Harry O’Connell

Harry O’Connell

Leaving for America I was excited, I was excited to travel and experience a new culture/ way of student life and am very grateful for the experience AUOA has given me. My adventure started with a group of friends much like myself road tripping up the west coast of America together. We experienced the likes of Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, and Seattle before we parted ways for our own chosen exchanges.
Once I arrived in Minnesota I knew this experience would be special. When I arrived, it was warm compared to what most people had told me about the place, but I had prepared for the cold and was ready to start my adventure. My first day was daunting, I felt like the new kid at school and was eager to get involved. The University itself had set up a buddy program for exchange students and I couldn't have got a better buddy.
My buddy was called Lydia Hanna and through her I met my closest friends. With this opportunity I was able to join a Fraternity called Sigma Pi. Normally this is unusual for exchange student to join a fraternity for a semester however, with a bit of kiwi charm and that "kid from the other side of the world who everyone thinks is from England or Australia' attitude I was welcomed into the fraternity. It was there that I gained the experience of a life time.
The opportunity this scholarship provided was a first-hand insight to be an American college student in a fraternity. After a week of being there my eyes were open to the reality of what it was like to be a college student. A fraternity is a business in every sense and it helped me develop more and see that everything is not as it is. Within the fraternity there was an executive board. They controlled the day to day of the fraternity and the direction in which it would be going for the future with recruitment, grades, education, volunteer work for the community and charitable collection. I was placed on the social committee. Here I had to work and help the other members set up social events and help plan them, ensuring that they were safe and suitable. It was a shock working with people my own age from the other side of the world and just how they would go about things. It enabled me to listen and work with them while seeing a completely different culture while gaining a greater understanding of potential conflicts in personality in working life.
The University Classes were different compared to those of Otago. Classes were more internally based and consisted of tests or assignments every week or two. The experience was invaluable, helping me develop a better work ethic. Most of my classes had lots of group work and I got another first-hand experience with two completely different student cultures working with each other.
The social aspects also provided made my time in Minnesota and helped me even more. I made my closest friends in my fraternity who I keep in touch with today. Once I joined I automatically got 80 new brothers from all around America and the world, an experience I would not receive anywhere else. In a way it was its own small-scale network and I was able to be a part of it. Some of my friends were from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago, St. Louis, South Africa, France and Russia.

Once again, I got to experience the mix of cultures and interact with my own peers. However, I didn't spend all my time in Minnesota, I also went down to Austin Texas to visit a friend of mine and we went to ACL for the weekend. Austin was amazing, and it was an experience to see literally the other end of the country and experience some warm weather. I also visited Washington DC and New York near the end of my semester which were both and amazing experience.
I would just like to thank AUOA for this scholarship and the experience of living and studying overseas, developing myself as a person, and making lifelong friends along the way. Without the support of AUOA this experience would not have been the same.