Rixt van Dongera on her exchange to Furman University, South Carolina:
Hi y’all! On August 16, 2012, I arrived at Furman University in the booming (not so much) city of Greenville, South Carolina. I got to live on campus in a really nice apartment with three other, American, roommates. Fortunately I had my own bedroom and I shared a bathroom, kitchen, living room and balcony with my roommates. As Furman is a private liberal arts university there were quite a bunch of rich kids there and this might explain the big-ass cars that I saw around campus. Having a car appears to be pretty vital for your way of life around Furman, unfortunately I did not have a car My newly-found state of independence got compromised a little, as I was dependent on my roommates and friends to drive me around and be able to get groceries and go to bars.
Education at an American university is a lot more school-like than we are used to at the RUG. For every class you would get weekly assignments, next to quite a load of assigned readings. It is not necessary at all to use these readings to form an argument or develop your own analysis, as in the U.S. you only need to repeat the opinions of the writers of your assigned material. This made classes easier (I got a lot of A’s) but also tedious and less challenging.
Living abroad in the States however was one of the best experiences I’ve had. The realization that I can create a life for myself in a different country, with new friends, surroundings and living and learning conditions, and really feel at home there has made me confident in my own capabilities and future. I want to encourage anyone that ever gets the opportunity to live abroad, to grab it with both hands, and go.
Thomas Cloos, Saint Louis University:
Before the actual semester abroad, there was quite some bureaucracy to be mastered. I had to experience that communication can be difficult if there is an ocean in between but eventually everything was ready. SLU (pronounce /’slu:/) organized an airport pick-up and checking in was fast and easy. Right from the beginning, the campus was a beautiful place with nice people and a welcoming atmosphere. Getting to know new people was about the easiest task during the semester as most American college students are generally nice and will talk to you.
I experienced the courses less academically challenging than our courses at RuG, however, by just relaxing you’re not getting an A either. My accommodation at SLU has been the only actual downside. Even though I had the luxury of a single room, the room looked like a jail cell without bars. The bathrooms were nothing more than acceptable for a few months and the kitchen turned out to be a Chinese bio laboratory after a few weeks. Also, in case you’re planning to learn Chinese, go ahead, you’ll have plenty of people to practice. The food was an American cliché, which apparently bothered most Europeans, my crippled sense of taste however was fine with it. SLU is a private Jesuit university (Catholic) but despite my initial concerns I did not experience the religious affiliation as a downside. What should be noted is that students will be much more religious than the average European (surprise ;)). One of the must-dos, whether you’re religious or not, is to come to at least one Holy Mass in the beautiful campus cathedral. Also, become a real Billiken and cheer for our great SLU basketball team. The school spirit is so apparent during the games and I really miss that in Europe.
Lisa de Haan, pictured below, went to Central Michigan University. Here’s her story:
During the Fall semester ‘12/’13 I lived in the small college town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. My goal was to see as much as possible from the US during my stay, and I can certainly say I succeeded in doing so! Central Michigan University is in the middle of nowhere and the public transport is nearly nonexistent, but together with both international and American students I was able to visit many cities throughout the country. During college weeks I was usually on campus, which was also a great experience. On quite a few occasions I was told by (fairly drunk) fraternity guys that “CMU is party school number 3 in the entire USA,” and boy, were they proud! Though I do think this is somewhat exaggerated, CMU is indeed a great place to party and to make great friends. Due to age restrictions house parties are very popular, and they are not hard to find. CMU will provide you with enough opportunities to improve your skills in beer pong, Irish poker and many other fun things. Of course (or unfortunately) there was also a little studying to get to during the semester. I would definitely advise people to take a Political Science course as you are not able to take any similar courses in the Netherlands. It is not difficult to pass your courses and a good grade takes little effort, which obviously leaves you with a lot of time to do fun things, bringing me back to where I started. I guess that looking back at my experience I mostly remember all the good times I had with the awesome new friends I met, both on campus and while traveling. So my advice would be to explore your new home; do not stay in your room to study, but experience the American way of life!
For more exchange experiences, visit our links page to find a compilation of blogs kept by individual students.