USA: Out West

University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study overseas at over 125 partner universities in over 25 countries. One of the most popular destinations to study abroad is the United States. Our American partner universities are all diverse and renowned institutions, providing students with equally as diverse cultural experiences and academic opportunities. In this post (the final of three), we hear from past exchange students who have studied in the Western regions of the United States as part of the Auckland Abroad program. Our partner universities in the West are The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Arizona, The University of Washington, The University of California (9 campuses) and The University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“While America isn’t the cultural opposite of New Zealand like some other exchange programs, culture shock still hit me. From the super-sized food, to realizing Greek life isn’t just in movies and perhaps even that America might just be the greatest country in the world, at least for the college experience anyway.” – Josh Barkle, Rutgers University

The University of Hawaii at Manoa

“Complimentary to the picturesque views and unreal settings visitors achieve on their instagrams, I would encourage observing the local ways, Hawaii has a huge culture of giving. Speak to any Aunty or Uncle on the street and they will be sure to talk story and share their views. The experience allowed me an insight to culture, values, landscapes, and attitudes of not only the Native Hawaiians, or kānaka maoli, but also with the rest of the world.” – Darryl Chin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

“Looking back, the highlight of my exchange would developing more of an adventurous spirit. From going on 4 hour hikes up Hawaii’s tallest mountain at 2:30am just to witness the sunrise and see the entire island to vertical vine climbing bare footed up mountains to get to secret waterfalls to just catching a random bus anywhere and exploring, I learnt that there is so much to see when you’re willing to get out and find it. During my time in Hawaii I also developed a stronger appreciation for nature and its beauty.” – Serene Timoteo, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The University of Arizona
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“The University of Arizona is situated in the metropolitan area of Tucson, a city baking under the desert heat and located less than 100km from the United State-Mexico border. The city might not win any ‘most beautiful city’ award, however the surrounding mountain ranges – serving as the city’s backdrop – are the reason I fell for this desert city. Waking up every day and seeing the Santa Catalina Mountains from our room always brighten my morning and on my last day in Tucson the mountain bid me farewell with its first snowy cap of the season. The question then is why I choose the University of Arizona from all the other institution on offer. Apart from its amazing sunny weather, which is a real change from Auckland, the university also offers consistently high ranked Geology and Anthropology department. During my short time in Arizona, I have shook hands with a researcher involved in the Mars Rover Project, been taught by professors who had worked at the African Rift Valley and the Himalayas. I’ve also been tutored by an academic regarded high on his field, as well as shared a laugh with someone who had gone to host a BCC documentary.” – Alexis Salting, The University of Arizona

“The campus at University of Arizona is absolutely beautiful and there is a strong sense of community around the place which I really liked.  The university system was quite different to Auckland, as there were smaller, more constant loads of work and teachers were much more interested in getting to know their students personally.  It was hard to get used to at first but I actually came to prefer it.” – Katie Arnold, The University of Arizona

The University of Washington
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“UW is located in the ‘University District’, and the many restaurants and sports bars that line the streets make it a student friendly town that is constantly full of excitement and buzz particularly on Friday nights and during the NFL seasons when the Seattle Seahawks play. UW’s FIUTS (The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students) organized many programs and events,  anging from orientation with tours of the enormous campus to trips over weekends and breaks, which made settling in and getting involved on campus easy. These events gave me the chance to meet my fellow exchange students, and it was with some of them that I explored the city and travelled together. From eating Pho on “the Ave” after classes to exploring surrounding neighbourhoods and travelling to other States, we have proved that it is possible to create meaningful connections with people from all over the world.” – Jane Khoo, The University of Washington

“UW offers a huge amount of academic support to assist you with your studies – the subject librarians and TA’s made my life a lot easier! UW also has subject specific writing centres, in which tutors will help by working one-on-one on your paper with you. UW also offers lots of service learning opportunities, in which students can take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to real life situations and organizations. I volunteered in several elementary schools, an environmental organization and a non-profit. These service learning activities gave me a way of engaging with the wider Seattle community and I would thoroughly recommend them. UW has hundred of clubs- everything from yoga to touch rugby, running, rock climbing, human rights, young Democrats/Republicans, sorority/frats, science, arts… the list goes on. Seattle is surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty- you are close to the Cascades and the Olympics—on a sunny day you will be able to see amazing Mount Rainier. Don’t believe the hype – the rain truly isn’t that bad!!” – Sophia Rive, University of Washington

The University of Texas at Arlington
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“Everything was big, really big, and bold. Texans are so warm, welcoming and so proud of their state and country, meaning they are very happy to share it with you. We’d often go out two-stepping (dancing) with friends at Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest Honky Tonk located in the Stock Yards in Fort Worth. Most nights there was a live country band playing. The place would be packed with people of all ages wearing cowboy boots, hats, rhinestone bootleg jeans and pretty white dresses, and a disco ball style saddle would rotate over the dance floor. You’d feel like you were in a different world. The food was incredible – the Tex-Mex was the best. My friends quickly learnt that I was always in the mood for tacos, so wherever we went, we were trying out the new Mexican and Artisan taco joints. My classes on campus were great. The teaching style was very interactive and the lecturers were much more personable which I appreciated. I took freshman US history and politics classes which helped me to understand the country on a much deeper level.” – Nicola Milne, The University of Texas at Arlington

“It was only once I arrived in Arlington that I was made aware of the fact that the city is the largest city in the USA with no public transport what-so-ever – a fact that they are strangely proud of. So I would encourage any students thinking about going to Arlington to make friends with people with cars quickly, or discover the wonder of 24/7 delivery Chinese food! Having a foreign accent was an easy way to quickly make friends, but living in an on-campus apartment with 3 other roommates definitely helped to make friends for life. The apartment also cost about half of what you would expect to pay for a four-bedroom apartment in Auckland. The cost of food was similar, although for non-processed, no preservatives, organic food… or just food that isn’t junk food, it got a bit more pricey. Texans I discovered are extremely patriotic about their state; treat football as a religion and their colleges like a cult; claim to have the best Mexican food (which they probably do); and also love their air conditioning – so much so that I had to bring a sweater to each lecture theater in the middle of their 40°C summer.” – Kelsey Muir, The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of California
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University of Auckland students can be placed at any of the University of California’s nine campuses throughout the state. These campuses are Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley.
Here are some thoughts from students on a few of those campuses!

“San Diego is an amazing place to live. While on some days it’s hot and humid, it is sunny with clear on most days and during my entire trip, it only rained twice (and according to the locals, even that was odd). On campus, there was always something to do. Whether it’s surfing at the beach, smores by the bonfire, hiking, pool movie nights, or carving pumpkins on Halloween. But one of the most memorable things I did was attending a hackathon called SD Hacks where I met 3 other students, formed a team and worked on creating an innovative mobile app for 36 hours straight with 1000 other students at a convention center. On weekends during the semester, we were full-time students busy attending lectures from leading professors in their field, finishing assignment and group projects but when it came to weekends, we were tourists busy exploring cities and making memorable experiences.” – Hayden Do, The University of California at San Diego

“UCSB has a beautiful campus right on the Pacific Ocean. Bicycle and skateboard lanes dictate the flow of students around the campus, and the small community is stuck in an eternal summer. Extracurricular clubs make it easy to meet new people and to get out of the town in the weekends. As students we were able to access a shed stocked with all camping and outdoors equipment to gear up for weekends away. My favourite parts of my exchange while attending UCSB came through this well-kept secret. The nicest parts of California are definitely not the big cities, but the ‘spaces between’. The resources at UCSB allowed students to get to the spaces between. The shorter UCSB quarter was not synonymous with my classes being easier. The education system at Santa Barbara was very different than in New Zealand – attendance is very strongly incentivized, homework is due weekly, and there is no real opportunity to slack throughout the entire quarter. This system took a long time to get used to, but now that I reflect on my time abroad I would say that I prefer this approach” – Brett Sceats, The University of California at Santa Barbara

“The campus is stunning, with beautiful gardens and mature trees throughout the neo-classical architecture. The caliber of teaching at the University was exceptional. Professors were world leaders in their fields, some with Nobel Prizes to their name. Professors were enthusiastic in teaching their chosen field, bringing to life even the driest of civil engineering technical detail. Every class had a student graduate instructor who provided extremely valuable feedback and tips for homework assignments and test. The semester in Berkeley was 15 straight weeks with no holidays in between, so I endeavored to travel most weekends. I covered most of California via road trips with American and exchange student friends and was very fortunate to stay with many American families. These opportunities really provided me with an insight into Californian culture and enabled me to see America from a less tourist like perspective. When I wasn’t travelling in the weekends, I was busy windsurfing with the Cal Sailing Club and exploring San Francisco City.” – David Mountfort, The University of California Berkeley

“I was able to quickly make new friends through international orientation, church fellowship and other clubs and activities. UC Davis is a really beautiful school. The campus is gigantic and filled with grass to sit on and trees to rest under. It has very impressive facilities, from its football stadium to its performing arts theatre. One of the nicest places to go was the arboretum, a riverside walkway filled with all kinds of plants and trees. The food there was pretty good too. Everything you’ve heard about American food is true; it’s cheaper and bigger. There are also an unhealthy amount of all you can eat and buffets. So while I was there, I was pretty much stuffing myself. Thankfully, there were also many opportunities to do physical activities. Unlike the University of Auckland, most students at UC Davis live quite close to campus. As a result, it was much easier for people to gather together and organize a time to play a game or sport over there than it is over here. Consequently, I was able to try many new sports and activities, such as volleyball, spikeball and swing dancing.” – Karl Zhu, The University of California Davis

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