Host University

Stetson University

Host Country



SP5, 2017


Bachelor of Laws Double Degree (Honours)

Why did you choose your host university?

I had a limited choice of host universities that could support my program. I knew that I wanted to study in the United States but wasn’t exactly sure which state. Stetson stood out to me because it was a smaller university that resided within a ‘college town’. Deland has a population of only 30,000 and 3,000 of those are Stetson students. I found this appealing as I thought that a smaller university would be less daunting and easier to orientate myself with.

Stetson also appealed to me because it had a large international student base. I took comfort in the fact that they had lots of experience with students who were studying abroad and knew that this would benefit my experience. I also had a friend who had previously completed a semester at Stetson and talked so much about the people and the campus as a whole. He said that Florida was a beautiful place to live and that the people were all so welcoming and caring and this is definitely something that I found to be true.

What was the university like?

Stetson was beautiful. The campus is so picturesque and clean and easy to find your way around. It is one of the oldest schools in Florida and it has the classic American college campus look and vibe. There is so much support available to students, especially international students. They have an entire team dedicated to international students which is led by Paula. She would organise trips for us, help us with scheduling classes and would email every now and again just to check in.

The classes at Stetson reminded me of high school. There are no lectures who contain 500 other students who are enrolled in the same course as you. There are under 30 students in each of your classes and you are taught by your professor in a more interactive way. They still prepare presentations for teaching by the learning is centred much more around student contribution and in-class activities. Generally, class participation is part of your final grade and students are not afraid to express their opinions. This kind of threw me off at first but it is something that I definitely grew comfortable with.

Assessments were another thing that were quite different to home. You would have homework activities and random surprise quizzes which meant you had to be on top of your work the entire semester. Assessments themselves were also included but I found them to be less formal than ones at home. We also had two exams during the semester, mid-terms and finals. I also found these to be less formal than home. They were just taken during class in the week before holidays and were much shorter than exams we have here.

Amelia RobertsWhat did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

The thing that I have gained most from my exchange experience is independent. I had never lived out of home before and having all of the additional responsibility of exchange was a massive learning curve for me. I was the only person that I was accountable for whilst I was away and this was something that was really refreshing and allowed me to grow in confidence. Being on the other side of the world with a bunch of people that you have never met before is definitely a struggle at first.

I considered myself to be quite a shy person before I left but when you are put in a position where you have to make a whole new group of friends, ask a ton of strangers for help and adapt to a whole new lifestyle, I definitely came out of my shell. My motto was that I was only there for 6 months and that it really didn’t matter what people thought of me and this is definitely an attitude that I have brought home with me. I am much less concerned with what other people are thinking and feeling about me and much more concentrated on doing things and being around people who make me happy or benefit me in a positive way.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

We had limited options when it came to our accommodations. We were told to apply for a room on campus and were able to make a preference list based off the information the school provided to us about each of the different dorms on campus. I was disappointed in that I received accommodation in the dorm that was last on my preference list but in the end, I am so glad that I ended up where I did. All of the dorms on campus were spacious with free access to washers and dryers, kitchens and communal areas. I also felt very safe in my dorm. We had an RA who was responsible for a group of student living in a particular area of a building. She would check in, host social events and help us with anything we needed.

I have never lived in university supplied accommodation before, so I am not really sure on the affordability of it. We paid around $5,000 AUD for four months of accommodation and this seemed reasonable. I would definitely recommend living on campus for any other exchange student planning on attending Stetson. Any off-campus accommodation may offer more privacy and flexibility but they are all far away from campus and not having a car would make transport difficult. There is little to no public transport and having the ability to walk to everything you need was definitely important to me.  

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I did quite a bit of travel during my semester away. I did four weeks of backpacking by myself prior to the start of the semester and an additional five weeks with my best mate who came over from Australia when my semester had finished at Stetson.

I went to 16 states within the US as well as travelling to Canada. I loved travelling throughout America. There are so many different things to see and observing the different cultures that operate within each of the states was so fascinating. Travelling by myself at the start was a little overwhelming to begin with but everyone is super friendly and there are so many people in the same positon as you so it was not difficult to find people to do things with. Travelling during my time away was one of my most memorable experiences. It is such a long way to go so I think it is so important to make the most of it.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

Adjusting to an American lifestyle was definitely very difficult at the start. The food was particularly difficult at it was so different to what my regular meal would entail at home. Eating on campus was sometimes hard as I didn’t feel like there were many nutritious options available. I adjusted to this by doing some of my own shopping and keeping things like fruits and vegetables in my room to accompany the food that I was eating on campus. Another thing that was so different was the direct honesty of Americans as people. They are so confident within themselves and aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. This was something I definitely struggled with at the start but I adjusted by just laughing it off or trying to take something from the point they were trying to make.

I met new people primarily by joining the school’s volleyball team. We trained at least twice a week as well as having tournaments at different schools both within and outside Florida. It was definitely a highlight of my time at Stetson and the place where I made some of my closest friends. The international team at Stetson is also a really good place to meet new people. We had a week on campus before the other students came and we were all in the same position so it was definitely to our advantage that we had the extra time to get to know each other before the semester commenced.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Absolutely. Having an appreciation for a different culture and exploring the way in which the schooling and working systems in the US operate was so interesting. The classes involved so much discussion and information on real workplace situations that you could expect to find yourself in after graduation. This is something that I feel we don’t do as much of back home and I think that it definitely helped me to prepare more for what I will expect to be confronted with when I enter the workforce.

The exchange also made me much more confident within myself and my abilities to be outside of my comfort zone. I gained so much confidence and independence from my semester away and I think that these are two characteristics that are seen as attractive to potential employers.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Just do it! It seems like such a long time but it honestly goes so quickly. I had been deciding over whether I would go for so long and eventually biting the bullet and applying was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I have gained so many friends from all around the world and gained so much life experience and grown so much from who I was before I left. Even if you have struggles whilst you are away, you can be proud in yourself even for the fact that you decided to go.  I would honestly recommend exchange to anyone who is considering it, it is a once in a lifetime experience. There is such a big difference between visiting a country and having the opportunity to live there and share some of the same experiences as the locals do.

If you are really unsure about whether exchange is right for you, speak to somebody who has the opportunity to experience it. I don’t think that I have spoken to anyone who regrets their decision to go away or didn’t enjoy themselves for the period they were abroad.

Top tips

Keep an open mind!! I cannot put into words how nervous I was before I left for my exchange. I remember sitting on the plane thinking what have I got myself into… Going on exchange is honestly the best thing that I have ever done. I met the most incredible people, tried so many different things and felt more comfortable being out of my comfort zone.

Everyone is going to have a different experience when studying abroad and it is important not to have loads of specific expectations for your time away. Even other exchange students at the same school as me would describe their experience differently than I would, and that is okay. You just have to take things as they come, remember why you applied in the first place and remember how quickly the time goes and make sure you make the most of it. The last thing that you want is to come home and think about things that you should have done whilst you were away.