Experience report Name: Tomas Uildriks E-mail: [email protected] Exchange semester: spring Academic year: 2014/2015 Host University: University of Connecticut School of Law Country: USA TOPIC: Admission, arrival, housing A couple of months before my arrival, the study abroad organizer from Uconn send me documents about my VISA, housing and courses. She was really helpful with all my questions. Because the Law School is really small, the University doesn’t provide on-campus housing. Two months before my arrival, the study abroad organizer from Uconn send me an email in which a landlord offered a room in a student house one block from campus with two students living in it, a student from Germany and a student from Ireland. In case I was interested, I had to email the landlord to make arrangements. So I did and the room was mine. I was lucky that the study abroad organizer gave me this option, because I heard from some other international students that they didn’t got an offer like I did. They were put on a list where they could choose from all kinds of housing options. Uconn makes sure everyone has housing before their arrival to the United States. On January 11th, I took a flight to JFK. From there I took a shuttle bus to Hartford. My landlord picked me up from the bus station and took me to the house where I was living for the next semester. On January the 13th, the orientation for International L.L.M and Exchange students started. The orientation week lasted until Friday, January 16th. This week was really helpful because you meet all the international students. During this week, people from Uconn show you around campus and teach you everything about your visa, courses and the library. Because everything was new, this week was really exhausting, but Uconn tried really hard to mix up the informational parts with some free time which you spend with the other internationals. We went to the mall, had lunch downtown, went bowling and had a welcome dinner at a professor’s house. TOPIC: Location of university/city The University of Connecticut School of Law is located in Hartford. The campus is beautiful, but it’s really small and is not located in the city. A 5 minutes walk from campus was an Irish pub called ‘’the Half Door’’. A lot of people from campus go there after class to have some beers. At Tuesdays there is live Irish music and the Irish beers are $2 a pint, which is cheap compared to Tilburg. With a car, it is a 5 to 10 minutes drive to downtown Hartford. Hartford itself is a pretty big city, but it’s a real business city. The biggest insurance companies in the United States are located downtown Hartford. I didn’t went a lot to downtown Hartford. The times I went there was for clubbing and going to the cinema. From the bus station in Hartford, you can travel in 2 hours to Boston and New York City. The bus tickets are pretty cheap. You pay around $30-$40 for a round trip. Living close to these wonderful cities is convenient. During the weekends, a lot of students go there to go shopping and clubbing. Compared to Tilburg, Hartford is different. Hartford is much bigger. If you go to downtown Hartford you can see it’s a city where a lot of people work. However, because these people don’t live downtown, the city feels empty after 7 PM. Of course Hartford has a lot to offer like bars and clubs, but you will not find fully crowded terraces like those in Tilburg. TOPIC: Academics During my exchange I took the courses Right to Privacy, Principles of Insurance and Sales. I really recommend the course Right to Privacy. The class was small (15 people) and there were 8 international students and 7 Americans. The professor was really enthusiastic and interested in the privacy law of other countries. We spend a lot of time on the US Constitution and the NSA, which was really interesting. Compared to Tilburg, the classes at Uconn are small. In my Sales and Right to Privacy classes, there were only 15 students, so there are a lot of discussions and the students have to talk a lot. The Principles of Insurance class was a lot bigger with around 45 students. However, the professors want you to participate in class and they know every student by name! You have to study the material before you go to class, because professors will randomly ask questions to students. It is a lot of work to prepare for class, but you have to do it because all the Americans are doing it and it is not done if you haven’t done your preparations. Compared to Tilburg, the workload at Uconn is more. Of course professors know the law and way of teaching is knew for the international students. They really want to help you, but you have to contact them yourself. If you go to a professor after class or you send them an email saying that you don’t understand a subject, they will help you with it. All the classes and material are in English and the level is high. In the beginning it’s difficult but after a month you are used to the level of English. In the beginning I didn’t expected that the academic level was higher compared to Tilburg, but after the orientation you start planning your preparations and you get used to it. Overall, I’m very happy with my academic achievements during my exchange. I have learned a lot about the law in America and the courses I took. The campus of the law school is small compared to Tilburg. There are only 5 small buildings. There also is a library, bookstore and restaurant. The main campus of Uconn is at Storrs. This campus is huge and all the other studies of Uconn are located there. This is also the place where all the fraternities and sororities are located. Storrs is a 20 minute drive from the Law School. TOPIC: Social life As stated before, the law school organizes a lot of social activities during the orientation week so you have the opportunity to meet the other international students. After the orientation week you start to meet a lot of American students. They are all nice and interested in the international students. Because most of the international students didn’t had a car, the American students offered us rides to go grocery shopping or going to a bar downtown. I was living one block away from campus and I had a German and Irish roommate. Because we were so close to the University and the Irish pub ‘’the Half Door’’, a lot of people hung out at our place which was really cool because I got to know a lot of people. During spring break I went to Miami for 5 days with a German, French, English, Irish and Dutch student. I have only one word for this holiday: awesome. After two months of cold temperatures (average -20 degrees Celsius) and hard work at the University, the weather, beach and parties in Miami were exactly what I needed. After my final exams in May, I went on a road trip with my German roommate and two of my Dutch friends who visited me. We visited Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Toronto in Canada. If you like sports, America is the place to be. Americans love sports. During my exchange I visited basketball, hockey and baseball games. Especially the baseball games were great. I’ve played baseball for 14 years so it was cool to visit the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. TOPIC: Living costs Living in America is expensive. Apart from the grant you receive from Tilburg University, you have to finance your exchange period yourself. The average costs of housing is about $600 a month. Groceries are a little bit more expensive then in Tilburg, but it depends where you do your grocery shopping. You easily spend up to $50-$100 a week on groceries. Textbooks are really expensive in America. A textbook can cost you up to $200 a book. I advice future students to rent books instead of buying them. You can rent the books you need in the bookstore at the campus in Hartford. You can also find books on Amazon. This way you can save a lot of money. TOPIC: Culture I did not experienced a culture shock while on exchange. I wouldn’t say the American culture is similar to the Dutch, but the differences aren’t that big. Compared to Dutch students, American students are more helpful. If you need a drive or you need help, they will always help you out. However, American students are used to work hard. They work harder then Dutch students. I think one of the reasons is that they have to pay a lot of tuition to study at the law school. The most Americans I met knew some Dutch students who studied at Uconn before I did. They were all positive about the Dutch people because they think Dutch people are to the point and open. What I really liked about the American culture was that everyone was really helpful. Americans admire people who leave their home country to study in America and they want you to feel welcome and to have a great time. TOPIC: Personal development Going abroad is really good for your personal development. You’re on your own for a whole semester, but the great thing is that every other exchange students has exactly the same. Because you hang out a lot with the other exchange students you make friends really quick. I met so many people from different countries with different cultures. There isn’t a single thing I would have done differently. Of course there are some moments that you miss your family and friends back home, but you’re only away for 5 months and trust me, time flies when you’re having fun! My best experience was the spring break holiday in Miami and the baseball games I visited. The worst experience was the weather during the first months. It was really cold! After we returned home from Miami, the snow was gone and the weather improved. The most important lesson I learned about myself during my exchange period was that it’s more easy then it seems to live on the other side of the world on my own. Just be confident in what you do and always remember that the most important thing is to have fun. TOPIC: Tips for future students For all the people who haven’t done an exchange period I would recommend it. I know it’s hard to make a choice. There are so many countries where you can go and all the paperwork seems a lot of work. In 2012 I wanted to go abroad, but when I looked at all the paperwork I thought by myself, maybe next year. Trust me, it will only cost you a couple of days and it is totally worth it. You’ll have the time of your life, make a lot of new friends, improve your language skills and it’s even good for your resume. A would recommend students to try to save some money for trips and holidays. If you want to study in America and live the American dream, the University of Connecticut School of Law is the place to go. If you have any questions about going on exchange or if you have questions about the University of Connecticut School of Law, please don’t hesitate and contact me. I would love to answer all your questions!