Study Abroad at Northern Arizona University

Ben Murrell – BSc Physics

Hi! I’m Ben and I’m studying Physics at the University of Surrey. Last year I was fortunate enough to get to study abroad in the USA at Northern Arizona University, and I’m going to tell you all about it. My exchange was two semesters, fall and spring, so I was able to get in a lot of travel and a lot of meeting new people. But even one semester was more than enough to get in some unforgettable experiences. Planning your stay abroad can be daunting, I should know. From visas to accommodation to just making friends, it’s not easy moving away from home. So, I’m going to talk you through some tips I wish I knew a year ago. 

Moving in

The NAU exchange team is super supportive, and I can’t express enough how much easier the move will be if you’re using them to answer any questions you might have. They’ll let you know which classes you can take, direct you on using the website, and even pick you up from the airport once you arrive! With their help, picking accommodation is a breeze. They even offer gender inclusive halls for those who feel uncomfortable or unsafe in standard accommodation. Getting food is either a short walk off campus to the nearby Target, or there are plenty of stalls around campus to grab a meal if cooking isn’t your style.  

Making friends

It’s a new uni, a new country, and what feels like a new world, so where do you get started? I found that having friends to face new challenges allowed me to hit the ground running. Rest assured there will be plenty of other international students looking to make friends (maybe even some from Surrey). Try to attend any events NAU has put on to meet people. These aren’t always advertised well, so make sure to check the Instagram page, or ask about events at the front desk of your accommodation. If that’s not your style “Discord” is a social media service which has just set up a way to join chat groups with people from your school. Enter your school email, choose your interests from the list of society chat groups, and start chatting. Messaging before your arrival can ensure you’ll have company as soon you land! I for one chose the Board Games Society and ended up every week for the whole year. 

Travel Abroad

Whilst studying is important, travelling is what study abroad is all about! Exploring the culture of your host nation is a fantastic way to grow your worldview and develop your independence. Check which dates NAU is closed for holidays, and national bank holidays you can make use of for shorter weekend trips. Booking in advance can save you a lot when you’re on a budget. Websites like are great for finding deals tailored to students. The Margaret Westwood bursary really helped me here. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to see half the fantastic locations I did. Some of my favourites included the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Both are close to Flagstaff (where NAU is based) so make the trip if you get the chance! Keep in mind Arizona is a lot hotter than home! So, pack understanding your wardrobe may have to change once you arrive. 

“Study abroad is an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on”

With financial support schemes like the Turing Grant and Margaret Westwood Bursary, you can expect to have extra funds for leisure activities and travel. I found the workload at NAU more manageable than Surrey and that includes weekend trips around the states! So, if you want to travel, grow as an individual, and increase your employability – there is nothing I recommend more than studying abroad.