Name: Irene van Tilborg E-mail:

Experience Report – International Exchange
Study Program:
Exchange semester:
Academic year:
Host University:
Irene van Tilborg
[email protected]; [email protected]
Spring 2015
University of Arizona
United States of America
General Information
When I applied for the University of Arizona, I actually never heard about Tucson. Tucson is
actually quite big and the city is very spread out. The University is in the middle of the city and
almost everyone is driving a car. Tucson is not a very bike friendly city, but it’s easy to go by bike
to a lot of places. The area around the UofA is very nice, the University Boulevard is the street in
front of the entrance of the University and there are a lot of shops and nice places to eat and to go
out. Gentle Ben’s was one of our favorite places to go out and because of the high temperatures,
many places got roof terraces. Fourth Avenue is a 5 minute walk from the University Boulevard,
this is a kind of hippy street and there are a lot of shops and nice places to eat and to go out here
as well like the Hut, Malloney’s and the Wreck. Downtown Tucson is the business center, it’s
enjoyable as well and there are a couple of nice places to go out like High Fi and Hotel Congress
and the Hub and Riley’s for food. I didn’t really know what to expect before my arrival, but Tucson
is a real student city and I really started to appreciate this town after a while. The surroundings
are amazing, because Tucson is surrounded by a lot of mountains. Each time when I biked to Fry’s
(the grocery store) and the University, I really enjoyed my view. The sunsets in Arizona are
amazing, because of the desert climate the sun goes down no later than 8 p.m. When I arrived in
January, the temperature was already around 20 °C and it became warmer every single month.
Before I left to the States, I was expecting that America would be similar to Europa in some aspects.
However, when I arrived I did noticed a lot of differences. Not only the small differences, like the
use of miles instead of kilometers and Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, but also for example the fact
that you have to pay people with a bank check and the unorganized public transportation. I have
learned a lot about the whole education and care system in America and I was quite surprised
sometimes how everything is arranged, because I do know now that it’s a lot better in the
Netherlands. I did expected some differences between American and European people and this
was exactly the case. American people are very friendly, however sometimes they are a little bit
too enthusiastic. It was quite funny at some points, but it is for sure exaggerated at some moments
and you can notice that people don’t really mean what they are saying sometimes. People can be
very superficial and I really had to get used to this in the beginning of my exchange.
Before I left, the University of Arizona send me some information about on-campus housing,
(that’s the option to live in the dorms) and some off-campus housing. I arranged off-campus
housing before I left and when I arrived in Tucson, I was able to go into my room immediately. I
was really glad that I arranged my room on forehand, because I did not had to worry about it
anymore when I arrived. I have seen the dorms as well, they are quite expensive (around $750
per month) and you have to share your room with a freshman most of the times. I lived at College
Town on Euclid ( and I had to pay first month’s rent and
deposit when I arrived. It’s a 10 minute bike ride to the UofA, it is very close to Fry’s which was
very easy and it was compared to other apartments a cheaper one. There was a pool, a jacuzzi and
some barbecue grills which we used very often. I knew a lot of people who lived at the District on
5th and Campus Walk, which were both very nice apartments and around $600-700 per month.
Campus Walk ( is a 2 minute walk from the University
Boulevard and the District on 5th ( is behind Fourth Avenue, so
it’s close to Downtown and the University both.
Living in Tucson is basically living in the desert. I expected that it was going to be very dry and not
that pretty, but there are palm trees and cacti everywhere. In February, it was already between
25-30 °C so I basically skipped the winter. Luckily, the heat in Tucson is dry heat and not human
heat, so it’s actually a nice environment and it feels like summer all the time. I did a lot of hiking
around Tucson, the mountains with all the cacti are very pretty and rare. Sabino Canyon and
Mount Lemmon are two mountain areas where you can do a lot of hikes and they are very close
to Tucson.
All the travels I did with the international people I met were amazing. I was lucky with my
schedule at the UofA, I did not had any classes on Monday and Friday, so I was able to do a lot in
the weekends. My advice, go see as much as possible during your time in the States, because it is
definitely worth it. I went to San Diego, LA, Las Vegas, the Super Bowl in Phoenix, White Sands,
the Grand Canyon, Mexico and many more other places. You can rent a car very easily and it is also
very fun to do road trips with people from all over the world, because the differences between
cultures became very obvious in those trips.
Before I left to the States, many people told me that I was going to eat fast food all the time.
Unfortunately, it is true that it’s hard to eat healthy all the time in America. There are many fast
food places and it is quite cheap to go out for dinner as well compared to the Netherlands.
However, I lived close to the grocery store and they offered a lot of fruits. It took me 3 months to
find a bread that wasn’t sweetened, but luckily I found one. You can buy a lot of vegetables in the
grocery stores as well, the only thing is, it is more expensive compared with home. I did missed
the good fresh food from home, but it is not impossible to eat healthy in the States. I also drunk a
lot of water, because it is was warm outside, so that helped a lot as well.
Even though I’ve seen a lot of people with obese, sports are very important at the UofA. All the
sport teams are called ‘the Wildcats’ and they are beyond popular. I’ve seen a couple of basketball
games, a baseball game, an ice hockey game and the spring football game. You can buy the Zonazoo
pass for $150, with this pass you can get access for free to many games during the semester. The
Zonazoo area in the stadiums is a special area for students of the UofA. I did not buy the pass,
because you have to line up very early to be able to get a seat and it was cheaper for me to just buy
tickets for each game separate. The basketball team of the UofA won the 12-pack this year, which
is the American competition between universities, so this was an amazing experience. I also went
to a NBA game in Phoenix, which is the biggest basketball competition of the United States. Sports
are a major thing in America and the recreation center at the UofA was also huge. It was super
modern, compared to the library and other buildings, and you can do every single sport you want.
There is a big swimming pool, you can do a lot of group lessons or just fitness. I did butts ‘n guts,
spinning, body pump and yoga very often and I really liked it.
Practical Information
In December 2013 I received the letter from Tilburg University that I was allowed to go on
exchange to the University of Arizona during the Spring semester 2015. I received the first
information in the beginning of September 2014 and I had to arrange a lot of things before the
12th of September. I needed a bank statement, I had to fill in some questionnaires, I needed my
transcript to be translated in American characters and I had to do a TOEFL-test for my language
proficiency. I was waiting for information a long time and now I needed to do all this stuff in such
a short time. After this, I had to wait until I would get some information again. On the 11 th of
November, I received the information from the University of Arizona that I was accepted. They
send me the DS-2019, which you need when you are applying for a J-1 VISA. I went to the embassy
in Amsterdam in the beginning of December and I received the VISA sticker in my passport a week
later. I thought on forehand that I could apply for a VISA already three months before, but keep in
mind that applying to the host university and sending them your paperwork is already a part of
your VISA procedure.
Orientation week
The orientation week started on the 6th of January. I booked a ticket from Amsterdam to Phoenix
on the 2nd of January. It’s way more cheaper than flying to Tucson and there is a shuttle from the
airport in Phoenix to the University in Tucson for $40. The University of Arizona does not arrange
anything, so you really have to find everything on your own. The orientation week was absolutely
not the same as the TOP-week. It was actually quite boring and they really have to improve this
week in my opinion. On the first day, they only made a copy of my passport, I had to fill in some
papers and they took a photo for my catcard. Luckily, I met other exchange students that day and
we got connected very fast, because everyone felt a little bit lost. The other days were not very
well organized either, but luckily there were some events where you could meet all the other
exchange students as well.
Studying abroad is quite expensive and especially America is not the cheapest destination. You
have to pay many things for your VISA, like the TOEFL-test, a new special photo, the SEVIS fee and
the VISA fee. This is unfortunately only the beginning of a lot of mandatory fees. When I applied
for this destination, I read the costs for a health insurance. However, when I arrived in Arizona I
had to pay the UofA another $1000 for fees. The health insurance became way more expensive
($1480), so I had to pay the UofA almost $2500 in the first month. Nobody told me this when I
applied, so I was not amused. I truly think that it’s totally worth to go to this destination, because
you can have the real American college experience. The only thing is, you have to know what you
have to pay before you apply, because it is a lot of money.
I worked a lot before I left to the States and I also received money from DUO every month. Having
dinner is cheaper than back home, but keep in mind, you have to give a tip (10-15%) and the tax
is not included. The money I spend on groceries was quite comparable with home, but I did spend
a lot of money on healthy food. I spend approximately around $1100 per month. I spend most
money on travelling and those experiences and memories were definitely worth the money.
Academic Calendar
The orientation week started on the 6th of January and classes started on the 14th of January. For
most courses I had to do homework every week, but the midterms were in the beginning of March
just before spring break. Spring break is the only week off during the semester, so that’s one of
the best opportunities to travel and see as much as possible! My final exams were between the 5th
and the 13th of May. After your VISA is expired, you are still allowed to travel within the USA for
30 days.
Academic Information
Course approval
Before I left to the States, I got some courses approved by Tilburg University. However, during the
orientation week I found out quickly that it was going to be hard to be enrolled in the courses that
I wanted. The best thing to do in the orientation week is to go to the Psychology building. You can
speak to a coordinator and I was enrolled in 4 courses within 15 minutes. The American students
were enrolled at the beginning of January already, so you have to be lucky that there is still some
space left for you in the classes you want.
Course Description
The 4 courses I took were: Psychology of Death and Loss, Forensic Psychology, Judgement and
Decision Making and Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Psychology of Death and Loss and
Forensic Psychology were my favorite courses. Psychology of Death and Loss was quite special,
there were a lot of guest speakers who told us their stories about their losses. For example, there
was a woman who came to talk about her two daughters. One died because of cancer and the other
one got murdered, she talked about her grieving process and I am really glad that I was able to
take this course, because there are no courses like this in the Netherlands. Forensic Psychology
was a lot about the American law and I have learned a lot about the death penalty and the whole
jury system as well, which were very interesting. Judgement and Decision Making was most about
economic choices we make and the problems with our intuitions that go with this. We discussed
a lot of trust and ultimatum games, the importance of framing when people make choices and
game strategies. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality was quite a different course than I am
used to. There were mediums as a guest speaker in this class and one of them even tried to do a
reading in class. There was also a woman who came to tell about her near death experience. This
class was very different and I do not think that something like this would ever be offered in the
Netherlands, but it was definitely an experience.
The level of the courses was in my opinion easier than back home. You have to do a lot of
homework and I had weekly quizzes for one course. Sometimes, attendance is already 15% of your
final grade. Motivation is also very important and if you show this, teachers will reward you.
Course overview
Forensic Psychology
PSY 480
Psychology of Death
and Loss
PSY 456
Psychology of
Religion and
PSY 357
Judgement and
Decision Making
PSY 333
4 multiple choice
exams, the lowest
score will be
dropped. So each
exam is 33,3% of
your final grade.
Weekly reflection
papers after class and
a presentation
(30%), a midterm
paper (25%) and a
final paper (45%).
3 book reviews (each
15% of your final
grade), attendance
(15%), midterm
(20%) and final exam
Weekly quizzes
(40%), midterm
(15%), final paper
(22,5) and final exam
Personal development
Going on exchange is one of the most valuable experiences I ever had in my life. I have learned so
much from my international and American friends and it is amazing how close you become with
people from all over the world. I have definitely learned so much from other cultures and
sometimes it made me appreciate my own culture even more as well. I was the only one from the
Netherlands, so I was really on my own. At the beginning, I was quite afraid because of this. After
a while I was actually only glad, because I did everything on my own, my English language
improved a lot and it definitely made me even more independent. This experience made me more
open-minded and it made me realize that I do not have to worry about unfamiliar things. The first
weeks were the hardest, because you don’t know that many people, you have to arrange a lot and
you are living in a different environment, which is very different than just a vacation. I have
learned to solve problems and not to stress about them, because even when I was on the other
side of the world, I was able to handle every situation and that’s something which gave me a lot of
Advice for future students
Go on exchange! Time flies and it’s amazing how much you can learn in such a short amount of
time. I definitely experienced so many things that I will remember for the rest of my life. I became
friends with people from all over the world and it is definitely worth all the money. Going on
exchange was something I decided, because I really wanted to experience this adventure and it
taught me so much. You have to do everything on your own and it shows you what you are capable
of. It’s amazing how many and good friends you make, everyone is super social and sometimes it
really felt like I was in a movie. Many things in the US are exactly how we see them in the movies,
I have learned so much and now I understand the American culture even more as well. Tucson is
a real student city, which I really liked. There are palm trees and cacti everywhere, the weather is
very good and the University is definitely the most beautiful one I have ever seen. Going on
exchange is an amazing opportunity and if you have any questions, just contact me! I did the same
and it helps a lot, because the students who have been there know exactly what you would like to
know. I truly think that every destination is worth the adventure, but if you like to experience the
real America, you won’t regret choosing Arizona!
A picture is worth a thousand words…
White Sands – New Mexico
Grand Canyon – Arizona
Horseshoe Bend – Arizona
Zion – Utah
Bryce – Utah
Valley of Fire – Nevada
Los Angeles – California
University of Arizona – Recreation Center
University of Arizona – Student Union
University of Arizona – Campus view