Melissa is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Australia
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Studying abroad has always been a goal of mine and a deciding factor in attending CSB/SJU. I was curious to learn directly about a culture other than my own, as well as gain independence and a more open perspective of the world. Plus, who doesn't dream of living in another country at some point in their lives and enjoy warm beaches in December?!
Australia's program was very attractive to me for several reasons. Academically, it offered the opportunity to complete a significant range of common curriculum requirements (refer to the OEA for specific questions). Since transferable courses for my major and minor are not offered abroad, it was important for me that my classes did benefit graduation requirements, allowing me to still graduate in four years.
Personally, I've always wanted to go to Australia but it is a place that would be very difficult to visit given it's located on the opposite side of the earth. Studying in Australia for an entire semester allowed me to explore a new culture (westernized and native Aboriginal), see unique animals (like kangaroos!), and make lasting friendships somewhere I may have otherwise never have the chance to visit.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
As a component of a required course taken by the CSB/SJU students, we were given the opportunity to spend a week in "the Bush" with native Aboriginal people. These guides shared with us much about Aboriginal people, effects of westernization, songs including native languages, Aboriginal "coming of age", and many other cultural experiences. Some of my favorite parts of this excursion was tracking goannas and eating witchetty grubs and honey ants (look them up!). I learned so much more about Australia than a typical tourist. This trip allowed me to see Australia from a completely new perspective - that of those who truly know the country best. Few people in the world can say that they camped in "the Bush" in swags with Aboriginal people, and I will always remember and appreciate what I learned from them.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
As cliché as this sounds, overall my experience abroad was amazing. It is difficult to put into words how extraordinary it really was. I would love to go back: to visit friends and hang out on Bather's Beach or travel to Ningaloo Reef one more time.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
Studying abroad has opened my eyes to see how incredibly enormous the world seems, and I know that what I've seen is a mere fraction of what is "out there." Academically, I am grateful to have experienced an education system much different than my own (I directly enrolled into UNDA). Due to this system, my ability to simply write papers improved greatly, as papers were a vital part within every course. I also had the opportunity to study, discuss, and interact with classmates outside of America. I have become a more independent individual who can adapt to unfamiliar environments as well as communicate and work with people of unfamiliar backgrounds. These characteristics will help me greatly, professionally, in the future as I hopefully enter the workforce. And on a more personal level, this experience has undoubtedly increased my self confidence and independence. I feel proud of myself to have overcome the challenges of leaving home and familiarity to live for five months across the world, extending the boundaries of my comfort zone.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you are considering or planning to study/intern abroad - keep an open mind and let yourself explore beyond your comfort zone. To be nervous is natural and good! But don't let nerves keep you from trying out new, odd, and otherwise scary opportunities. Going to Australia, I did not know a single person on my trip. This was my first step outside my comfort zone. What if I didn't , or worse - what if they didn't like me? Looking back, I feel crazy to have had such thoughts, because these people that I have traveled with, lived with, and explored Australia with are now some of my best friends! Wherever you may end up traveling and an adventure or opportunity arises that you are nervous to try, I recommend following this saying: "When in doubt, GO FOR IT!" Studying or interning abroad will be the best decision you've ever made! :)