University of Southern California, USA S2 04/05 - Sharon Poerwanto

Evaluation & Feedback Form
Name: Sharon Christine Poerwanto
SEP Semester: Semester 2 AY 2004-2005
Host University/Country: University of Southern California, USA
1. How does the host university differ from NUS?
USC has a different marking criteria compared to that of NUS. It emphasizes more on inclass participation and weekly assessment such as quizzes and midterms, so that less
weight is given to final exams. Its teaching methodologies allow students to interact with
real business data, aside to the given sets of lectures and theories. USC also has a very
high school spirit embedded in the hearts of its students, which creates studying in USC a
wonderful learning experience as you can actually be part of the big Trojan community.
2. What strong points does our School have compared to your host university?
NUS is definitely more competitive viewed in every aspect. Academically, the learning
environment feels a lot tougher and the competition is more intense in NUS. This
challenged me to study harder and to achieve my best. In terms of collecting CCA points,
NUS has certainly claimed its competitive edge, pertaining to the rule that if you want to
stay on campus and enjoy its facilities, you have to collect as many points possible or in
other words, get involved in more stuff. Whereas in USC, students are free to choose
what they want to do, they take fewer credits compared to NUS students and most of
them are involved in a lot less activities compared to us.
3. What strong points does your host university have compared to our School?
Aside from its flaming school spirit, USC offers more classes and business
concentrations under the school of business as compared to NUS. Students are more open
and willing to participate in classes, and they never hesitate in asking questions. Each
student is assigned to an academic counselor which helps them in routing their pathway
to graduation, and it is really useful for their planning purposes.
4. What expenses did you incur at the host university for one semester?
Estimated Breakdown of Expenses:
Airfare (Return Ticket)
Travel & Health Insurance
Books & Stationery
Miscellaneous (Eg: Local transportation, phone calls, postage,
student visa, medical report)
Others (Eg. Extended stay, airfare for tour of neighbouring
states/countries, etc) Please specify here:
Expenditure (S$)
5. Please type a THREE to FIVE page report of your personal experience in the host
a) Your overall experience overseas (initial cultural shocks that you encountered, lifestyle,
about the university, academic aspects)
b) What you learned from the exchange program
c) Your advice and suggestions for future exchange students designated to go to that
Fantastic and unbelievable. Those are the two words that would perfectly describe
how I feel about my exchange program to the University of Southern California. I did
expect a lot of fun happenings and a joyful studying experience prior to my departure to
Los Angeles. However, as I was sitting alone in the plane taking me there, I began to
question myself. I started to doubt whether going for exchange is the greatest idea of all,
as the fear of coping with a new student lifestyle and meeting new people I have never
encountered before fell upon me. Since I had no choice of turning back, I gathered all the
guts within me, checked in to my dorm room and prepared for the first day of school.
The apartment assigned to me was nice and spacious, it seemed a bit old, and
worse it is stuck in the middle of a dodgy area, but it felt sort of welcoming. It was my
first night there, and orientation for exchange students is first thing up the next day. As I
was unpacking, I can’t figure a way to operate the house phone line, and hence I thought
of asking my neighbors for help. I knocked next door, and this Asian girl opened it,
turned out that she and her roommate we exchange students too. She agreed to help, and
when we went back to my room the door was auto-locked. And I left my keys inside. So
there I was, 11PM stuck in downtown Los Angeles with no place to stay, the
management office was closed so I had to wait until the next morning. I ended up
bunking at my neighbor’s sofa for the night. It might seem like a disaster but I was
actually glad that it happened. Since then on, I clicked right away with her and we did
everything together. We took two same classes and we joined student clubs together, to
familiarize ourselves with the local culture, as it was also a way to find people with cars
as public transportation is a scarce issue in LA. During our first few weeks in LA, me and
a bunch of other exchange students from all over the world gathered every Friday since it
is a free day for most of us, and we began hunting for tourist spots. Chinatown,
Hollywood, Avenue of the Stars, Universal Studios were just to name a few. We would
take the bus or the train to get to these places. Yes it did consume a lot of our time but we
got no other choice.
As school progresses, I met new friends through my classes and most of them are
very nice, asking me to hang out with them once in a while. I also attended dinners with
the Singapore Students Association and I usually spend my leisure time with them.
Knowing that I am an exchange student from NUS, they took me eating in various
famous restaurants and took me to places I have never visited. I also joined a ChineseAmerican club for their weekend ski trip. It was a lot of fun, I had the chance to meet lots
of new people with an entirely different background from me, and the best part was that I
got a scoop of their lifestyle. After happily journeying all across LA, me and my
neighbour began mapping our travel plans, we travelled along the West Coast during
spring break and right after school ended, we continued our journey to set foot on the
East Coast.
From an academic standpoint, learning in USC is not a very shocking experience
to me. I have attended international schools in the past, and as a result I have been aware
of what the American education system is like. The mechanism of teaching is similar to
that I’ve experienced in NUS, the most major difference is probably just the nationality
of the lecturers as well as the students. It is obvious how interactive classes become,
every pupil is not afraid to express his or her thoughts, and they are ready to question
every theory presented before them. I believe that I have observed the American lifestyle
and university culture through movies and other media. Because of this, I have the rough
gage of what’s it like to sit in an American classroom, study in their libraries and I don’t
have a hard time adapting to this foreign academic culture.
My key advantage was that since language is not a problem to me (no language
barriers) and I took finance concentration classes, I managed to slip in well enough to
USC classrooms. Although the presented materials may sometimes be tough, and tests
can bombard me all at once within a week, the lecturers are very approachable even
outside their office hours. At all times they gladly assist me in my struggles.
Through this exchange program, I learned a lot of things. I learned that there is a
whole world out there who is also competing in the same field of business, and people
may have different ways in transferring and receiving knowledge but it all boils down to
one thing, and that is to achieve the best in whatever you are learning. I learned that you
don’t have to be so forceful on others when you are learning something. It tends to be a
trend in Singapore to absorb everything that you know, take it all in and do not ever share
it with others because they can bring your grades down. But it is not all about grades. It is
just the outcome. The most important thing is the learning experience itself, what you
have gained through it and not the by-product. I also learned that survival is tough,
especially in the United States where not only you are considered as a foreigner, but
everything else looks foreign to me.
Not only that I learned numerous lessons through my exchange program to USC,
but I experienced once-in-a-lifetime moments. I felt what it is like to walk through the
gates of one of the most prestigious schools in Uncle Sam, I experienced a 6-months
American lifestyle, I observed first-hand of how Asians behave in American communities.
Representing NUS in the United States is the greatest experience of all and if I do have a
chance, I would be honored to do it again.
It has been both a pleasure and a perfect opportunity for me to be able to study
abroad for a semester in the University of Southern California and I would highly
recommend it for every student in NUS Business School to do an exchange. Although
studying in Singapore is already an “international” experience for me as an Indonesian,
studying in another continent will widen up your perspective on the business world. The
global world itself is a competitive field, and we as the next business leaders have to
widen our scope and familiarize ourselves with what is going on in the other side of the
For future students going to enter the USC student life, I would suggest that you
prepare yourself for a whipping 6-months ride of fun, pure joy and a dozen of new
awaiting experiences. You should perhaps have a read or at least know how lessons are
conducted over there, how their culture impacted their daily lives and you have to open
up yourself to immerse yourself in a dense network of social connections. You should be
ready to meet new people, not just the bunch of exchange students, but other international
or even local students. You should cut of any boundaries that will limit yourself in
reaching the highest. Because without knowing these people who have already live there,
you would not be able to enjoy your journey to the fullest.
Cash is also another issue. Good things do not come in free. You are aiming to go
to a high-expense city and a high tax bracket to accompany that. Although tuition is free,
living costs can be high, especially for those exchange students who plan to go and eat
out everyday.
Going for exchange is an awesome action to be undertaken, but it doesn’t mean
that taking care of it can’t be hectic. You have to be patient and you have to possess the
constant persistence of going through whenever hardships come your way. And after all
the preparations I have made, I can now smile and I wish that I can share the joy
springing within me…as I have experienced the greatest thing in my life for the last 6