Hey, everyone! It’s been just over a month since I’ve arrived at UC Berkeley, and I think it’s about time to share my first impressions, as well as the process in actually getting here.
Since I got my acceptance letter into UC Berkeley (which is a whole another process in itself, feel free to contact me), I had to juggle studying for finals with paperwork and visa applications. The international office at UC Berkeley do support you – including providing the DS-2019 eligibility certificate which is essential for a visa. You also have to have an interview at the US Consulate in Auckland. The atmosphere may intimidate you but as long as you have the correct documents, it’s not that bad. The J-1 visa was a long process that took well over a month, so my best advice would be to get onto that application as soon as possible. Another important thing to know would be that you do not have to have a return ticket to receive your visa, and while booking your flights early may save money, be sure that your visa is approved before then.
To get to Berkeley, you can either fly to San Francisco or Oakland (side note: my friends seem to think Oakland sounds the same as Auckland, it doesn’t). I flew to San Francisco via Sydney. What was tougher than the long flights was the jet lag. I left on the morning of Friday 10 August, and I landed in San Francisco in the morning of the same day.
Berkeley has an awesome network of alumni who are always willing to help out. If required, the international students are allowed to request free ‘temporary housing’, which is where you can stay with an alumni until the residence halls open for move-in day. I stayed with Joan in the town of San Leandro, on the eastern shore of San Francisco.
First impression of California? It was hot. But it was definitely nice to get away from the cold of the New Zealand winter.
After a couple of amazing days in San Leandro (which included a day trip to San Francisco), it was finally move-in day – and although I did not know what to expect, UC Berkeley did not disappoint. The campus is beautiful, with small nature trails and old, traditional buildings. UC Berkeley (also known as Cal) prides itself as the top public university in the world, and is internationally recognized as a prestigious research university. It was founded in 1868, has an intense rivalry with Stanford, and our mascot is Oski the bear.
An iconic feature of the campus is the Campanile, or Sather Tower, which is a fancy way of saying clock tower. It is taller than Stanford’s, and gives you an amazing view of the entire Bay Area. In front of the Campanile, is the 4.0 Ball – if you rub the ball before your finals, you’ll get good grades. Apparently.
Also, UC Berkeley is full of history and tradition – one of them being the Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began in the 1960’s.
The campus was everything I imagined and more, and I am super glad that I had the opportunity to come here. It was a long time coming, but definitely worth it. I’m excited to see this year play out and see what is in store, both in and outside of campus. I will be uploading more posts about life at Cal (including the Golden Bear Orientation) and California in general, so stay tuned!
If you’re ever considering going on an exchange, have questions about Berkley, or California in general, feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best!
Also, if you’re interested in seeing more of what I do, you can follow me on Instagram @haeyeon_angela!!
After over 6 months of preparation, 15 hours of flying, and a few thousand dollars, I’ve made it to Arlington Texas – my home for the next 4 months. So I thought I’d share some of my experiences from these first few weeks in the USA!
Preparation: It goes without saying, but there is a lot of work that has to be done prior to hopping on the plane, and a lot more once you’ve arrived. Of everything, the Visa and Course Approvals were the biggest headache for me, as each one takes time and requires filling out plenty of paperwork. All students coming into the US require an F-1 Visa, which can sometimes take months to process. I had to wait almost 3 months between filling out my online application, and having my interview at the US consulate, so it is crucial that you apply for the Visa as soon as you receive your acceptance letter. And for anyone stressing about the interview, it was super easy, as long as you remember to bring all the correct paperwork such as your passport and I-20 (provided by your host university). I actually spent more time queuing up than I did in the actual interview!
I chose to fly with Air New Zealand from Auckland to Los Angeles with a 2 day layover and then with American Airlines from LA to Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas. I purchased my flights back in May so I could get a cheap fare, this goes against the advice of the US consulate who tell you not to book flights before receiving your visa. So while it makes sense to book early, only do so if you are certain that your visa will arrive in time otherwise you’re looking at a pretty hefty fee to change your flight.
First Impressions of Texas:
Texans are extremely patriotic and are very proud of their state and its history. As it was once its own independent nation, it has a culture unlike any other state in America. The people I’ve met have been incredibly warm and welcoming and are always happy to help a lost and confused exchange student. The place where I’m staying, Arlington, is also the largest city in the US that has no public transport whatsoever! A testament to the fact that Americans drive EVERYWHERE, hence their public transport systems aren’t as well developed as cities like Auckland. This often means you need to be creative with how you get around, whether you rely on Uber, make friends with someone who owns a car, or walk, which I wouldn’t recommend since the temperature reaches well over 30 degrees most days.
UTA is actually of a similar size to UoA (about 40,000 students) however, since there is only one campus, everything is extremely spread out and since all the buildings look relatively similar, it can be tricky to find your way around for the first couple of weeks. However, one thing I love about the campus is that everything is flat, unlike Auckland. I definitely don’t miss walking up the hill from Carlaw Park to the OGGB every day! (Although the temperature difference here definitely makes up for the lack of hills.) UTA is also situated right in the middle of a residential area and unlike NZ, dairies or “convenience stores” are pretty scarce. Fortunately the campus hosts a decent range of food options, a bookstore, and even a free gym complete with a swimming pool!
Maverick Stampede (O-Week):
UTA’s version of O-Week is a 3 week “stampede” of 42 different events for students to take part in. It all kicked off the MavsMeet Convocation the day before classes. The school spirit in Texas is huge and the Convocation was insane! Motivational speakers, cheerleaders, fight songs, a full school band and confetti truly made it an experience I will never forget. This was followed by an after party with free food, snow cones, live music, and foosball! Other events over these 3 weeks included a foam party, movie nights, super service Saturday, and the activities fair, which is essentially a clubs expo.
I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the teaching style here in Texas. While in Auckland, most courses have 2-3 lectures per week of a few hundred students, all of my classes at UTA are small teaching sessions of no more than 50 people. This puts a greater emphasis on class participation, and makes it easier for professors to get to know you individually. Also, lectures are not recorded in most US Colleges, again putting a greater emphasis on actually showing up to class and paying attention. The courses here also put less weighting on the final exams (sometimes only about 30%) and opt to spread the workload out over the semester with assignments, tests, labs and quizzes. It’s also not unusual to have 2 finals on the same day as each other as the exam period only runs over about 6 days, rather than 3 weeks like back home.
Greek Life, better known as Fraternities and Sororities, plays a huge role in American College Culture and UTA is no different. I was lucky enough to be invited to my first Frat Party during the first week of classes and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Even if you don’t intend to join a Frat, the parties they host are a great way to meet people, and they are always pretty open during the rushing period. The party I went to had at least 100 people and the fact that you’re from New Zealand is a great conversation starter. And yeah, the movies don’t exaggerate the fact that Americans love their red solo cups!
I feel compelled to talk about this as most people tend to overlook it when coming to the US as the culture shift is not as big as it would be while living in Europe or Asia. For the most part, this is true, however I found that it’s the really subtle differences that add up over time. Things like the climate, time zone shifts, the way Americans speak and interact with you and the way the university operates are all slightly different from back home and can take a bit of getting used to which can leave you feeling pretty drained at times. I’m about a month into my exchange now and I think I’m almost there in terms of adjusting to American culture. Just be aware that culture shock does happen and it’s 100% normal. It always pays to talk to your host university’s international office if it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better as they have seen it all before and will be able to offer support.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve caught the travel bug since being on exchange. I’ve already been to LA, Austin, and Salt Lake City. I’ve currently got trips planned to Washington DC, Alaska, New York, and the Grand Canyon, and I’m hoping to get down to New Orleans, Houston, and Nashville before I leave so stay tuned to hear how they go!
I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have about applying/preparing for an exchange, or about the US in general. You can flick me an email me at email@example.com or if you want to follow my adventures then chuck me a follow on Instagram @josh.winnie.
It truly is unbelievable just how quick 10 months can pass, my time in the USA really felt like a blur. Well I am back in Auckland and thought that for my last post I will pretty much write down my final thoughts and some of the highlights from my two semesters in Chapel Hill.
For me, the two semesters spent at Chapel Hill was one of the best times of my life and I would do anything to relive that experience again. For those thinking about going abroad, I say do it! You will not regret a thing.
The first thing I want to talk about is the southern culture. For me personally, I loved the culture in North Carolina. Being in the south, I experienced southern hospitality, BBQs, sweet tea, s’mores, country music, as well as a southern campus experience. On the off occasion, I would even catch myself saying “y’all” rather than “you all,” much to the delight of the Americans. The South is a region that many do not consider when looking to visit the US. I simply cannot recommend it enough, especially if it’s for an exchange. Compared to other regions in the US, the lifestyle is so laidback, and I often drew comparisons to the lifestyle in New Zealand. The weather is great, the people are very friendly and if you like the outdoors, there are mountains, beaches rivers and lakes to explore. Did I already mention that you won’t freeze your ass off in winter?
You’d think that most of the highlights from an exchange are the places you visit and travel to. However, many of the best memories I made were in Chapel Hill. From going out at least four times a week (my liver can thank me for that), to learning new skills in boxing, I was always trying to make the most out of my short time at UNC. Notable highlights included football games on Saturdays, the state fair, Halloween on Franklin Street, the snow week at UNC, Holi-Moli, Bar-Golf and the last day of class (LDOC), just to name a few.
I was very lucky to have covered so much of the USA. Being on exchange for two semesters meant that I had way more time to see this vast country and meant I did not need to spend every weekend away from Chapel Hill. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic coast, I experienced the best the state of North Carolina offered. From the chilly north east cities of Boston and New York City, to sunny Florida, I explored much of the eastern United States, including the windy city of Chicago in the mid-west. At the end of the second semester, myself and a few mates ventured out west in a van and experienced some incredible scenery, as well as visiting the cities of LA, San Francisco and San Diego. The good thing about the F-1 student visa is that it allows up to 60 days in the United States after your studies have finished, so definitely take advantage of that!
Being on the same boat as all the other exchange students, it was so easy to make international friends. EASE provides an orientation as well as various events for international students to meet up, so it is a great way to form friendships. Americans are also very friendly and easy to get along with, however I found that many already had their own social circles, and they were heaps more focused on their studies than we were. In the fall semester, we had formed a big international group (with some Americans) and did everything together, from hanging out to traveling. Travelling with a group of internationals is also so much fun. Some of my best memories came from hiring out massive Air Bnbs, be it in Asheville or Chicago, and just having an awesome time away. Many of the exchange students do leave after a semester, but this meant I became quite close to the one year-ers in the second semester. Having mates from all over the world is sound because I now have a place to stay and a couch to crash on in all corners of the world.
Firstly, I just want to say a huge thanks to 360 International, the University of Auckland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for giving me this opportunity to study in the United States. I also want to say thanks to my family and friends back in New Zealand for supporting me every single step of the way, and for when times get tough (yes it isn’t all roses!). And finally, a massive thank you to all the incredible people I have met throughout my time at UNC Chapel Hill, both International and American. Without them, the experience would not have been the same for sure. That goes to say that no matter where you go in the world, in the end, the fondest memories are made with the people you are with. And no doubt you will meet a bunch of legends like I did when you go abroad. My time at UNC may be up, but I will forever be a Tar Heel. Cheers!
I thought that I would include this in my previous blog however I think it’s best it has its own separate section.
So yeah, sports in college are a big deal. And sports at UNC are an even bigger deal. Known as the Tar Heels, UNC is one of the top Universities in America when it comes to varsity sports. Our Basketball program is incredibly successful, winning the NCAA national championship 6 times and producing the great Michael Jordan. Our Football team is also decent however we did have an off year when I was at UNC. The baseball team made it to the final four and produces many MLB stars. The most successful team is the women’s soccer team. They have won 22 out of 36 championships and produced stars such as Mia Hamm. So yeah, you can say that the Tar Heels aren’t too bad.
If you go during the fall semester, you will be experiencing the Football season. While UNC isn’t known to be a Football school, it still plays at a very high level. Home games are played at Kenan Stadium with a capacity of 60,000 people.
Gameday is a big affair. Tailgates are set up all over campus, with BBQs, drinking and games. Alumni meet up with old friends, and the marching band parades around campus. Frats normally host day parties (Darties) and many students like to cake themselves in Carolina blue. The game itself is a great experience. There is lots of noise, especially in the student section, and lots of colour. At the end, the crowd links arms and everyone sings the alma meter “Hark the Sound”, it truly is a special moment. Even if you dislike American football, it is a great idea to at least stay for one quarter as it is a great way to immerse yourself into the school spirit.
But whilst Football seems like a big deal, it does not come close to Basketball. The season is longer, and games are more frequent, yet the interest and support never dwindles. Games are played at the 21,000 capacity Dean Smith Centre and can be a bit of a trek since it is located on south campus. Most games are open general admission for students if you have your one card, however for the more important games, there is a lottery system. Basically, you apply and hope that your name gets selected for a ticket. I personally think it is rigged since I went 0-12 in the lottery. That did not stop me from finding tickets however and more importantly, I was able to watch the Duke game.
On the topic of basketball, we have this huge rivalry with another successful Basketball School called Duke (better known as Dook) who happen to be 9 miles down the road from us. Every year, we play them twice, home and away. Before coming to UNC, I had already heard of this rivalry and I was so excited to experience it. It began with lining up with other students for two hours to get into the stadium, such was the occasion. The noise inside the stadium was unlike anything I had experienced. It was constantly loud. When Theo Pinson dunked to seal the win, the place erupted. Next, we pushed our way out of the stadium and with thousands of other students, sprinted through campus towards Franklin Street. Within minutes, Franklin Street was packed with students celebrating the win. There was chanting, dancing, couch burning and fire-jumping, it was nuts! Beating Duke and rushing Franklin was probably the highlight of my time at UNC and must be experienced if you are there in the spring semester.
Franklin Street kicking off! Rushing Franklin is never complete without a jump over the fire. (Not responsible for any injury that may occur)
I hope you enjoyed this introduction on UNC sports and my experience in rushing Franklin. Funnily enough, you can probably catch UNC games on the telly if it is shown by ESPN. And also, go Heels!
Hello again! In this post I want to talk about what life is like at UNC from work to play.
So, most students at UNC will find their classes to be based on north campus (unless you happen to be in the business school). On north campus, there is a mix of both old and new buildings where there is a good chance you will have a class. Also, on north campus are three main libraries both relatively large and unique in their own ways. Davis is the giant, no thrills, brick building with 7 floors. The ground floor is open-spaced and quite social, but the further up you go, the quieter it gets. Many think it looks like a prison. Second is Wilson. The building is located right on the quad and is the most good looking out of the three. Finally, there is the UL which is open 24/7 and is the perfect place to pull an all-nighter if you are unfortunate in leaving an assignment until the last day.
Of course, UNC isn’t all about work and study. We do have plenty of free time to unwind! Normally when there is a little break in between class, I like to spend time hanging around the pit or in the quad. The pit is the central hub of the University and is the equivalent to Auckland’s quad. It is essentially a large paved square that is surrounded by the student store, student union and Lenoir dining hall. The union is a great place to chill out, especially when the weather is bad. You can find ping pong tables, pool tables, a giant chess board and even a meditation room.
The student store is another cool place to chill. There’s a café, convenience store, and a book store as well as all the UNC merch you can imagine.
Next to the pit is the quad known as Polk Place. When the weather is nice, many UNC students love to chill on the lawn and brave their hay fever allergies. It is conveniently close to classes and if you are lucky, you may see the pit preacher giving a lecture.
If you are into sport and recreation, UNC has all the facilities you can imagine. There are two main recreation centres: Rams located on south campus, and Fetzer gym located on mid campus. You can go to the gym, climb a wall, or even play a game of basketball. There are plenty of playing fields, swimming pools and a large astro turf which is popular for soccer and ultimate frisbee. However, you do get plenty of exercise simply from walking around campus and many students also like to use bikes to get around. Go to the rec centre to find out about any events, such as bubble soccer!
In terms of nightlife UNC has plenty of options. Obviously, the US has a drinking age of 21 so it can sometimes be difficult to cope if you are underage. House parties happen all the time so if you are outgoing, open and involved, you should have no problems finding parties especially if you are international. There is the option of Greek life however joining a frat takes about 6 months of initiation and can be quite pricey as well as time consuming. Same goes with joining a sorority. With Greek life, the best option is to be friendly with people involved with Greek life if you are keen to get involved with social events and parties. Normally, frats are selective with who they invite to their parties but on some occasions, parties are pretty open, especially during rushing season, Halloween, and LDOC (last day of class). As you can imagine, American house parties are very much like the movies with the red solo cups, beer pong and party juice.
If you are over 21, you can add bars to the list of evening options. Franklin street has a range of bars to choose from each with their own kind of vibe. For me, I did a bit of everything. Most of the exchange students knew each other and we would often pregame together at a house and head either to the same party or bar on Franklin. In semester one, it was all about the bar “Country Fried Duck” or CFD however in semester two, nobody went there anymore. The bar “La Residence” essentially became the new CFD.
Another bar I love is He’s Not Here. Apparently the place received that name because Michael Jordan would frequently have a drink there and fans would always ring up the bar asking where he was, to which the bar replied with “he’s not here.” The bar is famous for its blue cups and has an awesome beer garden to which you can spend warm sunny afternoons listening to a live band and sipping beer.
Another popular destination is Shooters. Shooters is club located in nearby Durham and is the place where all the Duke students party. On Wednesday nights, the club becomes and 18+ venue and many from UNC take party buses to Durham for the big night. This is a great option especially if you are underage. Other iconic bars are He’s Not Here, Might as Well, Goodfellow’s, Pantana Bob’s and Top of the Hill.
So yeah that’s the general idea on what life is like at UNC. There is heaps I probably have missed out on but perhaps the best thing to do is to find out for yourself!
The clubs and organisations to get involved with at the University of Virginia (UVA) are endless. With over 700 clubs and organisations, this means almost everyone is involved with one or more in some way. I’ll outline the club and organisations that I’m involved in this semester.
The Cavalier Daily
The Cavalier Daily is UVA’s student newspaper and is ranked the number 2 public college paper in the United States. I joined the Cavalier Daily Photo team which provides pictures for online and print articles. I have covered a range of assignments including taking photos of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito at the Women’s Global Leadership Forum, a UVA Faculty Senate meeting, and a Charlottesville City Council candidate debate. The highlight for me has been taking photos from the courtside in John Paul Jones Arena, the home of UVA Basketball!
Profit with Purpose at UVA
Profit with Purpose (PwP) is a relatively new club with a focus on Impact Investing. PwP aims to “empower students to think about investing differently.” Impact Investing is a concept which aims to deliver quantifiable social or environmental impacts along with a financial return. For example, this could be through a social housing initiative or a low-cost healthcare solution. PwP members work in five sector groups which consult with a real organisation. This culminates with an investment pitch to industry experts at the end of the semester.
Virginia Case Club
Virginia Case Club (VCC), based in the McIntire School of Commerce, prepares its members to complete in business case competitions. The club runs workshops on the components of a case along with practical presentation skills. Members work in case teams during the semester and compete in local and national case competitions. If you’re interested in learning more about the case study method and consulting frameworks this is a club for you!
Outdoors at UVA
This is one of the best value clubs out there! After joining as a member, you have access to a range of outdoor trips around Charlottesville, across Virginia, and further abroad. Outdoors at UVA trip leaders plan and manage over 300 trips a year, and the club has outdoors gear such as bikes and camping equipment that members can borrow for free. So far with the club I’ve been on trips around Charlottesville and to the McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail.
HackCville is a non-profit which aims to teach UVA students skills that aren’t found in the classroom, particularly those related to entrepreneurship. The organisation offers public events, semester-long classes on subjects such as marketing, data science, and web design, along with paid internships through the Launch Academy. Although I have been too busy to do a semester-long course, HackCville also runs startup trips which expose students to ventures in various industries. I went on the Charlottesville and New York City startup trips. They were great experiences to tour offices and learn from founders of diverse companies, not to mention the opportunity to visit New York for a weekend! I was surprised by the number of innovative startups I saw, particularly in Charlottesville, which has been named the United States’ fastest-growing venture capital city.
Some of the companies visited during the New York City Startup Trip
As I’m sure you’ve seen above, student clubs and organisations are a large part of the UVA experience, so I’d recommend exploring what’s available early in the semester!
If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.
What many people think when asked about the typical American meal is something that is served quickly, eaten quickly, large and kinda on the unhealthy side of things. Whilst it is true that Americans love to eat Burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken wings and there is a lot more that the US and North Carolina can offer to excite those taste buds.
Chapel Hill has a great foodie scene. There are a range of different places to eat, from high end restaurants, to takeaway burger joints all of which can be found on Franklin Street. There are Italian, Indian, Japanese and Greek restaurant as well as classic American diners. My personal favourite places to eat in Chapel Hill are Al’s Burger Shack, Spicy 9, Tru, and Sup Dogs. There are still heaps of places that I haven’t tried yet so that list can change in an instant.
As for the cuisine in North Carolina, like many of the southern states, barbeque is a big deal over here. The state’s speciality is pulled pork which is pretty much pork that has been shredded up. Fried Chicken is also a big deal and if you do venture to North Carolina, visit a Bojangles restaurant as they do some quality chicken and hearty southern cuisine. Another great way to experience American food culture is to head to the annual North Carolina State fair. If you are lucky enough to spend the fall semester in North Carolina, you will have no problem finding endless displays of deep fried oreos, candy and giant turkey legs at the annual state fair. North Carolinians are big on Sweet Tea when it comes to quenching one’s thirst. I kinda see what the fuss is all about especially during the summer months when a cold drink becomes a godsend. But for me, it felt like I was drinking a cup of cup of tea that I had left behind on the kitchen table with an excess amount of sugar.
You will have no problem finding good places to eat while you’re in Chapel Hill. Since we are on the topic of food, I should talk about the situation with meal plans at UNC. UNC has two Dining halls: Lenoir and Chase. There is another at Granville towers, but it is run separately. Both are conveniently located with Lenoir on North Campus and Chase on South Campus. To eat at these halls, you can pay as you go with cash or card, or you can purchase a meal plan and use your Onecard (like a student id card) to swipe yourself in. Depending on what meal plan you choose, you get a certain number of swipes. Some pay for an unlimited plan where they can go into the dining hall as often as possible without worrying about running out of swipes. Others opt for the 120 plan where you are given 120 swipes for the semester. I opted for the 120 plan because it was the cheapest option and allows me to use the dining hall approximately once a day. The dining halls are open all day and depending on the time, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a great variety of food which caters to just about everyone, and it is extremely convenient.