If you have ever thought about studying abroad – do it.
Freshman year at SAU, I looked into the studying abroad pamphlets, but as an athlete and a pretty shy person, I thought, “I could never do this.” And the pamphlets collected in dust.
Fast forward to junior year. I casually mentioned always wanted to try studying abroad to my Mom. Two weeks later, I received a call from my Dad. He suggested if I wanted to do it, I better look into it ASAP. So, I did. Within weeks, I had made a final decision – and with all the International Studies Office’s help, my advisers, and my friends who had abroad experiences, it was an easy decision.
The program I chose was The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) and to go to Australia. My choice of school was based on size, if it was a Catholic university, and if I could get the courses I needed for graduation. The University of Notre Dame Australia in Fremantle, Western Australia, was the perfect fit!
I’ve only been on a plane a handful of times and I was nervous for the 14 hour plane ride from Los Angeles to Sydney, but by the time I got on the Quantas flight, I was so exhausted from traveling all day that I fell asleep easily. The plane ride was long and I got up several times to stretch my legs, but they do well to ensure that you are comfortable.
The International Studies Office and TEAN were amazing at making sure that my parents and I were both comfortable with the trip pre-departure and even now, while I’m abroad. Any questions I had or might have now, are answered in a timely manner.
Arriving in Sydney was a huge culture shock – something I didn’t actually expect, since both the U.S. and Australia are westernized countries. Just a few things that surprised me:
1. It’s winter in Australia – so it’s chilly. And it rains a lot. Not everyone dresses in khaki shorts and thick work boots – in fact, Australians dress up way more than Americans. Shocker when I got to school – nobody wears running shorts and a T-shirt (my typical go-to-class outfit at SAU) to class. Dresses, jeans and cute tops…yeah, my running shorts are temporarily retired for going-to-class material.
2. I actually laughed when I saw a woman wearing UGG boots when there isn’t snow or the possibility of snow or below 60°. And was surprised to see a man wearing some…and then another…and another…You wouldn’t see that in the U.S.!
3. Simple things such as the way we write the date compared to Australians. Take my birthday: In the U.S. it’s 5/10/1991. In Australia? 10/5/1991. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve confused myself writing dates on papers I’ve turned in because of this date confusion! In the U.S., you call your professors “Professor” or “Dr.” but here, it’s common to address your “lecturer” by his or her first name. And, unlike home, there is the “lecture” and then the “tutorial.” Two separate classes for one class!
Honestly, if you’ve ever thought about going abroad to study, do it. You have to take these opportunities when they come at you. I did and I’ve never been happier with making a decision! If you do decide to do so, here’s my advice:
Read up more on where you’re going. Don’t just assume that you know how it’s going to be, just because it’s a westernized culture. And don’t expect to be an expert. I did some reading up on Australia and thought I wouldn’t be surprised by very much. I was very wrong – but, I’m so glad that I was!
If you have any questions about Australia, TEAN, any experiences with the International Studies Office, etc. please e-mail me: MedlandSarahJ@sau.edu.
If you’d like to keep updated with my experiences, here’s my blog!: http://myaustralianexperience.wordpress.com/