In 2015-2016 I was an exchange student at the University of Utah, travelling over from Swansea University in the UK. Coming from the UK, studying at the University of Utah offered me a chance to experience a new style of teaching, a US college experience and a unique way of life in Utah. This post will talk about what you can expect in Utah and how I found the college experience.
Firstly, I found the student social experience really different, from the welcome week to normal student social life. In the UK we have a week long set of events called ‘Freshers’ which usually comprises of drinking and parties. You get to know your housemates and fellow students really well and all bond over drinking antics and the collected experience. In the US, the drinking age is 21 and whilst many states may be more lenient with alcohol laws, Utah is pretty strict. Our campus was a ‘dry’ campus meaning that there is no bar and no alcohol allowed in school premises. Our welcome week included games of Frisbee, free frozen yogurt and a climbing wall outside the freshman dorms. There was also a party on campus called Crimson Nights. Of course, non-alcoholic, but most pre drank before they came. Social life on campus meant smuggling alcohol into the flat, drinking quietly in your room or flat or going outside of campus to parties. These were all pretty insane, with booze provided for the most part and a ridiculous amount of people. Watch out for the police though, if the party gets shut down and you get found, especially if it’s an underage party you could get in trouble. There were also Frat parties, I went to one and didn’t love it as much as other college parties but I knew people who swore by them and were at one every week.
Classes were smaller than I was used to at Swansea, especially in Junior and Senior humanity classes. They were held in seminar type rooms with usually around 20-30 people. The class and course would be constructed with many small papers, a mid-term and a final and sometimes quizzes. Your attendance counted towards your final grade as did your participation. I found this great, as it made the classes more interesting with everyone contributing. You could also apply for extra credit to bump up your grade. This could involve writing a small paper on an event you attended that complimented the class. In my gay history of the US class, attending pride gave you extra credit! I really enjoyed classes in the US and learnt and retained a lot from the many quizzes and tests. Unlike UK classes, the need to know all of the syllabus well rather than certain areas meant I learnt a lot about areas I may not have chosen to study at Swansea.
The University also revolves around sports and supporting the Utah Utes. American Football is a big deal in Utah and home games were one of the highlights of my fall semester. I became a part of the MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section) which gives you tickets to every game as well as other goodies throughout the season.. We also enjoyed watching Volleyball, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey and Basketball.
The campus is huge, very different to Swansea’s small one. It took me around 20 minutes to walk from my dorm (at the top of campus) to the bottom of campus and 15 minutes to my classes. There was a free shuttle which drove around campus and a trax system which stopped at the University and took you down to downtown SLC. The city was small but had everything you needed. Shopping was great and I spent way too much money on clothes and food whilst there. There is a food market on the trax line but Walmart and Target are harder to get to. Skiing could be accessed from downtown SLC and overall the city was fun and diverse.
Studying at the University of Utah is a great experience and the landscape surrounding the city and university is beautiful. I was very lucky to be able to go to such a beautiful and interesting part of America and I had a great authentic American experience.