David Magee

I arrived in College Station in the fall semester of 2021 to begin what would be the best experience of my life so far, a study abroad year at Texas A&M University. I hail from Lancaster University in the UK, although originally from Northern Ireland, and have just completed the second year of my Nuclear Engineering degree here at Texas A&M. The experiences I have had, the amazing people from all different backgrounds and cultures I have met that I would now consider great friends, and memories made are things that I will cherish forever. I am currently still here doing a summer research internship until August 2022 at Texas A&M, another invaluable opportunity offered to me through the college that I was able to take part in on this study abroad year. 

I was, of course, very apprehensive coming over here. Not knowing anyone or the area in which I was to live in for the next year and having to adjust to the different style of education was a daunting prospect. However, the education abroad department, fellow exchange students, the Texas A&M students, my professors, and the lovely people of College Station all played a huge part in making me feel comfortable here and ensuring that I had the best experience possible, and for that I would like to thank everyone that has helped me along the way! 

The Texas A&M College of Engineering is amazing, particularly the Department of Nuclear Engineering which is the largest program of its kind in the US and ranked third nationally among public universities. This, of course, has been amazing for me, getting to use the outstanding facilities available and learning from some of the smartest minds in the world. I had the opportunity of visiting the Nuclear Science Centre in the fall semester which is home to the universities 1MW TRIGA nuclear testing reactor. This was an unforgettable experience which I am still in awe over and is something that we don’t have back at Lancaster, so I am very thankful of getting to see it in action.  

As I mentioned before, I am currently doing a summer research internship here at Texas A&M called the Undergraduate Summer Research Grant program, from which I have received a generous grant from Texas A&M and a housing allowance. I am working in a nuclear materials lab carrying out very important research for the industry which has been unreal so far. I have learned a lot and made close relations with my fellow researchers and professor which will help me out so much in my future career. I have been part of this lab since the fall semester, and I was able to get this through the American Nuclear Society organisation I joined which was another great way of networking and learning more about the industry in the US. As well as this, I managed to get a part time job as a Radiological Safety Technician with the A&M Environmental Health and Safety department and worked there from November through to beginning my summer internship. This was a very relevant job to my degree, another amazing opportunity given to me on this study abroad experience.  

Aside from the educational perspective, I have been able to see and experience some of the amazing things here at Texas A&M and the US. The social and sporting events put on are great, including the sports facilities such as working out and swimming at the Rec Centre and attending the football games in the breath taking 102,733 capacity Kyle Field. I went on trips to great places around Texas also such as Austin, Houston, and Big Bend National Park in west Texas which was one of the coolest places I have ever been (I’m a big outdoors person). I also went to Miami over Thanksgiving, New York for the Christmas break, and Mexico over Spring Break. Amongst all this, and more, I also managed to squeeze in a skydive! 

For any incoming exchange students, here is some advice I would give stemming from my experiences. Manage your money, some things such as trips away can be expensive and there were times where I struggled as I wasn’t keeping track of my expenditures. Do some research in to housing, I stayed in one of the dorms on campus and although I enjoyed this as it was handy for getting to class there are apartments off campus which are still quite close and are very nice and less expensive (and most have swimming pools which is great for the staggering Texas heat). Be prepared for lack of public transport, there are busses that get you round campus and to grocery stores but places in College Station and anywhere in Texas are very spread out as it’s so big and you usually need a car to get there. However, don’t worry as you will meet great people who will be more than happy to give you a ride, and you also have the option of Uber, Hitch, and renting a car. Join organisations and try new things, this is a great way of meeting new people and experiencing something different. Also try to avoid going to the hospital, unfortunately I had a mishap and had to go which ran up a hefty bill even with my health insurance. Last but not least, get yourself out there. Meet new people, get involved in your classes, try new things, go to social events. I can safely say taking myself out of my comfort zone and doing things I’ve never done before has made me a more confident and outgoing person and I wouldn’t change it for the world!