Catch up with Carly, a second-year Early Childhood and Special Education student, as she makes the most of her year abroad in Australia.
Hello dear readers!
Sorry it’s been a while. I did actually mean to write a post during the holidays for those of you preparing for your new Study Abroad experience starting this term, but I have been so busy … living life! Sound cheesy? But it’s true! Here’s how I spent my two months of summer holidays (Australian summer occurs during the British winter):
- Learned to surf
- Travelled around Bali
- Learned to waterski, wakeboard and kneeboard (look that last one up, it’s so much fun!)
- Tried stand-up-paddle-boarding
- Saw whales, dolphins, snakes, spiders, kangaroos, emus and wallabies – all in the wild!
- Camped open-air under the stars
- Went white water rafting
- Hiked a volcano at sunrise
- Tried clay shooting
- Visited countless waterfalls and swam in numerous natural water holes
How did I manage to fit all of this in, and how did I afford it on my slim student budget? Let me explain. First of all, Australia is a prime location for flying to exotic destinations for next to nothing. Jetstar’s daily promotions and their “Happy Hour Fridays” offer flights that are a steal.
Even better, you can fly to countries that are extremely cheap, such as Bali, where a week’s worth of surfing lessons starts as low as £50. Second of all, Australia itself is home to spots of absolute unspoilt beauty at the very low cost of… free! All you need is to find a friend, rent a car and share petrol costs. There are free camping spots all over if you don’t mind spending a few days using natural springs as a substitute for a shower (I’m sure you don’t). Networking is also key. I was generously invited to stay at a friend’s place, on a farm – hence all the wild animal sightings. She and her boyfriend also own a speedboat along with all kinds of fun watersport equipment. A weekend at the lake it was!
But of course I am not just here to talk to you about Australia – you might be contemplating a different country – I am here to talk to you about studying abroad. Should you do it? Absolutely. Why? Quite simply because your everyday life will shift from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Things you never thought you would be able to do suddenly become accessible. You will meet people who live a life or who have done things that are different to anything you’ve experienced, and have incredible stories to tell. You will grow, and you will make friends for life.
“Should you do it? Absolutely.”
Let me in the following section try to address a few concerns that have been raised by my fellow students who have emailed me asking for advice, answers and my opinion on the Study Abroad experience:
You’re worried you won’t make any friends.
Yes, traveling alone can be daunting. Perhaps you’re a little shy, reserved or simply not used to having to “put yourself out there”. Well fear not, I can guarantee you that you will make friends. Too much care has been put into place by your host university for it not to happen. Welcome events, orientation week (o-week), international o-week, barbecues, games, sports. You can even stay in the student lodge where you would share a room with others. I’ve now attended two o-weeks for international students who are studying abroad, and not once have I seen anyone left out. By the end of the very first day, everybody is in groups. And don’t forget those people for whom it is easy to approach anyone and introduce themselves. They will be there, and they will approach you and introduce themselves. Then, if a few dozen new friends is not enough for you, you can always tune into the usual social networks such as Couchsurfing.org or Meetup.com – they tend to have regular meetups for people looking to hang out and meet new people.
You’re afraid you will feel homesick.
Hey, I won’t lie to you, that probably will happen. I get homesick, you just can’t avoid it. On the plus side, you’ll have a network of support around you; not only from both your home and host university but also from your friends (you know the new ones we just talked about), because they will be going through the same thing. So when you’re all feeling blue, you can just get together and head to a waterfall or two. That should do it. Plus, you can Skype your family and friends back home everyday if you really want to – no one’s stopping you.
You’re concerned the education system will be too different in another country.
You certainly need to be quite adaptable if you’re going to do this. A lot of things will be different: the online learning platform, acronyms and terminologies, the assessment submission procedures, administration. But again, you will receive an incredible amount of support. In 0-week we received a guided tour of the campus where we were shown the location of all the buildings and people that we might need. We also received visits from the various members of the university staff we might need at some point. We are sent regular emails keeping us upto date on what’s happening. You will also have support from your home university. Tom (UEL Study Abroad Coordinator) has been of invaluable help – I’m pretty sure he has a magician’s hat and wand that he just whips out every time I email him massively worried about one issue or another that I thought was the end of the world, because he usually just sorts it out in a tick. It’s worth noting that the credit system is quite different. In Australia you would do 8 subjects per year, as opposed to 4; that’s 4 per semester (so you have two sets of exams per year!).
I hope this clears up a few of your concerns, but if you have any particular questions that you would like to ask, please feel free to contact me via the Study Abroad office, and I will be happy to reply to any queries and add them to my next post.
In the meantime, I may be living in paradise, but the new semester is in full swing here, week 3 is coming up, and as you know, those assignments tend to creep up on you out of nowhere! Sending you hugs and sun-rays from Australia.