About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: BS in Psychology and BA in Interdisciplinary Studies for Public Health Innovation
Program: University of Sydney Exchange Program
Location: Sydney, Australia
Term: Spring 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Why Study Abroad? - I viewed study abroad as an opportunity for self-exploration. Not only did I want to learn more about the world, but I wanted to start over and gain a better understanding of myself. The adjustment to an entirely new place (completely by myself) was a valuable part of the experience--both liberating and exciting. Why Exchange? -I wanted an immersive study abroad program where I could engage and connect with local Australian students. Studying abroad through an exchange program allowed me to take classes with Australian students, live with people from multicultural backgrounds, and be immersed in a new culture and community. -The courses offered through the exchange program allowed me to take credits abroad that could count towards my degree and graduation. This way, I could study abroad without delaying my academic goals. Why Sydney, Australia? -Australia is world famous for its natural brilliance—its parks, its beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, “the Outback,” and so much more. Need I say more? -Australian culture is familiar, yet unique, comfortable, yet staggering. Whether expressed through Australian history, cuisine, the healthcare culture, or humor, I sought to experience the culture in a way I never had before. -Sydney is a large, multicultural city—a place unlike anywhere I've ever lived before! I thought I'd give the whole 'city girl' thing a shot. -The University of Sydney is a highly respected public research university that provided new academic perspectives in research and development. As an individual that values scientific research and hopes to one day pursue entrepreneurial projects, this experience introduced me to resources that helped me shape my own research and venture ideas. -Language barriers don’t make me uncomfortable, but as someone not proficient in a second language, I would have felt a bit limited throughout the semester if I didn’t speak the native language with some fluency. Being in an English-speaking country, I was able to excel academically and socially, and I even got the opportunity to pick up some colloquial Australian English (aka slang). -Lamingtons.
What did you learn about yourself?
Studying abroad reminded me of how much of the world there is to see, how many amazing people there are to meet, and how much there is still left to learn. It reawakened my curiosity. It reminded me not to take little everyday opportunities of adventure for granted. It showed me that I need to make things happen. Life is too short not to!
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
My two friends and I went on holiday in Western Australia. We flew to Exmouth, a small, off-the-grid town in northwestern Australia and drove down the coast to Perth (another city down south). Between the lack of cell phone reception and toilet paper, our 6-day road trip was one of my favorite experiences while I was abroad. We taught ourselves to drive on the left side of the road, spent our nights in national parks, and lived of the land (and by that, I mean PB&Js)... This trip was nothing 'glamorous,' but it was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. It was filled with the simple pleasures in life, like waking up with the sun, late-night chats, jam sessions in the car, and Australia's stunning natural beauty.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
1. Don't underestimate the importance of starting a conversation with someone. There are incredible people everywhere you go, and it's a lot easier to find them after you get to chat for a while. What do you really have to lose anyway? 2. Slow down. In a life filled with busy schedules, we often neglect to take the time to pause, be present, and appreciate. You miss so much when you're constantly moving on, so take a moment for yourself. 3. Be open... -...minded. -with others. -to new experiences.
Would you do it again?
Already planning my next travel plans! *wink*
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
Actually, every class I took counted for ~something~ at UNC. Whether it was a gen-ed or course counting towards my major, I was basically taking the same types of classes I would have taken anyway -- just in a (cooler?) new place! Being a rising senior now, his was super helpful for me though -- if I wouldn't have gotten credit towards my major, there's a good chance I wouldn't have been able to have the chance to study abroad at all. For my BN gen-ed, I took a class on sports and Australian culture. (Not a class available at UNC!) The class came with a small fee, but not only did I get to learn about different Australian sports and their sports culture, but I got to attend as many games as I wanted! The events ranged from Australian Rules Football to rugby to surf competitions to greyhound racing! It was an awesome way to experience the sports culture without feeling clueless about the rules, social norms, or which team to root for! For a class I took towards my major (Abnormal Psychology), I expected it to be taught like the one (PSYC 245) offered at UNC. It's a pretty standard subject and it's based on the same diagnostic criteria, so I didn't see how it would be different... But this class was quite unique because I had about 8 or 9 different professors throughout the 13-week semester, each specialised in the area they were teaching. This class was one of my favorites because the instructors were each individually passionate about their field and had lots of valuable experiences to share with us. Take notes, UNC PSYC department.
How do you identify?
Scholarship Recipient, Rural County Resident
Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being a girl from a small town, moving to a big city was definitely an adjustment. It's different. To be honest, I wasn't super keen on Sydney at first... everything was expensive, there were an overwhelming amount of people, and traffic was insane. (Raleigh traffic doesn't even begin to compare!) However, by the end of my study abroad, I grew to love Sydney. The suburb I lived in gradually felt more and more like ~my place~. Returning home to North Carolina was almost as much of an adjustment as moving to Sydney! All my friends loved to sarcastically joke about my love for my hometown because it's what I talked about a lot (at first). By the end of the semester, they were a bit surprised to see how much I'd miss Sydney. I watched my comfort zone expand and grew to love what I never expected to -- well, slap my knee and call me a city girl!
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
For all the college students on a budget: yes, it can be quite expensive. But it doesn't have to be! I actually covered my costs by myself (for the most part) and worked really hard to make sure I could afford to go.I applied to the scholarship pool through UNC and received an award that honestly made it possible for me to go. When I arrived in Sydney, my newfound friends and I applied for jobs and started working at a local coffee shop together. Between my savings, the scholarship, my job in Australia, and a little help from my parents, I made it happen. There are so many options to funding your study abroad, and sometimes you've got to get a bit creative! But where there's a will, there's a way (and I don't care how cheesy that sounds).
If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
My advisor at USYD was awesome. The academic culture was both similar and incredibly different from what I was used to. With any questions I had, she was accessible and welcoming!For the more personal things, my friends were always my go-tos. I met some of the most amazing people through this experience and wouldn't trade my people for the world. Whenever things got tough, they were the best support system I could have asked for.