University of Richmond, Virginia

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1 University of Richmond, Virginia Semester 1, 2014 School of Arts and Sciences Major: Art History Holi Festival Internationals go Ice Skating! I studied for one semester at the University of Richmond in Virginia, and I had some of the most exciting, amazing, and valuable experiences of both my university education and my life. I have come away with some truly wonderful memories, and important new perspectives for life in New Zealand as well as the wider world. Saying goodbye at the end of one semester was a very difficult task, especially as those four months flew by in no time. If you are able to do a full year at the University of Richmond and are unsure if it will be too long for you, I would definitely recommend trying to go for two semesters; there is no doubt that it will be over before you know it. Accommodation Almost 100% of the undergraduate student population live on campus, which makes for an awesome living environment because all of your friends are never far, so it s very easy to socialise. Most of the dorms are very close together, and the university apartments are only an easy ten minute walk away. I was in Keller hall, which is co-ed dorm and a wonderful four minute walk from the dining hall, and conveniently attached to the art and art history building where I had my morning lectures. The dorm rooms vary in size, but will always have

2 your bed, desk, set of drawers and a wardrobe, which all have plenty of storage. I was lucky enough to have a private ensuite attached to my room, so I can t say much about having to share a bathroom with a whole floor, but the bathrooms are cleaned regularly, and the facilities are pretty nice. It is most likely that you will have a roommate, and this is pretty much luck of the draw, although they do ask you to fill out a questionnaire to match you with someone who you will hopefully get along with. My roommate and I became very close and got on really well, but it definitely takes some time getting used to someone having to share a small private space, and getting to know each other s routine. The housing office are really great if you have any problems early on with your roommate, as I know a number of people who switched rooms for various reasons, but it becomes more difficult later into the semester. Money Matters Things are generally way cheaper in America, and because you have already paid for accommodation and food, you only have to pay for extras such as travel, transport, souvenirs and activities. It really depends on how much you want to do and buy, but you can get a long way on a little in general. The most expensive things are flights, and tickets for some more popular or prestigious attractions. I took about $8,000USD, travelled a lot both during and after semester, bought quite a lot, and still had money left over. Academics/Course Load The style of teaching and learning is very different at Richmond. I found that I did a lot more reading there than I do at Otago. This is because classes are a lot smaller (my largest was twelve people), and most classes will give a percentage of your grade towards how much you participate and contribute in class. You are expected to have done the readings for class and to be able to discuss them. Because of the class size, it will be noted if you do not attend, and most professors will only allow two or three absences before they begin to lower your grade for each absence. At Otago, my papers, as arts papers, usually have two or three essays and tests worth and a final exam, whereas at Richmond I had weekly assignments for two of my classes, all worth less, but quite a few of them. When it came to exams, one of my classes didn t have one, and another one was a paper to write in your own time and in, and none of my exams were worth a large percentage of my final grade. This was very different, and a difficult change to adjust to, however, in general I found teachers to mark much more generously, and I did not feel I worked as hard for good grades. Transportation the Richmond campus is fairly isolated. There a many regular shuttles running to town and to various shops like Target and Walmart, but if you miss one you may end up waiting a

3 while, and they can be less constant on weekends. I recommend making friends with people with cars, but it is certainly not essential because there is always something going on campus. It is about a minute taxi ride into town. Weather Arriving in the start of January was freezing cold, and I bought up lots of layers fast. The record I experienced was about -20 degrees Celsius. There were occasional snow storms which would result in days off of school, and the campus is absolutely gorgeous when it snows, like something out of a fairy tale. It was very cold for the first few months, but all of the dorms and other buildings are kept wonderfully warm, and I was never once too cold trying to go to sleep; or waking up in the middle of the night too cold. Unlike Dunedin, it is hardly windy, not as rainy, and even when it is freezing the skies are blue Be prepared for real winter if you go in January, but take comfort in the fact that it warms up Eating The dining hall, or Dhall, is amazing. Not only is it a great place to just spend time catching up with everyone, but they have a great selection of food. There s always pizza, pasta, a fried food station, a vegetarian station a salad bar, breads and bagels, and endless varieties of desserts. They also have stations that regularly rotate what they serve, such as omelettes, burgers, Indian, Subs, burritos, noodles, stir fry, and a different meat and vegetable selection. There is plenty to choose from and it all tastes really good for dining hall food. There are other food places on campus, for example a Starbucks, smoothie bar, grill, and bar and restaurant. At these you can spend money that is pre-loaded onto your student ID, called dining dollars, and you have an allowance of these as part of your meal plan. They also serve really good food. Things to do/places to go As I mentioned before, there are always events happening on campus, day and night. Greek life, that is the fraternities and sororities, have a sizeable presence on campus and often hold events. There are usually several frat parties every weekend, often with themes, or if you want something smaller there are often parties being thrown at the forest apartments. Aside from parties, there are often cultural events, from theatre performances, to A Cappella and improv groups, to nights based on celebrating different cultures. There are endless sports and cultural groups to be a part of, and opportunities to get off campus through these groups. Being in Virginia, it is not a long bus ride to get to places such as DC, New York, or south to North Carolina, and buses are usually cheap, if a little slow. Even Virginia itself has a lot of history, especially relating to the American civil war, and a lot of places relating to this history, for example colonial Williamsburg or Thomas Jefferson s house Monticello.

4 If your exchange is in the first semester, or their spring semester, you will have spring break, which is a great chance to travel to somewhere warm and wonderful. I was lucky enough to go to the Bahamas with a package deal that included the works which was awesome, but other big spring break destinations include Cancun, Miami, and other parts of Florida. This is a wonderful experience and a ton of fun. Make sure to plan ahead for spring break, as places book up fast. At the end of spring semester everybody from Richmond heads south to Myrtle Beach for beach week, which is a total blast, as you get to celebrate the semester you ve had with all the people you met. Again, make sure to book ahead for this as it is something most of the campus does. You ll never be short of things to do, and every experience, whether big or small, is something valuable to your exchange, whether it is travelling to new cities, going hiking around Richmond, or having a night out at the bar before heading to a party. Tips Make sure you have all of your documentation organised before you go, and in one place so it is easy to manage, and when you need it, everything is there. The sooner you sort your visa the better, as it is a long process that takes time and a trip to Auckland. Most things are easy to organise, but don t leave anything to the last minute, especially flights as they will shoot up in price. While America is fairly similar to New Zealand in many ways, so the culture shock is minimal, there are still differences that will lead to miscommunication. There are certain kiwi words that they just don t understand, some of which I didn t even realise were kiwi until being over there and receiving confused looks. Because we see so much American TV in NZ, it was usually easy to understand what they meant when they used different words for things, but they wouldn t understand our words. While the other New Zealanders I was with didn t have much of a problem, my accent is apparently particularly strong, particularly with my E s, and I found myself pronouncing words in an American accent, even my name. I didn t realise at first that people had trouble understanding me, so if you do receive confused looks, keep in mind it could be because they are struggling with the accent. In saying that, Americans love the kiwi accent, even if they don t always understand you! Do not forget that America has different power outlets to NZ, and if you want to use appliances from home then you NEED power adapters, and it is way easier to get them here than when you are over there, as ones for New Zealand are difficult to locate in America. The drinking age in America is 21, so if you are under 21 you cannot buy alcohol, and most clubs will not let you in, although some clubs are 18 and over, you just can t buy drinks. Alcohol is fairly easy to access on campus, especially at frat parties, but they have a very

5 strict open container policy, so if you are caught with an open bottle or can outside (not including open areas that are part of clubs, bars or restaurants) you will get in trouble; this is both on campus and off, regardless of your age. If you aren t 21, spring break destinations such as Mexico and the Bahamas have a drinking age of 18 which you may want to consider. Don t forget that you only have a limited amount of time on exchange. While study is important, definitely grab hold of any opportunities that pop up, because who knows when they might come along again. Because everyone is on campus it is so easy to socialise and do things, so don t hide in the library and forget where you are. An exchange is a terrific thing, and Richmond has so much to offer, so go for it! At the Cellar Ring Dance, like a debutante ball My lovely Roommate and I

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