Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne

Student Profiles

Erin Ryan

Vanderbilt University, USA

Exchange in Semester 2, 2011 and Semester 1, 2012
Bachelor of Arts

Even before I started my degree in Melbourne I always had an interest in studying overseas. After attending a number of Melbourne Global Mobility information sessions, my interest increased and it was just a matter of deciding to which institutions I wanted to apply. Being able to study overseas whilst earning credit is such a great opportunity and one I didn’t intend to miss.


One of the main reasons I chose to study in the U.S. was because I wanted to experience the typical U.S. college lifestyle. I am majoring in political science and was really interested in undertaking a number of classes that focused on American politics and international relations. I chose Vanderbilt University because although I had previously visited the U.S, I had never visited the South and I had heard good things about Nashville. Vanderbilt holds a strong academic ranking and its political science courses are highly regarded. Initially I planned to study at Vanderbilt for the 2011 fall semester but was fortunate to have the opportunity to extend my exchange for a further semester. I definitely encourage anyone who wants to go on exchange to go for two semesters, if possible. Although at first a year seems like a long time, time goes by extremely quickly especially once you get settled in at your study abroad institution.
With a population of 6,000 undergraduate students, Vanderbilt has a lot less students than the University of Melbourne. The small student population engenders a real sense of community. People at Vanderbilt and in the general Nashville area are extremely friendly and welcoming especially once they hear the Aussie accent. Compared to Melbourne Uni, there are a lot less exchange students at Vanderbilt and so people are always curious to talk to you and learn more about Australia. Generally, class sizes are a bit smaller at Vanderbilt and there is a strong emphasis on discussion and participation during seminars. The professors tend to know each student by name and have regular contact hours and are always happy to go over the course material. I would definitely recommend living on campus, especially during the first semester. Campus living makes meeting fellow students a lot easier and some of my closest friends were the people living on my hall.

There are tons of extracurricular activities that you can get involved in at Vanderbilt and I definitely recommend taking advantage of this. These activities are a great way to meet people who you wouldn’t otherwise meet in class. Personally, I was involved with the college radio station, WRVU, and was able to host two weekly shows; one with a fellow exchange student and another by myself. Football and basketball are a big part of Vanderbilt life, and it’s a must to at least go to a couple of games and get into the school spirit. Going tailgating before a football game is an experience not to miss!

Nashville is a really cool city. Whilst Nashville is synonymous with country music there is also a really awesome non-country music scene. I was able to go to a lot of amazing concerts during my time in Nashville and there are some really great music venues close to campus. Vanderbilt also holds a number of music performances on campus. There is so much to love about living in the South and you can definitely feel the sense of southern hospitality. Although, I’ve probably eaten enough fried foods to last me for quite some time!

There’s always something going on in Nashville or on campus and Vanderbilt has a great nightlife. For those over 21, there are a number of bars and clubs downtown including the infamous honky tonks and believe it or not, line dancing. For those who are not yet 21, there are a few clubs that are 18+ but there’s also always frat parties or various things to do on campus.

If possible, I’d recommend leaving some time to travel after your exchange finishes or even before. I was able to travel to a number of U.S. cities including Memphis, which is only a 4 hour bus ride from Nashville. Depending on which semester you go on exchange in, there’s also a number of semester breaks and I used this time to travel outside the U.S. to Canada, Mexico, and Peru.

Be sure to account for your finances before going on exchange. The University of Melbourne has a number of scholarships available and you can apply for an OS help loan on top of this. It’s best to research these options before leaving so you don’t have to be worried about not having enough money once you’re overseas.

All in all, I cannot recommend going on exchange enough. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and I have come away from the experience with a greater sense of independence and a number of lifelong international friends.