My name is Lucy and I am currently on exchange at Northern Arizona University in their Spring semester. I traveled here with a guy called Chris who is also from UTS. When we arrived in Flagstaff (we flew to LA then to Phoenix and then got the Arizona shuttle here) it was night time – and it was cold! We had both arranged to live off campus at a place called The Grove and a girl Chris knew there said she would pick us up from the shuttle which drops off on campus. The next few days we had orientation which was really beneficial as we got to meet a lot of other exchange students (and lots of Aussies!). We practically started planning trips straight away – booking Coachella, planning on going to Vegas and deciding where to go for Spring Break. Flagstaff is in a really great location, 1-2 hours from the Grand Canyon, 3-4 hours from Vegas, 1-2 hour flight from LA and a 5-6 hour drive to Mexico. It is a relatively small town and is really pretty and spread out! The campus is huge. Nothing like UTS. There’s a couple of all you can eat locations and then other food and drink cafes etc. The Health and Learning Centre is really great, the best gym I have ever seen. It is huge! There’s all the equipment you could think of, an indoor and outdoor running track, 3 basketball courts, an indoor soccer field, 5 racquetball courts and heaps of free exercise classes such as kickboxing, yoga, pilates etc. There is also an indoor pool for all students to use so you have no excuse for experiencing freshman 15 (they estimate that freshman in USA colleges put on 15 pounds in their first year). The level of academics is lower here although I would still advise people on exchange to take 100 and 200 level classes if possible as they are quite easy but still interesting and you therefore have less work to do and more time to go traveling. There is a lot more homework than at UTS however it is easier and there are less exams and big assignments.
There is also a much more college vibe than at UTS, and there are always parties on. I am not 21 until I get back and this worried me a lot before I got here, however it’s really nothing to worry about as most students are underage. There’s always things you can go to like house parties etc. A lot of the friends I made are 21 and they do like going down town on Thursdays because you can get $1 drinks at a place called Maloneys, so if you decide to come to Flagstaff and are of age you should definitely go check that out! Most bars will let you in if you are underage but you will not be able to buy drinks. You get free refills of soft drink though so it is a cheap night!
We went to Vegas one weekend and again, most people said you shouldn’t go if underage but it was so much fun! There is so much going on, and you can walk through the casinos you just can’t gamble. Vegas is crazy! Just walking down the strip the atmosphere is amazing and if you are 21 you can see really popular artists like Calvin Harris etc. for really cheap! Some of my friends went and the girls got in for free!
We also went to Scottsdale which is the place to go if you want to shop or go to clubs. It is just out of Phoenix and is less than a 3 hour drive away from Flagstaff. Some of my Aussie friends went skydiving 30 minutes south of Phoenix because it is a lot cheaper to do it here than in Australia. The next weekend we hired another car and headed out to see some of Arizona’s national parks. We went to Monument Valley (on the border of Arizona and Utah). I would highly recommend making the trip! We stayed at a place called ‘The View’ and as the name suggests it has an incredible view of the monuments. We also went to Canyon de Chelley and Petrified Forest, and although they were cool I wouldn’t recommend them to someone who has limited funds or time. The Grand Canyon is a bigger and better version of Canyon de Chelley.
Flagstaff is also less than a half hour drive from the San Francisco Peaks and therefore I have come to love snowboarding! You can’t hire clothes/goggles/gloves up at the mountain so luckily I have made some friends who let me borrow theirs. Transportation up there is also really bad also, so it’s best to go with a local who has a car or on NAU’s shuttle that is available on weekends. You could also hire a car or get a taxi. It is really worth the money and they have deals a few times through the season for cheap lift passes etc. which are good for students.
I have just returned from a week away for Spring Break. 10 other Aussies and I went to Lake Havasu which is 2-3 hours away from Flagstaff towards California. It is organised by a group called SWAT who puts events on and sells packages. It turned out to be about $300 for 3 nights accommodation and all the event passes. We wanted to go to Mexico but it ended up being too expensive and difficult, but Havasu was really fun! Everyone is just in a really good mood and keen to meet new people. There were dance parties on the beach (well the lake) and there are always parties at the hotels. We were the second week of Springers so there are other Unis there at the moment and others that were there before us. After Havasu 2 other girls and I went to San Francisco for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would really recommend it! Although we stayed in a cheap and creepy motel and probably should have researched the area a little better!!! It would have been good to stay closer to the wharves although I am not sure if we could have afforded it. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, The Painted Ladies and Lombard Street. We also hired bikes one day and rode from the pier over the golden gate bridge to Sausalito (Little Italy) and had lunch at a really nice restaurant. We then got ice cream and got the ferry back over to the city. This was such a great day it was nice to get out and explore in a relaxing way without being squished up in a car or bus.
This week I have been getting some study in as I am meeting a friend in L.A next weekend and she is then coming to stay with me for a week. L. A should be fun as we are doing a tour of the stars homes and also of Hollywood and the city in general. We are going to hire bikes in Santa Monica and ride down to Venice beach one day too and then go to Disneyland before we drive back here for class on Monday. The following weekend we are going to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. I went to the Grand Canyon when I was 12 and am really excited to go back now they have the skywalk. I’ve seen photos of antelope canyon and it looks so cool. The rocks are a pink colour and you can get tours down to the bottom of it so that should be really nice to see. MORE ROCKS haha.
Two weeks after L.A about 15 of us Aussies are going to COACHELLA!!! I am so so excited! My ticket arrived yesterday and they come in these cool boxes with a book and post cards and stickers and stuff. We are hiring a few cars and camping at the Coachella campground. We met a few more Aussies in Lake Havasu when we were on Spring Break and we have planned to meet them there so it should be really fun. I know I must sound like I only hang out with Aussies (and a lot of people think that’s a bad thing) but its actually really great. I now have made friends I will have for life and I will be able to visit regularly when I get back home. We have all made friends with American’s too, although it is convenient to be in a group with exchange students because the locals won’t always want to travel around with you as they have probably seen it all before.
Anyway, after Coachella I will have 2 weekends left in Flagstaff before I fly to New York to meet my parents. I am really keen to see them and we have planned a 5 week trip before we go back to Australia. We are going to New York, Boston, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and Washington! We have booked train tickets for the whole trip as it was only about $500-$600 for the whole trip which is a lot cheaper than a hire car or plane, and more convenient than a bus. We are then heading to Hawaii for a week on our way home and my brother is meeting us there. That will be a nice time to relax (and get a tan) before I head back to Sydney for UTS’ Spring Semester.
I would recommend NAU to anyone who wants to travel to America on exchange. It is a small town however it is within close proximity to many other places so you will never be bored. If you hate cold weather then maybe don’t come here for their Spring semester (although I don’t think I would like to come here in their Autumn semester – you may as well go somewhere close to the coast). My only advice would be to embrace everything, bring more money than they tell you to so you can enjoy your time and not live on a budget, and Skype home weekly or fortnightly if you can so you don’t get homesick! Also, if you choose to get a meal plan get the 100 meal block plan! You don’t need more than that, unless you’re a boy they seem to need more haha! Dining dollars are really good and you get $300 with the 100 block plan so I would recommend purchasing that. Anyway, if you’re considering exchange I hope everything works out and you enjoy it as much as I did!
Northern Arizona University.