Skip to main content

Joseph Hinchcliffe

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Biology BS
Program: The University of Melbourne, Exchange
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Term: Spring 2023


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose The University of Melbourne to experience a style of education and way of life more similar to that which I am accustomed to in the UK while visiting a continent I have wanted to for a very long time. As an international student, I have had the privilege to experience the American education system and lifestyle. However, I had always wondered what it would have been like to experience higher education elsewhere. As a keen geographer, I learned a lot about quality of life and alternative development indicators. Melbourne has been voted the “most livable city in the world” multiple times within the last ten years. I was interested in experiencing their work-life balance and observing how the culture of their city fosters such a satisfied populace. Melbourne is a city with close ties to its Aboriginal roots, and I believe understanding indigenous cultures is imperative to creating effective and equitable climate policies. I chose Melbourne specifically out of all the programs in Australia because it is the sports capital of Australia, hosting The Australian Grand Prix, The Australian Open and having many soccer and “Aussie rules football” teams. Having grown up surrounded by soccer and attending UNC, I was excited to experience a different sports culture across the globe. I sought out sporting culture because it is how I have made some of my best friends at UNC and I knew this would be achievable in Melbourne too. I wanted to go to the University of Melbourne because it is the best university in Australia and it offered a rewarding academic experience alongside the enriching cultural experience I gained. I am very thankful I was able to study abroad in Australia as it is somewhere that is hard to just visit on vacation. Living in Melbourne for five months allowed me to get a good feel for what Australia is like as a country and immerse myself in the local culture.


What did you learn about yourself?
As an international student from the UK, I thought I had already learned all that studying abroad could teach me, but this was certainly not the case. The main takeaway from my semester abroad was that I am more resilient and prepared to face challenges than I thought. Although I had been at college for a year and a half away from home already, my experience within the US system with RA’s and catered meal plans in a college town like Chapel Hill was a world away from my experience in Melbourne. Living alone in a big city was a huge growth experience for me and made me realize how independent I am but also how valuable community is. Living alone meant I had to put myself out there more to meet people which was challenging at first but became second nature towards the end of my experience. Furthermore, adjusting to a new country and way of life with less institutional support than we have in the US was tough, but I was able to overcome the challenges and had a smooth semester. In terms of education, I learned that I like the hands-on mode of education we have here in the US with the high number of contact hours with professors. Furthermore, at The University of Melbourne, I took a challenging international environmental law class. Although I appreciated the academic challenge it offered, it allowed me to discover that a career in environmental law is not for me. On the other hand, I took an elective on the ethics of genetic testing and research which inspired me to follow my true passion and switch my major to biology. Overall, studying abroad has made me a more self-assured and mature version of myself which has allowed me to feel confident transitioning back into my junior year.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favourite memories from the program was going on a surf camp with the university of Melbourne surf club. The whole experience was so exciting and quintessentially Australian. To sign up for a place, you had to check instagram for the location which was posted within a certain time window and make it to the sign up location as fast as you could to ensure a spot, there were people sprinting from across campus in all directions to reserve a spot! While on the camp, we were taught to surf by students who had been doing it their whole lives. It was so amazing to experience surfing in Australia and I even managed to stand up once or twice. The camp was towards the beginning of the semester so I was able to make some really great friends early in the semester and it was also a great way to interact with Australian students not just other exchange people. I'll never forget the beach party we had after a full day of surfing and a classic Aussie barbecue, It was an incredible weekend!


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My advice for those who face uncertainties while abroad is that although it might be stressful in the moment, there are so many structures set up to help you. The University of Melbourne had great support for international students and having a good group of friends really helped me to get through some tough situations while I was abroad. I would also advise people to not completely neglect their usual routines and self-care. Being abroad can feel like you have to always be enjoying yourself or doing new things but this can lead to you becoming stretched very thin. I found it important to take time for myself and to carry on with hobbies I enjoyed to avoid burnout. Finally, I would recommend that students enjoy living in the moment but be cognizant of the future and the semester ahead. It can be easy to get into difficult financial situations while studying abroad and traveling, I found budgeting my expenses to be a huge help.


How do you identify?
LGBTQ+, First Generation College Student, Scholarship Recipient


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community in Australia was not really an issue in the large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. People were generally very open and accepting and I didn't have any bad experiences while in Melbourne. There was a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene in Melbourne in comparison to Chapel Hill which was very welcoming and allowed me to explore more of my identity.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
I would advise them to really think about the country and how accepting of LGBTQ+ people it is and if that is something they are willing to compromise on to go to a certain place. When travelling outside of Australia during breaks this is a big consideration I made when thinking of visiting countries in South East Asia.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
There weren't too many challenges I faced while abroad but for access to LGBTQ+ healthcare the university was good and gave me a prescription for PrEP which wasn't free but was very discounted. Additionally, forming a close group of friends who were allies was very comforting in case anything did happen.