Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! This is what my Dad said to me when I first arrived back home in America. I’ve been home for a week now and I look back on my time in Australia with a smile on my face. When asking about how my experience was, people often as me if I’d do the whole thing over again. My reply? “In a heartbeat!”
I had the opportunity of a lifetime this past semester and I will be forever grateful. I’ve made lifelong friends and created wonderful memories in Australia. I’ve traveled to places I’ve dreamed of going and places I’d never even heard of five months ago. Hanging with the kangaroos, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, competing with the UNDA Women’s Indoor Volleyball team (and winning 1st place!), to making Aussie friends. Even though I didn’t travel all over Australia or hop across the ocean to places like Bali or New Zealand, I can honestly say that I feel I spent my time very well while down under.
For those who know me really well, they were very surprised when I first told them I was planning on studying abroad (and later, preparing to study abroad), as they know me as the “homebody” who loves hanging out with her family and staying close to home and friends. It was quite the shocker when the girl who applied to colleges mostly within driving distance of her home was going to be living halfway across the world for almost five months. The reason I’m saying this is because there may be other people out there who do not want to leave what they know and live somewhere on the other side of the world. I’m writing to tell you that it’s possible to let go and challenge yourself to an amazing experience and to open your eyes to a whole new life, one where you meet people with a different upbringing, different views, different accents, and different slang. I feel I’ve become more independent since studying abroad and have developed a better sense of self.
If I could give advice to a student who is preparing to study abroad, these would be my tips:
- Pack less than you think you’ll need, especially if you plan on going shopping. If you bring the essentials and a few different items, you should be good to go.
- Research! Before you go, look at the different places you know you want to go so you don’t wait until the last minute to book things when they get too expensive or are unavailable. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of how much you actually want to do and will learn of new places you want to go.
- Branch out and introduce yourself to the locals. What happens a lot when people study abroad is that they can stick to those they have the most in common with, for example, Americans hanging out with Americans. I made it a point to reach out to local people I had classes with and made the effort to get to know them. If you make the effort, chances are they’ll reciprocate.
- Get involved! All too often I have heard that students do not get involved with the school, TEAN events, or the community around them. Yes, it’s great to travel places, but if you look hard enough, you will see that there are plenty of great opportunities within your university or community! I got involved with Rec Sports and participated in Boot Camp and competed with the Volleyball Team, helping them to win 1st place for the first time in 20 years! I also attended the Student Life Office’s events and International Student events where I met people from all over the world and the area.
- Remember, it is study abroad. If you do not keep up with your schoolwork, it will catch up with you in the end. It’s better to have worked hard during the whole semester and go into the final with a good grade rather than walking into the final freaking out that you need to get a perfect score to pass the class.
- Make sure to introduce yourself to your lecturers and tell them you’re studying abroad and talk with them throughout the semester. If they see you are putting an effort into your studies, they will be more willing to help you adjust to the different academic structure.
These are just a few suggestions, but everyone’s experience is different. The main thing to remember is to HAVE FUN! Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!