Taking the leap to study abroad can be one of the most rewarding and frightening experiences as a young adult. For Collarts students Ashlee Barr (21), Alexandra Stock (20), and Leah Runting (21), taking the plunge into unknown territories offered them a new perspective on their industry and their outlook on Entertainment Management.
While students from all degrees are welcome to apply, Trimester 3 saw the trio fly across the world and travel to Philadelphia. The USA’s 5th most populated city and often ranked amongst America’s best cities for live music, Drexel University is situated in the heart of a vibrant music culture, ranked in the Top 100 universities in the USA. With affordable living costs encouraging an overflow of students and emerging creatives, we caught up with Ashlee, Alexandra and Leah about their time at Drexel, asking for advice and expectations when studying abroad.
Hey all, tell us about your trip. What did you first do when you arrived in Philadelphia?
Ashlee: Since Alex and I didn’t start studying until September, we had a chance to settle in before classes started which was great! We decided to do some sightseeing and just shopped around, getting our bearings for where we would be living for the next few months. Then, we moved into our place just before classes started and got to know our roommates.
Awesome, how did it stack up to your expectations at first?
Alex: It’s very different compared to Collarts, but when we considered what a college would be like it’s exactly what we expected. A college has an American feel—and it’s a hell of a lot bigger, Drexel has over 14,000 students.
“Getting out of home and getting to do things I wouldn’t usually get to do has broadened my horizons. When it comes to my studies, learning things from a different perspective has also been incredible.”
Ashlee: Yeah, and surprisingly classes were very similar to home, so it wasn’t too stressful! We knew what was going on. Classes were more jam-packed, with more mini-assignments that we take home. So each week, you’ll have something due, whether it’s just a reading for a class or a small task… these smaller projects are weighted small and add-up in the end.
I totally see what you mean. Has this experience broadened your horizons?
Ashlee: For me, getting out of home and getting to do things I wouldn’t usually get to do has broadened my horizons. When it comes to my studies, learning things from a different perspective has also been incredible. I want to get into tour promotion and content and festivals, so for me it’s good to know what the American market is like.
Leah: Yeah, talking to Drexel students, they have no idea what happens in Australian music scene, so they’re all shocked and curious. They always wanted to ask us questions, so it’s good to swap knowledge and put two-and-two together.
Do you feel this trip has changed your perspective on work-life balance?
Alex: Yeah, definitely, I still live at home so I went to Drexel trying to have a new perspective on life and what it means to be an adult. I wanted to do things and really focus on school a lot too. I did more study than what I would normally do, which was rewarding as both Ashlee and I will be graduating soon.
Ashlee: The biggest change between Collarts and Drexel is that, for instance, being at home or at Collarts meant I still had to work 25 hours a week while being a full-time students. When on exchange, all you have to do to get by is school. You have so much time to do your assignments because we’re not having to work. That’s a huge difference, knowing I had a lot more time there to study… I did so many things I wanted to do.
Leah: I agree. Because of this, it’s easier to get better marks because you have more time to do it. Your focus isn’t elsewhere, it’s on Drexel. And this attitude carries out to the students here—they’re very dedicated to their studies.
“It’s going to help us in future as we’ve made so many connections with different students and so many others. We’ve now got those contacts and have connected with them on social media. If we ever need to know something we have those contacts now…”
Do you feel how you’ve learnt and experienced Drexel will influence how you work in future?
Ashlee: It’s a massive difference learning what we’ve done at Collarts in comparison to Drexel. In America, there’s major differences in the scene and it’s good to know how it operates. For instance, Philly is a a very punk-driven, basement show scene, whereas in Melbourne you don’t have shows in basements—nobody has basements. I recall one show in a church basement, where it was all ages, BYO but no glass or security, and an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old was standing next to me. That’s just not a thing in Australia.
Leah: Yeah, I think it’s going to help us in future as we’ve made so many connections with different students and so many others. We’ve now got those contacts and have connected with them on social media. If we ever need to know something we have those contacts now, and have many people to collaborate with.
That’s really lovely. Do you feel this trip has inspired self-reflection?
Ashlee: Coming here has been a wake-up call. As a 20-year-old, I’m not an adult at all, but I now know that if I put in the effort, I can be grown-up and independent. It’s also good to reflect that we had been taught everything we needed before we got to Drexel—I’m surprised how much we retained. The independence of Drexel was a huge thing.
Alex: This trip, for me, validated that I’m actually smart. I know that sounds strange. What I mean is that when I applied myself at Drexel, my grades were amazing and the passion for what I was doing reflected in that hard work.
Leah: If anything, I’m already pretty independent and this trip just proved that. However, I’m the younger sibling and my sister does a lot for me, but now I know I can do things by myself and for myself.
“Make sure you’re as proactive as possible from the get-go.”
What have been the challenges and highlights of your trip?
Alex: Before coming to America, I thought public transport would be something I’d mess up for sure. But I found that we had all this time to be spontaneous, so funnily enough it became one of our highlights, working out how to get to places.
Ashlee: The people we’ve met have been so interesting. Our friends we’ve made are really great, and the strangers we’ve talked to are so different—Americans are just so different.
Leah: Even after months at Drexel, we still had that culture shock of being in America.
What advice would you give to students who are wanting to study at Drexel?
Leah: Make sure you’re as proactive as possible from the get-go. That’s how you know it will be okay. I still think as much you may worry, it’s been worth the stress to go outside your comfort zone. Oh, and I definitely would encourage people to save more money than what they suggest.
Ashlee: Ah! That was my point. The budget was stretched. From Visa fees, flights, money transfers, and the whole conversion and how it works; that budget was for those who can travel tight. So know what you want to get out of your exchange, and budget onwards.
Alex: My advice would be to look into your housing situation as early as possible. As soon as you find out you’ve been given that opportunity, sort your housing out. That goes without saying: find who else is leaving on your trip and work with them. One of the best parts is being able to have each-other on the other side of the world. If I was stressed, they would be feeling the exact same way. It was easier to confide with each other. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Ashlee, half of the time I would have no clue what I was doing. If it wasn’t for her, I don’ know how I would have managed.