Experience report

Experience report
Jurgen van der Roest
[email protected]
Exchange semester:
fall 2013
Academic year:
Host University:
University of South Carolina
United States of America
TOPIC: Admission, arrival, housing
I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a few days prior to the first day of Orientation. I was on a trip
with my parents, so I didn't need anyone to pick me up from the airport or anything, but as I heard
from classmates, it was all very well organized. Since I was submitted as a graduate student (master
program), I had to take care of my own housing. Only undergraduates are provided housing by the
university. It was not so hard to find housing, there are plenty off-campus opportunities. The university
has its own "Marktplaats" for off-campus housing so that helped a lot.
TOPIC: Location of university/city
Columbia, SC, is a typical American city in the way that it is very outspread and it doesn't have a real
city center like European cities. There are two main bar districts, Five Points and the Vista. Five
Points is more for college students, the Vista is more for people in the age 25-30. I've spent most of
my going out nights in Five Points, although it can also be a dangerous place. I heard stories about
people get shot, but I never witnessed any crime. The police is out all night, so I never had the feeling
I wasn't safe there. Columbia is not a very touristic city, although the State House is a nice place to
visit. Also the Art Museum can be recommended. The university is located in the middle of the city
and is along with the military base the only reason the city is alive. Since all the dorms are also in the
middle of the city, and pretty close to Five Points, that part of the city is one big student town.
TOPIC: Academics
I followed the following courses: International Mergers and Acquisitions, International Intellectual
Property Management, Game Theory and Management of Financial Institutions. I would definitely
recommend the last one, the professor is great and really knows what he is talking about. That course
was also very interesting because it shed light on some really big differences between the European
and American Banking system. The workload of the courses was high in a way that you had to do
some actual studying or preparation for classes, but the level is a bit lower than I was used to in
Tilburg, so that compensates. I was very happy with all the courses I took, it really broadened my
insights and was a real complementation to my studies at Tilburg University.
TOPIC: Social life
Most of the people I hung out with during the semester I met the first day in orientation. For me, it was
really easy to make friends because everyone is on the same page: you don't know anyone and you
want to make friends. The first couple of weeks I hung out with almost exclusively exchange students,
but after that also with locals. I joined a Christian student association because of my religious
background and made a lot of good friends there.
TOPIC: Living costs
Living costs in the US are slightly higher than in the Netherlands. The main reason is that groceries
are really expensive. On the other hand, eating out is relatively cheap, compared to cooking your own
food, but eating fast food all the time is not a real healthy option. Also the rent for the apartment was
quite high. I spent most money on rent and food. The monthly costs were approximately 800 dollars. I
was fortunate that I didn't have to buy any textbooks. After I finished my studies, I did some traveling.
Traveling in the US is really expensive though, since they don't really have youth hostels or anything.
TOPIC: Culture
The American culture is not that different from the European one. There are however some tiny
differences I had to deal with and I had to get used to. For instance, Americans ask you all the time
'How are you?' but, instead of in the Netherlands, they don't really expect an answer back. They're not
really waiting for you to tell you how you really are. It is things like this that I learned from the culture.
What was very appealing to me was the Southern hospitality. The people were really nice and
through conversations with locals I learned that it is something from the South of the US.
TOPIC: Personal development
From the people I met I learned to be more open minded, more hospitable and less judging. This is
not only because people I met had those characteristics, but also because that could sometimes
annoy me in Americans. The best experiences I had was when I went home with friends to their
parents place for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was awesome to celebrate those American things in
the real American way.
TOPIC: Tips for future students
I would recommand to go in the fall period because of football season. The South Carolina
Gamecocks are a real big team in the US and ended 4th of the nation in the semester I was there.
The fuzz around it is undescribable. In preparing for the exchange, make sure you take the TOEFL
test in time, since there are limited dates available.