Dominic Nguyen described the difference between his educational experience as a study abroad student at Virginia Tech and his home university of University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia as “night and day.” Everything from the classroom environment to the campus culture, and even the difficulty of classes, varies widely between the two universities.
“I’ve always had the urge to study abroad and move away from Sydney,” Nguyen said. “I would definitely regret if I didn’t do it.” This spring semester, Nguyen took that leap of faith and traveled 9,573 miles to Blacksburg to work toward his dual degrees in civil engineering and surveying. The partnership between the two schools also led to two Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering students to Sydney to study at UNSW during the spring semester.
In Nguyen’s classes at UNSW, there is a 500-person lecture class combined with a smaller class session where a teaching assistant will review example problems from the lecture. The classes usually have no homework and rely on one or two assignments and a final exam for the entire class grade. “I prefer the university experience at Virginia Tech,” Nguyen said. “The class stress is spread out through the semester, rather than relying on one big exam.”
Another main difference is that, in Sydney, most students live at home and commute to class daily. The commute can be as far as two hours for some students. That means that Nguyen doesn’t have as much time to spend on campus and meet other students. At Virginia Tech, he enjoyed the opportunity to live around campus and hang out with friends between classes. “The college experience and sense of community is one thing I will miss,” he said. “Everyone I met in Blacksburg is so friendly and outgoing.” He also joked that “people might have been so friendly because they like hearing my Australian accent.”
Like many Hokies, Nguyen said that his most memorable experiences in Blacksburg were going to sporting events. “Experiencing the atmosphere at sporting events that are nationally televised was so crazy,” he said. “I loved being in the crowd with other crazed Hokie fans and it is something I’m truly going to miss.”
Although there are many parts of the American university scene that he prefers, Nguyen has returned to Sydney to complete his degree at UNSW in hopes of eventually working as a project manager on major construction sites. However, he makes it clear that he is now a Hokie for life.