Final Reflections: Matt

It truly is unbelievable just how quick 10 months can pass, my time in the USA really felt like a blur. Well I am back in Auckland and thought that for my last post I will pretty much write down my final thoughts and some of the highlights from my two semesters in Chapel Hill.

For me, the two semesters spent at Chapel Hill was one of the best times of my life and I would do anything to relive that experience again. For those thinking about going abroad, I say do it! You will not regret a thing.

The South

The first thing I want to talk about is the southern culture. For me personally, I loved the culture in North Carolina. Being in the south, I experienced southern hospitality, BBQs, sweet tea, s’mores, country music, as well as a southern campus experience. On the off occasion, I would even catch myself saying “y’all” rather than “you all,” much to the delight of the Americans. The South is a region that many do not consider when looking to visit the US. I simply cannot recommend it enough, especially if it’s for an exchange. Compared to other regions in the US, the lifestyle is so laidback, and I often drew comparisons to the lifestyle in New Zealand. The weather is great, the people are very friendly and if you like the outdoors, there are mountains, beaches rivers and lakes to explore. Did I already mention that you won’t freeze your ass off in winter?

Trying out deep-fried Oreos at the State Fair – a southern delicacy



You’d think that most of the highlights from an exchange are the places you visit and travel to. However, many of the best memories I made were in Chapel Hill. From going out at least four times a week (my liver can thank me for that), to learning new skills in boxing, I was always trying to make the most out of my short time at UNC. Notable highlights included football games on Saturdays, the state fair, Halloween on Franklin Street, the snow week at UNC, Holi-Moli, Bar-Golf and the last day of class (LDOC), just to name a few.

Halloween at the hill

Snow day? Snow problem



I was very lucky to have covered so much of the USA. Being on exchange for two semesters meant that I had way more time to see this vast country and meant I did not need to spend every weekend away from Chapel Hill. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic coast, I experienced the best the state of North Carolina offered. From the chilly north east cities of Boston and New York City, to sunny Florida, I explored much of the eastern United States, including the windy city of Chicago in the mid-west. At the end of the second semester, myself and a few mates ventured out west in a van and experienced some incredible scenery, as well as visiting the cities of LA, San Francisco and San Diego. The good thing about the F-1 student visa is that it allows up to 60 days in the United States after your studies have finished, so definitely take advantage of that!

It had “bean” a great time in Chicago

Spring Break at the Bahamas
Big smiles at the big apple

Grandest time at the canyon



Being on the same boat as all the other exchange students, it was so easy to make international friends. EASE provides an orientation as well as various events for international students to meet up, so it is a great way to form friendships. Americans are also very friendly and easy to get along with, however I found that many already had their own social circles, and they were heaps more focused on their studies than we were. In the fall semester, we had formed a big international group (with some Americans) and did everything together, from hanging out to traveling. Travelling with a group of internationals is also so much fun. Some of my best memories came from hiring out massive Air Bnbs, be it in Asheville or Chicago, and just having an awesome time away. Many of the exchange students do leave after a semester, but this meant I became quite close to the one year-ers in the second semester. Having mates from all over the world is sound because I now have a place to stay and a couch to crash on in all corners of the world.



Just a few mates


Final Word

Firstly, I just want to say a huge thanks to 360 International, the University of Auckland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for giving me this opportunity to study in the United States. I also want to say thanks to my family and friends back in New Zealand for supporting me every single step of the way, and for when times get tough (yes it isn’t all roses!). And finally, a massive thank you to all the incredible people I have met throughout my time at UNC Chapel Hill, both International and American. Without them, the experience would not have been the same for sure. That goes to say that no matter where you go in the world, in the end, the fondest memories are made with the people you are with. And no doubt you will meet a bunch of legends like I did when you go abroad. My time at UNC may be up, but I will forever be a Tar Heel. Cheers!

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Sports at UNC (The University of National Champions): Matt

I thought that I would include this in my previous blog however I think it’s best it has its own separate section.

So yeah, sports in college are a big deal. And sports at UNC are an even bigger deal. Known as the Tar Heels, UNC is one of the top Universities in America when it comes to varsity sports. Our Basketball program is incredibly successful, winning the NCAA national championship 6 times and producing the great Michael Jordan. Our Football team is also decent however we did have an off year when I was at UNC. The baseball team made it to the final four and produces many MLB stars. The most successful team is the women’s soccer team. They have won 22 out of 36 championships and produced stars such as Mia Hamm. So yeah, you can say that the Tar Heels aren’t too bad.

2017 National Champions!
No better way to spend a Sunday morning than a bit of Baseball

If you go during the fall semester, you will be experiencing the Football season. While UNC isn’t known to be a Football school, it still plays at a very high level. Home games are played at Kenan Stadium with a capacity of 60,000 people.

Kenan Stadium from the student section. You bet I got sunburnt!

Gameday is a big affair. Tailgates are set up all over campus, with BBQs, drinking and games. Alumni meet up with old friends, and the marching band parades around campus. Frats normally host day parties (Darties) and many students like to cake themselves in Carolina blue. The game itself is a great experience. There is lots of noise, especially in the student section, and lots of colour. At the end, the crowd links arms and everyone sings the alma meter “Hark the Sound”, it truly is a special moment. Even if you dislike American football, it is a great idea to at least stay for one quarter as it is a great way to immerse yourself into the school spirit.

The marching band performing in front of Wilson Library

But whilst Football seems like a big deal, it does not come close to Basketball. The season is longer, and games are more frequent, yet the interest and support never dwindles. Games are played at the 21,000 capacity Dean Smith Centre and can be a bit of a trek since it is located on south campus. Most games are open general admission for students if you have your one card, however for the more important games, there is a lottery system. Basically, you apply and hope that your name gets selected for a ticket. I personally think it is rigged since I went 0-12 in the lottery. That did not stop me from finding tickets however and more importantly, I was able to watch the Duke game.

View from the nosebleeds
View from the student section

On the topic of basketball, we have this huge rivalry with another successful Basketball School called Duke (better known as Dook) who happen to be 9 miles down the road from us. Every year, we play them twice, home and away. Before coming to UNC, I had already heard of this rivalry and I was so excited to experience it. It began with lining up with other students for two hours to get into the stadium, such was the occasion. The noise inside the stadium was unlike anything I had experienced. It was constantly loud. When Theo Pinson dunked to seal the win, the place erupted. Next, we pushed our way out of the stadium and with thousands of other students, sprinted through campus towards Franklin Street. Within minutes, Franklin Street was packed with students celebrating the win. There was chanting, dancing, couch burning and fire-jumping, it was nuts! Beating Duke and rushing Franklin was probably the highlight of my time at UNC and must be experienced if you are there in the spring semester.

Celebrating the win over Dook

Franklin Street kicking off! Rushing Franklin is never complete without a jump over the fire. (Not responsible for any injury that may occur)

I hope you enjoyed this introduction on UNC sports and my experience in rushing Franklin. Funnily enough, you can probably catch UNC games on the telly if it is shown by ESPN. And also, go Heels!

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Campus Life: Matt

Hello again! In this post I want to talk about what life is like at UNC from work to play.


So, most students at UNC will find their classes to be based on north campus (unless you happen to be in the business school). On north campus, there is a mix of both old and new buildings where there is a good chance you will have a class. Also, on north campus are three main libraries both relatively large and unique in their own ways. Davis is the giant, no thrills, brick building with 7 floors. The ground floor is open-spaced and quite social, but the further up you go, the quieter it gets. Many think it looks like a prison. Second is Wilson. The building is located right on the quad and is the most good looking out of the three. Finally, there is the UL which is open 24/7 and is the perfect place to pull an all-nighter if you are unfortunate in leaving an assignment until the last day.

Wilson Library during the snow day
Carrol Hall


Of course, UNC isn’t all about work and study. We do have plenty of free time to unwind! Normally when there is a little break in between class, I like to spend time hanging around the pit or in the quad. The pit is the central hub of the University and is the equivalent to Auckland’s quad. It is essentially a large paved square that is surrounded by the student store, student union and Lenoir dining hall. The union is a great place to chill out, especially when the weather is bad. You can find ping pong tables, pool tables, a giant chess board and even a meditation room.

The Pit – The heart of Campus

The student store is another cool place to chill. There’s a café, convenience store, and a book store as well as all the UNC merch you can imagine.

The Student Store

Next to the pit is the quad known as Polk Place. When the weather is nice, many UNC students love to chill on the lawn and brave their hay fever allergies. It is conveniently close to classes and if you are lucky, you may see the pit preacher giving a lecture.

It’s always a good day to be a Tar Heel
Look Mum I have friends!
Sharing some yarns with Gary the Preacher


If you are into sport and recreation, UNC has all the facilities you can imagine. There are two main recreation centres: Rams located on south campus, and Fetzer gym located on mid campus. You can go to the gym, climb a wall, or even play a game of basketball. There are plenty of playing fields, swimming pools and a large astro turf which is popular for soccer and ultimate frisbee. However, you do get plenty of exercise simply from walking around campus and many students also like to use bikes to get around. Go to the rec centre to find out about any events, such as bubble soccer!

Bubble Soccer at Hooker Fields
Boxing at the Eddie Smith Field House


In terms of nightlife UNC has plenty of options. Obviously, the US has a drinking age of 21 so it can sometimes be difficult to cope if you are underage. House parties happen all the time so if you are outgoing, open and involved, you should have no problems finding parties especially if you are international. There is the option of Greek life however joining a frat takes about 6 months of initiation and can be quite pricey as well as time consuming. Same goes with joining a sorority. With Greek life, the best option is to be friendly with people involved with Greek life if you are keen to get involved with social events and parties. Normally, frats are selective with who they invite to their parties but on some occasions, parties are pretty open, especially during rushing season, Halloween, and LDOC (last day of class). As you can imagine, American house parties are very much like the movies with the red solo cups, beer pong and party juice.

Finger guns are underrated
Tailgate DARTY before a football game
10 Points if you can spot the Red Solo Cups

If you are over 21, you can add bars to the list of evening options. Franklin street has a range of bars to choose from each with their own kind of vibe. For me, I did a bit of everything. Most of the exchange students knew each other and we would often pregame together at a house and head either to the same party or bar on Franklin. In semester one, it was all about the bar “Country Fried Duck” or CFD however in semester two, nobody went there anymore. The bar “La Residence” essentially became the new CFD.

Paying homage to the legend that is CFD

Another bar I love is He’s Not Here. Apparently the place received that name because Michael Jordan would frequently have a drink there and fans would always ring up the bar asking where he was, to which the bar replied with “he’s not here.” The bar is famous for its blue cups and has an awesome beer garden to which you can spend warm sunny afternoons listening to a live band and sipping beer.

The famous blue cups from He’s Not Here

Another popular destination is Shooters. Shooters is club located in nearby Durham and is the place where all the Duke students party. On Wednesday nights, the club becomes and 18+ venue and many from UNC take party buses to Durham for the big night. This is a great option especially if you are underage. Other iconic bars are He’s Not Here, Might as Well, Goodfellow’s, Pantana Bob’s and Top of the Hill.

The view of Franklin Street from Top of the Hill (TOPO).

So yeah that’s the general idea on what life is like at UNC. There is heaps I probably have missed out on but perhaps the best thing to do is to find out for yourself!

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Food, Glorious Food: Matt

What many people think when asked about the typical American meal is something that is served quickly, eaten quickly, large and kinda on the unhealthy side of things. Whilst it is true that Americans love to eat Burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken wings and there is a lot more that the US and North Carolina can offer to excite those taste buds.

Chapel Hill has a great foodie scene. There are a range of different places to eat, from high end restaurants, to takeaway burger joints all of which can be found on Franklin Street. There are Italian, Indian, Japanese and Greek restaurant as well as classic American diners. My personal favourite places to eat in Chapel Hill are Al’s Burger Shack, Spicy 9, Tru, and Sup Dogs. There are still heaps of places that I haven’t tried yet so that list can change in an instant.

Sup Dogs
Spicy 9
Not often that you need two plates to hold a slice of Pizza
Al’s Burger Shack


As for the cuisine in North Carolina, like many of the southern states, barbeque is a big deal over here. The state’s speciality is pulled pork which is pretty much pork that has been shredded up. Fried Chicken is also a big deal and if you do venture to North Carolina, visit a Bojangles restaurant as they do some quality chicken and hearty southern cuisine. Another great way to experience American food culture is to head to the annual North Carolina State fair. If you are lucky enough to spend the fall semester in North Carolina, you will have no problem finding endless displays of deep fried oreos, candy and giant turkey legs at the annual state fair.  North Carolinians are big on Sweet Tea when it comes to quenching one’s thirst. I kinda see what the fuss is all about especially during the summer months when a cold drink becomes a godsend. But for me, it felt like I was drinking a cup of cup of tea that I had left behind on the kitchen table with an excess amount of sugar.

Sunday’s are for Football and wings
North Carolina State Fair

You will have no problem finding good places to eat while you’re in Chapel Hill. Since we are on the topic of food, I should talk about the situation with meal plans at UNC. UNC has two Dining halls: Lenoir and Chase. There is another at Granville towers, but it is run separately. Both are conveniently located with Lenoir on North Campus and Chase on South Campus. To eat at these halls, you can pay as you go with cash or card, or you can purchase a meal plan and use your Onecard (like a student id card) to swipe yourself in. Depending on what meal plan you choose, you get a certain number of swipes. Some pay for an unlimited plan where they can go into the dining hall as often as possible without worrying about running out of swipes. Others opt for the 120 plan where you are given 120 swipes for the semester. I opted for the 120 plan because it was the cheapest option and allows me to use the dining hall approximately once a day. The dining halls are open all day and depending on the time, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a great variety of food which caters to just about everyone, and it is extremely convenient.

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Accommodation Awards: Matt

At UNC, exchange students are given a variety of housing options to choose from. I will give you guys a run down on the on-campus housing situation over here and give my opinions of the pros and cons for each option.

At UNC, if you select on-campus housing, you must decide the location and style of dorm you prefer. UNC can be split into three parts: North Campus, South Campus, and Mid-Campus.

North Campus dorms are corridor style, meaning that you will be sharing a large bathroom with people on your floor. North Campus is convenient location wise. You are within a 5-10-minute walk from most of your classes and Franklin Street. These dorms are very pretty and historic, however they tend to be occupied by older students so depending on your floor, it might be a little quiet.

South Campus dorms are suite style. Each suite contains 4 bedrooms sharing a bathroom. South Campus tends to be occupied by younger students, so it is louder than North Campus. There is a bit of an uphill walk to class, but really, I have not found this to be a problem.

Mid-campus also has suite style dorms and is more of a mix of both North and South Campus.

As for myself, I opted to live on South Campus. My dorm is Morrison Hall, and houses roughly 800 students.

Morrison Hall

The dorm has 10 floors and a large basement area which includes a study room and a games room. There is also a basketball court outside and a nice green area to relax in the sunshine.

Games Room


Despite being located on South Campus, I have found the location to be very convenient as it is next door to Chase Dining Hall and Rams Gym. Being the farthest north of the south campus dorms, it only takes 15 minutes to walk to the pit and to class. Also, it is right next door to the football stadium, with the basketball stadium only a 10 minute walk away. Franklin street is a little bit far to walk, however there is a free bus to Franklin called the P2P that stops outside Morrison every 15 minutes. Buying a bicycle would be a pretty good idea to cut the journey time also and I know of many exchange students who have done so.

Chase Dining Hall

As mentioned before, my dorm is suite-style. If you do opt for on-campus housing, be prepared to share a room with a roommate. It might sound daunting at first, however you will get to a point where you will barely notice that you are sharing a room with another person. Nevertheless, it is a great way to meet Americans from the get-go. Below are a few more photos of my dorm.

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?
Sorry about the mess!
View from the 10th Floor

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First Impressions: Matt

Hey y’all! So, I have finally arrived and settled into life at UNC and I think now is the time to share my first impressions of the place and the process of getting here.


Before coming to UNC and the United States, there is a lot you must do. For me, the biggest headache was the Visa. Obtaining the Visa was a long process. It involved plenty of paperwork and applications to fill out as well as fees. UNC does help you along the way and is able to provide you with an I-20 form which is also needed to get the Visa. Once the application is complete, you are required to attend an interview at the US consulate in Auckland but don’t worry about it, the interviewer was friendly and literally only asked me a couple of questions. My biggest advice would be to get on board with the Visa application ASAP! I had to cancel my flights as my Visa would not have come through on time and it was quite costly. Booking flights early does save plenty of money but only do this if you are certain you will get your Visa before that date.

The Journey

Since I received my Visa late, I pretty much booked flights a week before I was required to arrive (not ideal). Last minute flights are expensive so to get a decent deal, I ended up taking four different planes to get to Raleigh. I took two planes from Auckland to LA with a brief stopover in Tahiti. After landing in LA, I had to take a shuttle to another Airport in neighbouring Orange County where I would catch an overnight flight to New Jersey. Once in New Jersey, I would catch my final flight to Raleigh, North Carolina.

See ya later NZ!

After a solid 30 hours of flying, I arrived at a hot and humid North Carolina day. I was picked up by a very helpful UNC student who used her time to help me get to the campus and essentially settle in. UNC has an organisation called EASE which helps ease us exchange students into life at UNC. One of the things they do is organise airport pickups which save us the hassle of organising transport to the campus from the airport. I found this extremely helpful. EASE also hosts many social events and is a great way to meet both American and other exchange students.


From the moment I arrived, I fell in love with the place. The University is supposedly the very first public University to open in the USA. It was founded in 1789 and has many old buildings with lots of character. The iconic feature is the old well where it is tradition to drink out of it on the first day of class to receive a 4.0 GPA.

The Old Well

UNC also has plenty of green spaces. There are so many areas on campus where you could take a nap outside and enjoy the sunshine (unless you’re prone to burning like myself).

The Main Quad

The campus also has plenty of sports facilities. The University is mad when it comes to sports (especially basketball). They are known as the UNC Tar Heels, named after North Carolina troops who would put tar on the soles of their shoes. UNC is very successful when it comes to sports and has national championships in Lacrosse, Soccer, and Basketball. It wasn’t until I had visited the football stadium that I realised just how mad Americans are when it comes to sports. The stadium holds just over 60,000 people, which I have learned is quite an average size by American standards.

Kenan Stadium

Chapel Hill

The town of Chapel Hill is a great place to be a student. Franklin Street is the main hub of activity with its abundance of good food and places to drink. There is also a Target Supermarket which has everything you need. It is a chill place and is literally right next door to the UNC campus!

Franklin Street

The other thing I noticed was that Chapel Hill has a lot of trees. Coming from someone from New Zealand, this was probably the very first thing I noticed upon arriving here.

Trees, trees and more trees

The campus is beautiful, the weather is great and the people are very friendly. There is a reason Chapel Hill is known as “The Southern Part of Heaven.”

Frat Parties

I was invited to my first frat party literally on my first day, and it did not disappoint. Being the weekend before class, the parties were packed and the nightlife was buzzing. There were red cups, beer pong and even a mechanical bull in the garden. I don’t want to say it’s like the movies but it was certainly close. Even if you’re not particularly big on parties, I highly encourage you to at least check it out. Frats play a huge role in the social life of American universities since most undergraduates are too young to go into bars and clubs. Also, it’s a really good way to meet people. Americans will show a huge interest in you if you have a foreign accent and if you’re open, you will have no problem making new friends.

One of the many Frat houses at UNC


Prior to the first week of class, UNC hosts an event called FallFest. Pretty much, it’s like the club’s expo on steroids. It was held on one of the sports fields and had a countless number of tents, stall, and clubs encouraging us to join. More importantly, there was free stuff to gain. I snagged a free bag, t-shirt and completely stuffed myself with good food. FallFest was a great showcase of what life at UNC is like.



Following the weekend, all exchange students had to attend a mandatory orientation. The orientation ran through most of the day and comprised of informative speeches on UNC life and instructions on what we had to do regarding accommodation, meal plans, banking, visa, and health insurance. The day was broken up by a lunch break and even a solar eclipse. There was also an ice cream social following the orientation giving me a great opportunity to meet fellow exchange students and future travel buddies. This is an extremely important event to attend because as great as it is to be friends with Americans, exchange students will want to travel and do more things. The orientation will be the only time where all exchange students are packed in the same building so make sure you meet as many as possible!

Wrapping Up

UNC has been great so far and I am very glad that I’ve picked it. Getting to where I am now was a long and tricky process, but trust me, it will all be worth it! I am incredibly excited to see what will be in store for me in the future. I hope you guys enjoyed this post and took my advice on board. If you ever need more information or if you just want to ask me questions, feel free to comment on this post or email me at

If you want to see what I’m getting up to, then chuck us a follow on Instagram @matthew.rowe

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