Ellen is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Australia
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Although Australia is filled with beautiful beaches and fun, exotic critters, the scenery itself was not one of my deciding factors (it didn't hurt my decision either). The main reason I chose Australia was because of the wide variety of classes it had to offer. Unlike many of CSBSJU's study abroad programs, the connection between our school and UNDA provides the opportunity to take more than just electives. You are often able to take classes towards your major or minor, or just have a wider selection in general. I was also very excited to directly enrol in and take class with other Australian students. The second reason I chose Australia was because it is literally on the other side of the world. I knew I would probably never get the chance to travel to a place 10,000 miles away again, nor would I be able to fully immerse myself in another culture like this again, so I jumped at the opportunity. Knowing that Australian culture is relatively similar to our North American culture, I was excited to discover the differences and learn about one of the oldest surviving cultures on the planet, the Aboriginal Australians.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I pretraveled through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and I later travelled to Indonesia. Although this was not exactly part of the study abroad program, the location of Australia presented this wonderful opportunity to really experience a culture and lifestyle I would not have otherwise seen. We visited places like Angkor Wat, killing fields and Prison S21 of the Khmer Rouge, and the Cu Chi tunnels of the Vietnam War. We also participated in several homestays while learning and getting involved with as many cultural practices, foods and traditions as possible. Through the program, the outback trip to an Aboriginal Ranch really impacted me. As I had been taking an Aboriginal Peoples unit, I was very interested to see how what I was learning applied to a real life situation. On top of that, I found it very interesting to compare the current Aboriginal Rights Movement in Australia to the rights movements that have and are still occurring in our own country.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I know this may sound cliché, but my study abroad experience was indescribable. I was able to visit six different countries, live in Australia for four months, all the while meeting wonderful new people and making memories I will never forget. Through these experiences and my schooling, I learned more about myself, the world and even about my own country. I was able to visit one of the seven wonders of the world and the Sydney Opera House, camp out in a dried up river bed on an Aboriginal ranch, and even be stung by a jellyfish!
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?
Spending a semester abroad allows you to fully delve in everything that country has to offer. You are able to be more than just a tourist, although you do plenty of that, too. Being gone for the semester allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and really evaluate what I know about the world and myself. It showed me how much more there is to learn and explore. Academically, it allowed me to take classes I would not have normally taken and in a format I was not used to. Rather than taking multiple choice biology exams, I was writing multiple research and reflective essays. Professionally, I gained many close relationships with professors, tour guides and friends. I feel I have become more knowledgeable and aware of different cultures, which will help me to be a more accepting and compassionate person in the workforce.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
1. Step out of your comfort zone. Bungee jump, go out with local friends, eat the strange looking food. You will probably never have an experience like this again so you might as well make the most of it. Don't leave with the regret of "I wish I would've..."
2. Leave the electronics behind. Social media makes it so easy for you to call your mom or boyfriend every night but skip it. Yes, they might freak out, but they'll be fine. You are in a different country and you should be enjoying it. Netflix can wait, skyping can wait. Don't let electronics hold you back when you should be out enjoying one of the best times of your life.
3. Remember that it is STUDY abroad. Although it is a lot of fun and you will be doing so many different activities, remember that your grades still count. Although it might be fun to celebrate your friend's birthday, make sure you have that paper or journal done on time!