Preparing for a semester in Miami

by John Meadows

This article was written by layla haidrani, published on 30th July 2013 and has been read 2610 times.

Layla Haidrani, 21, is studying History at the University of Kent, Canterbury and will be spending a semester abroad at University of Miami in the United States in Fall 2013. You can follow her on Twitter @layla_haidrani as she prepares for life across the pond. 

Welcome to my study abroad blog! In just a few short weeks, I will be landing at Miami International Airport, ready to start the most exciting chapter of my life – I will be heading to Miami, Florida in the United States for a semester study exchange abroad placement!


So how is it that I am spending a semester in one of the world’s most exciting cities famed for its 24 hour culture; after all Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and South Beach are only a pebble’s stone away! Well, after getting bored with the dreary, mundane routine of my university where the only excitement to be gained was a Wednesday and Saturday night at university nightclub, Venue, with its delightful vomit-stained floors, it was definitely time to move on to more exciting ventures. So when my home university, University of Kent, offered a study abroad exchange placement with partner University of Miami (Go Canes!), I jumped at the chance. Because frankly, where else would you able to soak up West Coast’s year-long sunshine, be a student at one of Playboy’s top rated party schools and have stars like Drake performing at graduation? Oh and the academics of course…


That’s not to say it’s been an easy ride – after a somewhat grueling admin process (see below my guidelines for preparing an exchange to the United States), my application (with mascot Sebastian the Ibis beaming proudly on the letter) was accepted – I’m going to be a Cane! I was also fortunate enough to secure accommodation – I’ve arranged to live on campus in the dorms in order to gain the full ‘American college experience’ with a roommate.


So what am I expecting from my study abroad placement at the University of Miami? In terms of classes, I’m incredibly excited to study gender classes which I haven’t had the chance to study in great depth at my home university. On campus, I am definitely going to try and ensure I get stuck into lots of activities (scuba diving on campus anyone?!) and make the most of University of Miami’s famed sports facilities. With a new activities center on campus arriving in August that could rival a beach resort, it would be rude not to tan by the pool between classes…


Outside campus, I’m looking forward to exploring the arts scene of Miami, the beaches and I’m also hoping to find time to fit in a short break to New York City as well as volunteering in the local communities over the short time over there.


I may only be there for a semester but starting in August, I am going to do my utmost to ensure I make the most of it! Miami, I’m coming for you! Here is my guide to preparing for an exchange in the United States: 

Tuition fees

The University of Miami is a private research university and the fees are well within the range of $39,980. However, exchange students pay the normal fees payable to their home university, which is brilliant for those worrying about high tuition costs.

Visa

As soon as you get accepted, I would advise you to apply for your Visa straight away. There are three admin fees to pay for and a face-to-face interview. For the interview, ensure you leave in plenty of time so you’re not rushed and don’t forget a credit card (coins are not accepted).


Top tip: At £1.80 a minute, make sure you have a topped up phone or better yet, use a landline so you don’t get cut off on the most crucial part of the application process. 

Health insurance

Health insurance is probably the most important part of your preparation. As the US is completely different in that it does not have an NHS system, if you don’t have insurance you are not covered if you are in an accident. Most US universities require you to purchase their health insurance but be warned, they don’t come cheap.

Banking

Setting up an American bank account is essential if you are staying for more than a couple of months. This will enable you to transfer money from British bank accounts to your American one. To set one up, you will need a passport and a form of ID. Be warned, you will have to pay $2.50 to withdraw cash.

Another option is the post office travel money card which is free to load it with money from your English account. As well as having Internet banking, it is a MasterCard so you have the benefits of being able to use it anywhere and it's guaranteed if lost or stolen. Some students also prefer using the STA Travel or Travelex card so do some research to get the best deals suited to you. 

Accommodation

Most universities in the United States keep accommodation aside for exchange students so that they can get the best experience while studying abroad. However, there is also a choice of off-campus accommodation if that is preferable for some. Another thing to remember is that US universities are usually unfurnished – research local shops that provide bedding.

Top tip: One thing to bear in mind is that in US universities you will have a roommate which may be a bit of a culture shock for many Brits! Avoid sharing with someone you knew previously; it will make your American college experience just that more exciting!

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