What is the best thing about Boston?
Boston is an amazing place! Although the winters are absolutely freezing, it’s a great city with a really strong sense of community. With over 100 universities in the area, there’s a great student feel and overall, it’s a very young city. Harvard, MIT and Berklee College of Music often host free events and gigs – I saw a talk from Eric Schmidt, the ex-CEO of Google, and my friend went to a lecture series from Herbie Hancock. Boston is also in a great location – New York is 4 hours away by bus and Washington DC a 1.5 hour flight. The New England area around Boston is also great to explore, including Provincetown, Rhode Island and Salem.
What unexpected challenges did you face?
With so many places to visit and activities to do, it was very easy to neglect my university work. I found that in America, the homework is a lot more regular and you often have something due each class. Make sure you allocate some time each week to get it done. It can be a bit hard to adjust to this routine but working with other students can help you stay on track.
Period on Exchange: Semester 1, 2012
What courses did you study?
- Intellectual Property Survey
- Trademark and Unfair
- Competition Law
- Tax Law 1
Why did you choose that university?
I had always wanted to complete an exchange semester in the USA. The UNSW Law Faculty has not been able to send undergraduate law students over to Boston College Law School for an extended period of time as there has been a difficulty in literally exchanging the students to come to UNSW, due to all law schools in the USA being postgraduate. However, with a new dean appointed at the BCLS, I was able to be sent as the first student to start up the program again. Boston College is a highly-ranked American university both for their undergraduate and postgraduate programs and is situated in a historic and beautiful city nestled in the north-east of America, right above NYC (my favourite city in the world)!
How does studying law overseas compare to studying at UNSW?
Law schools in America are particularly prestigious institutions that require a separate entrance examination upon graduating from a prior degree. Knowing this, I was a little nervous in transitioning to BCLS. However, identical to UNSW, the Socratic method of teaching was employed at BCLS and I felt right at home. The teachers were just as qualified and supportive as they are at UNSW. I would say professors at BCLS were more lenient and made a true effort to get to know you at a personal level. A particular difference was that the assessments for all my subjects comprised of 100% final exams. Further, be aware that as it is postgraduate study, the student body were all significantly older in age; however, you can also become great friends with all the undergraduate exchange students through events and so forth, so that is really no concern.
What was the cost of living compared to Australia?
Like the majority of local students at UNSW, I live at home in Sydney and don’t pay rent or grocery expenses. As such, these were the most profound cost of living differences, but in terms of eating out/ drinking/partying, it’s similar or cheaper than Sydney. However, shopping and liquor in Boston/America is MUCH cheaper. If I’m not incorrect, there is no tax on clothing in Massachusetts on purchases below a certain amount. The outlets in Massachusetts are also absolutely fantastic.
What was your accommodation arrangement?
I used the Boston College Off-Campus Roommate Finder. American undergraduate students all have a 4 year degree and at BC it is far more common than not for 3rd year students (‘juniors’) to go on exchange for a semester. Furthermore, at BC undergraduate students are only guaranteed 3 years of on-campus housing so 90% of all juniors/3rd years live off campus as most of them will go on exchange for a semester at some point in the year and will be unable to sign a year-long dorm lease. As exchange students generally do not get on-campus housing, we usually fill the spots in these 3rd year off-campus houses of BC students who go abroad for the semester.
I lived in a large house (as is common in Boston) with 3 levels and a basement. It was split into two separate residences (in that there was a main door for the entire house and then another 2 doors you can choose to go in to). One of these housed 6 boys on the first floor. And we comprised the two top levels – 10 girls, 8 of those who were American BC students, a NZ exchange student and myself. There are many streets off-campus that are pretty much filled with BC students so it’s great to live around these areas.
What were the highlights of your experience?
Making life-long friends from all over the world, attending great music festivals, getting to travel before (Asia), during (USA & Mexico) and after exchange (Europe) and living in a reality that wasn’t really real! You’ll potentially never have the opportunity to live in a foreign country, immersed in a university environment, whilst not working and getting to travel and meet so many others in the exact same situation as you.
What were the main challenges you faced, if any?
America is profound in popular culture, a lot of the stereotypes you see are real and a few are not. The culture is not difficult to settle into at all – people at BC are super friendly and get really excited when they realise that you’re an exchange student. My roommates were all absolutely amazing people, though I am aware of other exchange students who had trouble settling into the ‘cliques’ that were pre-established in their houses.