I am an environmental science student currently on an exchange program at California Lutheran University (CLU) in Los Angeles. I have wanted to do a student exchange program in the USA since I was in high school but my mother had these ridiculous notions that I would be kidnapped or something. So when I found out that SCU had a student exchange program I knew that I would finally get to fulfill my dreams of studying abroad… and obviously I chose the USA.
‘College’ here is exactly like you see in the movies; the parent’s dropping their kids off on the first day trying to hold back tears, cheerleaders walking around campus, oh and football is a big deal. What I didn’t know about American universities is the effort they put into school community events, which often it seems like there is something on every week…for free! Some are educational and some are fun, for example, last week I went to an Etiquette Dinner by a company called Beverly Hills Manners to learn about proper etiquette (free three course meal included). Already since this semester has started three weeks ago there has been a Chinese new year function (free food again), a seminar on food technology, lectures on starting up your own business, a play put on by the theatre club and a weekend ski trip.
Another part about American colleges I really like are the social/cultural clubs they have on campus. There are so many of them, there is the film club, dance club, Scandinavian club, Hawaiian club, philosophy, adventure, and loads more. Joining is a great way to make new friends with similar interests or to learn new skills. However, I will tell you between class work, social clubs and attending events you can end up being really, really busy!
California Lutheran is different from other schools as it is a lot smaller in student population so class sizes are smaller which mean you get to build relationships with your professors and can speak to them anytime. One of my professors ended up inviting me over to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family which I thought was so sweet. Americans in general are very friendly and polite people. They always open doors for you, say bless you and go out of their way to help in any way they can.
If you are thinking about studying abroad I would recommend doing a few elective classes that SCU might not offer just to make the most of your opportunity. I ended up taking some elective classes which totally broadened my horizons.
The CLU campus has a theatre, a gym and a pool. It is located about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles (2 hours in typical L.A. traffic) however there is a train station close to the campus. L.A. is lots of fun! There is always something on, free movie screenings, bands or dj’s, basketball, ice hockey, etc. Where else can you go snowboarding and then visit the beach in the same day? There are also other amazing places to explore on weekends such as Joshua Tree National Park, Big Bear Mountain (for skiing/snowboarding) and Las Vegas is only a 4 hour drive. I have tried to make the most of my weekends by adventuring as much as I can. The most memorable was a last minute decision to road trip to Vegas and see Brittany, U2, Sting and a bunch of other bands (where I also ran into another Aussie by the name of Liam Hemsworth) and hiking Mt Whitney in the Eastern Sierra’s which is 14,000 feet and took 18 hours in total to hike up and back. Outdoor culture is big here and I love it! I would say that the exchange program has been a positive experience and I enjoyed it so much I decided to do another semester.