Down Under: Reflecting on time in the sun
As the semester winds down, I took some time to reflect on what studying abroad has taught me. I narrowed it down to three categories.
Studying abroad has challenged me personally, academically and professionally.
Packing the future four months of your life into two suitcases and a carry-on is a challenge within itself. My advice for future study abroad travelers is to pack light and leave some room for souvenirs. You will come home with a lot.
I had to learn how to live independently in a strange place for a long period of time. Australia is an incredible country and living on the Sunshine Coast is absolutely beautiful. But there are some things you’ll have to figure out.
I had to learn how to get around. Unlike Baltimore, where taking a bus in the city is generally not advised, public transportation will quickly become a way of life in your new country.
Luckily for me, I had two extremely kind and accommodating Australian roommates who were willing to take me the places I needed to go as well as show me a good time every once in a while.
Next there’s the language-barrier problem. Although Australia is an English speaking country, we still had some problems understanding each other. Over here, bathing suits are called “togs” and flip-flops are called “thongs.” So, if your roommate asks you if you’ve seen their leather thongs, don’t worry, it’s just their shoes that they’ve misplaced.
Academically, be prepared for some major changes. The grading system has five levels: High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, Fail. No one knows what As and Bs are and if you get a 70 percent on an assignment, that’s a Credit and you should be proud. Crazy, huh?
If you haven’t already learned how to write, do so before you come. In each of my classes, I only had three or four assignments and they consisted of only essays, weighted at 20-30 percent each. And if you’re coming to Australia, brush up on the Harvard Style Guide. They don’t use APA here.
Professionally, it may be a good career move to try and get an internship abroad. At the radio station I interned at, I learned all kinds of things about Australian politics, community values, festivals and concerts and local attractions I might not have otherwise.
Finally, be prepared to feel homesick sometimes. I never in a million years thought I would have to deal with this problem. It creeps up on me every now and then and the hardest part for me is knowing I can’t leave until the end of the semester. A phone call to your family can help you feel better, but be sure to call when you’re in high spirits as well. After all, you’ll be having the time of your life, I can guarantee it.
Overall, 2012 might go down in history as the best year of my life. Coming to Australia has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve learned so much about myself, about another culture and how big the world is. I’ve also learned how alike people really are, and how easy it is to make friends when you need them. Traveling with other young people will force you to get up close and personal right from the beginning, but the friends I’ve made I know I’ll have for life.