Samuel Fuhrman is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Australia
Major: Accounting, Math
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because it is such a unique opportunity. I don't think I will ever get the opportunity to take a six month break from my "American life" to just go explore the world.
I decided on studying in Australia because it is such a unique place that is still very similar to the United States. Most of America's values are shared by Australian society. Not having a language barrier was also a big plus. I was also really excited for the camping trip.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One cultural experience which has left an impression on me is the Aboriginal tour I went on in Albany. The tour guide took us to sacred grounds of his people. He showed us a lake with chalky rock, mountains, ancient fish traps, and artifacts. He talked about how his ancestors used to be able to live off of the land before the Europeans arrived. He said that he was very sad that the people who owned the land before him were using dynamite on it since it probably destroyed several artifacts. He was also disappointed that people were ignorant enough to just knock down the ancient fish traps. I was surprised that he didn't have any hatred towards these people, only sadness for the loss of history. This experience made me recognize that events that have happened in the past like the way that Americans have treated Native Americans still has effects that impact the community today.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The first part of my study abroad experience was focused on getting settled into the Australian culture. It was scary to be in an unfamiliar city surrounded by people you don't know. An important part of this stage was building friendships with the other Bennies and Johnnies on the trip. We all bonded very well and became close friends quickly.
The next part of my experience was trying to always stay busy. School was focused a lot more on tests, so I didn't have much homework. This left me with a lot of free time. I made it a priority to find something to do every day whether that was going to the beach or on a walk around the city.
About halfway through the semester, we took a week long camping trip to Albany. This gave us another opportunity to come together as a group and strengthen our connections. It also gave us new learning experiences that we would not have had if we had stayed in the city all semester. We were able to experience Aboriginal culture instead of just hearing about it in class.
The end of my study abroad experience was focused on finishing the school year strong. We had a whole week to study for finals and then only two tests a week for two weeks after that. This left me with plenty of time to study and feel prepared for final exams. I am proud of how I performed in school while adjusting to such a different attitude toward education.
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 helped me to become more independent. I was fully responsible for myself. I had to cook, clean, study, make new friends, and plan fun adventures by myself. One of my favorite things that I did was plan trips to Margaret River, sporting events, and Bali that the other people who went with me really enjoyed.
Another benefit of studying abroad was being forced to adapt to the culture while still having the comfort of being in the same situation as the other Bennies and Johnnies. We were able to become really good friends with Australians and also other American students.
Studying abroad contributed to my personal development by helping me to realize who I really am. While abroad, there are no pressures or opportunities for you to do the things that you may think you love the most. For example, when I'm in America I spend most of my free time watching sports. I didn't spend nearly the same amount of time watching, talking, or thinking about sports in Australia because I knew nothing about them. This helped me to learn that while sports are a big part of who I am, they don't define me. Instead, I learned to enjoy the small things like joking around with friends, going to the beach, or spending time in nature.
Studying abroad helped my academic development by forcing me to look at things from a different viewpoint. The facts in my Australian history class are all very similar to what I had learned about in American history classes, but I was challenged to try and view things from the other sides viewpoint. For example, we were challenged to think about how the Vietnam war was viewed by the citizens of Vietnam. My digital photography class forced me to be creative. Creativity is a skill that is not used much in my math and finance classes but was essential to my success in photography.
Studying abroad contributed to my professional development by making me work with people from different cultures. I had to do group projects in my finance class with people who view finance and the economy very differently than me.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Find something to do every day, even if it is just a small thing. You never know what lessons you will learn while on a simple trip like going to the grocery store. You're not going to remember studying by yourself, but you will remember having fun with your friends.
Plan excursions with a small group of people. This will force you to be responsible and allows you to do exactly what you want to do.
Become friends with the locals.
Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees so you don't have to go to the atm all the time.