience with made the trip so much better. Knowing there is always someone there you can relate to from home made a huge difference. Having someone to laugh with when everything wasn’t quite going to plan is a bonus. We had a few situations where we wanted to cry, scream or hide but instead we would just look at each other and laugh. But also, draw up the pros and cons of your options. We did a lot of research into the universities on offer to us, and San Francisco suited us best in terms of lifestyle, and the experiences we want to get out of exchange. It is a once in a life time opportunity so just do it.

What’s next for you?

Jess M: I’m in my last trimester at ICMS now, and since returning have been working a lot, in part to pay off the trip, but also with the intention of saving up for the next trip, wherever that may be. But once I finish in December, I’ll begin the adventures of finding full time work, and being a college graduate.

Jess G: Upon return I completed my degree, and am now working full time at Warringah Council in the events department.

Click here for more information about our exchange programs.

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