Elizabeth Cato

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry
Program: University of Wollongong
Location: Wollongong, Australia
Email: escato@live.unc.edu
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I wanted to go to a place where I was able to be near the ocean and where the weather was nice. So I picked Australia. I then wanted an experience where I would be surrounded by Australians instead of Americans. I also did not want to be in one of the huge cities that everyone know. From there I looked into Wollongong and it seemed like the perfect college beach town feel that I was looking for. The residence halls also caught my interest.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned how to make new friends. I have been in Chapel Hill since I was in first grade, and ever since I moved here I have had a very strong support system with my friends and family. Going abroad ripped the support out from under me and forced me to be on my own and meet new people. I discovered a lot about myself and that I can form really strong connections with new people. It was a very hard adjustment, but it was a really good lesson to learn.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
I tend to embarrass myself without even trying and when I was abroad I managed to embarrass myself more than normal. One of these times particularly sticks out. I was at a hotel in Melbourne with a friends in early June, so it was winter and fairly cold. My friend and I decided we wanted to go to the outdoor hot tub which was a few floors below our floor. We did not want to wear all of our clothes over our bathing suit, so we put on bath robes. As we were walking down the hall to catch the elevator, I heard someone else get on the elevator on the floor above and I got scared and did not want to be on the elevator in just a robe with a stranger. I decided it would be a good idea to take the stairs, and my friend followed. As the door to the stairs closed, I realized there was a fob scanner beside the door. We began to walk down a few fights of stairs to the floor with the hot tub, and to our surprise it was locked. We ran back up to our floor and tricked out open the door to our floor with the room key, but nothing happed. Neither of us had our phones so the only thing we could do is walk down to the main floor. We walk down the 10 flights of stairs and exit in a service alleyway. We then had to walk from the alley to the main street and enter the hotel through the main doors and walk in front of reception to the elevator. As we walked by, the receptionist laughed and said "going for a swim?" and both my friend and I were mortified.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Don't be afraid to reach out to as many people as you can. When you first arrive you will probably have a group of people that surround you at the start. It will feel nice to know that you have people in a new place that you can spend your time with. However, do not be afraid to expand past these people and form connections with others. There are really interesting and caring people everywhere, and just because they were not the first people you met does not mean you cannot be friends.


Would you do it again?


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
When I was abroad in Australia, my classes had the same basic outline as the classes here, but grades were not as big of a deal. Students there only had to pass. Where as here, we strive to get all As. This culture of only having to pass created a much more relaxed view of education. There were students who did not pass, even while putting in effort. So, the classes were not a walk int he park, but the fact that students don't have to get about a 90% in a class to be considered doing well is relieving. Adjusting back to the UNC education was very difficult for me and took me almost the whole semester I was back. I ended up not doing really bad or really good in any of my classes the semester I was back. However, one thing that I learned to appreciate at UNC was how much the I am pushed to succeed and be the best I can be.


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