Kessia Virah-Sawmy: My USA exchange adventures!

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Ferry to visit The Statue of the Liberty

As promised, this week I’m going to give you all a glimpse of my adventures while on exchange in the USA…

My fabulous adventure started off in the freezing American winter. God answered my prayers by allowing me to see snowfall for the first time even for just one day and of course there was no question about jumping in the snow and making a snow-angel. I spent my first cold Christmas in Ohio with two of my American exchange friends who I had met at JCU. They were so welcoming to me and wanted me to experience all the stereotypical American things that make up their culture. I got to have my own stockings for Christmas, drink egg nog on Christmas day, have a big family dinner with lots and lots of food, eat pumpkin pie, have peanut butter cups and the best of all dress up for winter with winter coats and booties.

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Failed snow-angel (Just happy to lie on snow)

6 After Christmas and New Year, I flew to the warmer Miami to start my exchange semester. Miami is just as you see it on TV, very luxurious with huge mansions and rich people, famous nightclubs and lots and lots of restaurants. South Beach, Downtown Miami and Key Biscayne are just a few of my favourite places in Miami. There are always concerts, cultural shows or food festivals all over the city. Miami is also well known for its very prominent latin vibe. The first language in the city is definitely Spanish. Most of the Americans living in Miami speak Spanish since it is a huge advantage to do so. Cuban food was something I had never tasted but it quickly became one of my favourites. And of course, America is well known for its fast food chains. You could see a fast food at every 100m, from Denny’s, Mc Donald’s, to Wendy’s.

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Sunset overlooking the lake

Once I got to the University of Miami, I was very surprised by how big the campus was. The university is made up of different schools and each one has its own designated area. The most beautiful feature of the campus was of course the lake that was right in the middle of campus. In the evening, you would have the most amazing sunset overlooking the lake.

While on exchange, I decided to live on campus to be able to meet people more easily which turned out to be true. I met both Exchange students and Americans on college. Living on campus meant having to share a room with someone who I had never met before but it turned out being quite nice since I got along with my roommate. The dining hall offered so many food choices from burgers to pizzas to curries to pasta to sandwiches and salads. The classes were a lots smaller in size compared to JCU and students there ask questions all the time. The university has its own Marine campus on Key Biscayne which is 40 mins away from the main campus, facing the sea. I had the opportunity to have two classes there and to have the beach right next to classes was just incredible. In my free time, I did lots of fun stuff like playing the flute in the University band or going diving which was rather cheap. There is always something happening on campus from themed-parties to concerts to fairs and of course free-food!!!

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Disneyworld

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Ready to eat the baby alligator (just kidding)

I had the incredible chance to visit other places while in the US. During lecture recess, I went to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, I visited New York and Washington DC after the semester and I got to do a road trip to the Florida Keys where we camped and went diving. I did things that I never thought I would do, from travelling alone to doing scary upside down roller coasters and holding baby alligators.

I could go on and on about all the amazing adventures but I guess that the most important part is that I learned a lot and have grown so much from this experience. I first went there as a scared girl who had no idea what was ahead and did not know what to expect of this new country. But I came back to Australia with more confidence, with a head full of memories and a will to discover more of the world. If I can give you an advice, don’t be scared to have new adventures while at university, make use of all the opportunities you have, and doing an exchange is part of it.

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