Calling his experience a far cry from MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’, Cardiff University’s Rory Hollings calls his Study Abroad year in Rutgers University a ‘phenomenal’ one and something he can only recommend to others. Picking modules from the School of Engineering, Earth Sciences and Geography, he says he’s come home a far more organised person, raring to get back to his studies. He shares his Rutgers experience…
Through the application process, I became very aware of Rutgers’ research prowess as one of the top academic institutions in the world. The availability of world class sports facilities and the opportunity to compete at other universities around the US did nothing but entice me more to New Jersey.
The Rutgers campus was a real attraction too. It is set in lowland, green locations with the Raritan River running through it. A return ticket on the 45 minute bus to New York City is priced only at $15. Philadelphia is only an hour drive in the opposite direction and the Jersey Shore is only a short drive away to the East.
The academic experience
Teaching at Rutgers took on a very different approach to teaching at Cardiff. In the first semester, classes were taught similarly to Cardiff but with weekly coursework. In the second semester however, much more emphasis was placed on term papers and presentations.
Classes at higher levels were fairly small and students are invited to question the professor. Teaching aids such as media and video were often used. Debates and conference-like discussions were commonplace, making for a very relaxing learning environment.
My final grades were awarded on a scale of A-F but during the semester I was given percentage scores. An ‘A’ at Rutgers is 90%. My classmates were not happy if they got a score less than 60% – very different from Cardiff where a 60% is a second class upper.
The professors at Rutgers were fantastic. They were very approachable and always quick to reply to an email. I always felt that they wanted me to do well and they made themselves available during office hours and were willing to organise extra tutoring sessions. There was always a chance to meet new people as we were encouraged to do group work a lot.
The academic culture was great. I met lots of people who were very driven and extremely focused on getting those ‘A’s. There were also those who loved their social life but at the same time were willing to put in the hours in the library. Rutgers students are excellent academically. They work well together and the close sense of community really helps get you through the exams.
The student social life and extra-curricular activities
Most of the students in our halls were final year students and loved being able to bring ‘the internationals’ to parties. It was a hard adjustment moving away from the clubbing scene in Cardiff to house basement parties in New Brunswick. An adjustment made all the more interesting as I am 6’4” and most basements are made for people much shorter.
During my free time, I worked hard to achieve a place on the Rutgers Swimming Club team. One of the top experiences was watching the Rutgers American Football team play at the stadium. It was impossible not to get caught up in the hype around the city when a home game was imminent. The entire state would turn up for the game and the ‘frats’ would have huge parties out in the car parks.
Travelling in the US
The most interesting thing about New Jersey is that it has so much going for it. Jersey has mountainous areas to the North and vast pineland forests in the South. The shore is studded all the way to the south with stunning beaches. I managed to see the Niagara Falls; took a road trip to Las Vegas and was blown away by the Grand Canyon. I went to Los Angeles and up the coast to San Francisco. I even visited Miami, New Orleans, Texas and Chicago. Best of all, I managed to swim at the Georgia Tech swimming pool that hosted the 1996 Olympic swimming competition.
Any advice for Cardiff University students?
Without question, I would encourage you to Study Abroad. Prior to moving out to America, both the International Office at Cardiff and the Study Abroad office at Rutgers were incredibly helpful in providing information about credit transfers and choosing modules. It gives you the opportunity to make friends from around the world and experience the American lifestyle. There is so much to do in the US that is so different than what is available in the UK.