“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain
Making the Decision
Being able to travel abroad is an amazing opportunity. Being able to study abroad? Well it doesn’t get much better then that. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t wait around for your friends to do it with you. Studying abroad is all about pushing yourself to try new things and meet new people. Don’t be afraid, there are tons of people more than happy to help you through the process and answer any questions you have. Everyone at OIEP is super friendly so visit their office and ask any of the questions you have. Take the risk. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
It took me more than one try for me to commit to studying abroad. My original plan was to spend the summer following my sophomore year in Sydney, Australia. I sent my application in and awaited a reply from the International Education office. At this point studying abroad was just a thought in my mind that I wasn’t completely committed to. I had planned on spending a summer abroad mainly because I was afraid to leave my friends at Oswego behind and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the shenanigans that often occur each semester in Oswego. However, when the time came for me to accept my offer to spend the summer abroad, I soon realized that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Summer sessions are much shorter than full semester sessions and our summer is actually Australia’s winter. It was then that I realized that I needed to make this decision for myself. I couldn’t let old friends keep me from making new ones and experiencing new things in different places. Although I will miss the friends I have become so close to in Oswego, I know that they will be there when I come back and I know that I have made a decision that I couldn’t be happier with. I am about to embark on the journey of a lifetime that I will never forget.
Let the Countdown Begin:
Just about a month until I take my adventure to Australia. Plane ticket is booked, visa is received, all my forms are filled out. Anticipation is killing me, naturally. New plans have me going early with a fellow SUNY student that my coordinator has recently introduced me to. We will be departing a week early to hit up the Gold Coast where we will be relaxing at the beach in surfers paradise. Can’t believe I’ll be sitting on the beach in February, a time when I am usually trekking through the snow to class in good old SUNY Oswego. Needless to say, I would trade my winter jacket and gloves in any day for a bottle of sun tan lotion and a bathing suit. Next step packing…this shall be an interesting task to tackle.
Packing Up and Getting Ready to Go:
I have to say, packing may be my least favorite activity in the world. After about a month of procrastination, I finally broke out the suitcase and started weeding through my things deciding what would be worth packing and what would be better left at home. There’s no better time to pack for the next 5 months of your life than the week before you leave, right? I don’t think there’s really a handbook out there that can tell you exactly what to pack or exactly what you’ll need. Everyone’s different and no matter what you’ll always feel like you’re leaving something majorly important behind or pack something that never even makes it out of the suitcase. I think the most useful advice I received about packing was also the most simple piece of advice out there: don’t stress over it. This same advice can be applied to leaving home in general. To be honest no one’s ever really sure what the future holds and it might be scary to try new things, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you push yourself to do it.So if you’re stressing about whether that pair of shoes really needs to come with you halfway around the world or if you’re stressing about whether you should even take that journey across the world, just remember, there is no right answer. Stressing doesn’t solve any problems. Just let go and follow your gut feeling, and remember this is a chance of a lifetime. You won’t know you’ve made the right decision until you experience it yourself. Tomorrow, my journey really begins. It’ll be a long flight but it’ll be so worth it when i look out the window and see my new home for the next 5 months for the first time. I couldn’t be more excited.
After months of anticipation the day had finally come for me to make my journey to Australia. Of course it was snowing the day I left New York and its crummy weather behind. I guess it was only fitting that I should experience snow for the last time this winter. I was incredibly anxious and excited to get there. The plan was to meet up with a fellow SUNY student named Alyssa, that I had been talking with over Facebook and we planned a trip together to the Gold Coast in Brisbane. However, things never go as planned. When I showed up to the airport Alyssa was there but the airport staff had informed her that she would not be getting on the plane that day. Apparently her visa had never actually been processed so they couldn’t let her out of the country. At first I was pretty calm about it; I guess it didn’t really hit me that I’d be doing this alone. Anxiety started to set in as I sat for hours in the airport waiting for my plane. Traveling alone is scary and I started to worry I wouldn’t know where to go in the airports or when I arrived in Brisbane. We had a connecting flight in Los Angeles but due to the snow, we had missed our connecting flight. Luckily a lot of the people on my plane were in the same boat and the airline was super accommodating. They ended up rerouting us into Melbourne before we could fly to Brisbane. In actuality, everything went smoothly from the second I got on my first plane till I arrived at my hostel. It didn’t feel that way at the time since Alyssa wasn’t with me and I had an extra leg of flying. I ended up being really proud of myself and am thankful that I was forced to be grown up about the situation and learned to deal with traveling alone. That’s what studying abroad is all about: pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone and experience new challenges.
Backpackers in Paradise
After what seemed like endless hours of traveling, it was finally time to explore Australia. I was staying in a backpackers’ hostel in Surfer’s Paradise. It actually started off as a miserable experience in all honesty. I was feeling a little out of place since I was there all by myself and didn’t know a single person. It was essentially a party hostel and it got pretty loud at night. I was staying in a 4 person bedroom and on the night I arrived no one was actually in the room. I really should have just gone downstairs and tried to make new friends but I was intimidated by all the people who sounded like they were already friends. My first full day there I decided to get out and explore the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect. Things started to feel a little better, being at the beach. The beach was just a short walk from the hostel and insanely easy to find. I had to think to myself that of all the places to feel alone, at least I was in paradise and could enjoy the beach. I continued to go to the beach and got some new roommates. It wasn’t till about the 4th day that I really hit it off with one of my new roommates. Ironically enough the day I met this new roommate, Alyssa ended up showing up to the hostel. I spent the next day with my new roommate and that night we joined the party downstairs. It was funny cause I had been upset about the fact that Alyssa wasn’t with me but I didn’t even end up hanging out with her the day she got there. My roommate and I sat down at a table and immediately people came up to us and started talking to us. It amazed me how easy it was to meet new people and become friends with them here. If only I had just gone downstairs the first days I was there. Most of the people I met were actually traveling alone as well. I found these people so interesting. Most of them were traveling around all of Australia stopping in hostels along the way. Some were actually staying in the hostel from months to years. After talking to these people I started to become really interested in the concept of traveling. We live in such an amazing world and there’s so many awesome people in this world that we will probably never get to meet cause we’re stuck in one spot. I think we forget that there’s more to this world than our hometown. Traveling is such an interesting concept to me and I think its important for us to step outside of our little bubbles and really branch out. You’ll be surprised what/who you can find when you leave your comfort zone. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and am really learning what this world has to offer. The next night Alyssa and I went out together and had a blast. I was so excited that I’d be spending the next 5 months with her. Both of us were so anxious to get to Melbourne and ready to start our journey.
Off To Melbourne
The day had finally come for me to head to my new home. I was really excited to meet the people I’d be spending the next 5 months with. It helped that I was coming with Alyssa so that I wouldn’t feel completely alone in the situation. When we arrived we were taken to our rooms. We lived in different buildings and Alyssa had not yet gotten a phone plan so at first it was hard to find each other after we moved in. Luckily we bumped into each other and managed to find some dinner. We were feeling a little stressed out and overwhelmed by everything but were glad that we had each other. We met some people in the dorms, mostly other exchange students in the same boat and some Australians that were RAs. It was nice getting to know some new people and I was excited to get to know everyone. The next night a few of us went into the city to explore. We met a kid who had been studying at the university for a couple years and he offered to show us around. It was so nice experiencing a new city and Melbourne’s streets were bursting with culture. Beautiful graffiti covers the alley ways and people frequent rooftop restaurants/bars to take in the view of the city at night. I had heard that Melbourne was a beautiful and artsy city and everything I had heard was so on point. I was so happy to be experiencing this awesome city first hand and ready to do some more exploring soon.
We didn’t have much time to settle in after we arrived on campus. A couple days after arriving a whole group of international students took a trip to the Great Ocean Road and Lorne to start to experience the wonders of beautiful Australia while also getting to know each other. This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I could not imagine a better way to transition into life in Australia. It helped me meet a whole group of people who were in the exact same position as me, while also helped me get excited to see all the gorgeous views Australia has to offer. While on this trip I learned to surf, got my first taste of “goon” (their lingo for box wine which is very popular among broke college kids), saw the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, saw my first koala up close, and made friends from all over the world. We stayed in a hostel in Lorne, which is a few hours away from Melbourne. I stayed in a room with about 10 other people and had the best couple of nights getting to know these people. Experiencing Australia for the first time provided a great bonding opportunity for all of us. Travel is not only a good way to meet new people, but it is also a great way to become closer to people. I am so thankful that I got to share my first experiences in Australia with these people. I couldn’t imagine a better start to my journey.
Trip to Sydney
Shortly after arriving back in Melbourne, the gang set out again, this time to see Sydney and celebrate Mardi Gras at the Gay and Lesbian Parade held in Sydney. Our group was a little smaller this time around; only 11 of the pre-orientation gang decided to explore Sydney together. We went through the same company that organized our pre-orientation trip and were joined by international students from campuses all around Australia. This trip was a little different from the pre-orientation trip since most people on the trip already had a group of friends. This trip seemed to be less about meeting new people and more about getting closer with the people I already knew. We took a big coach bus out to Sydney and traveled overnight for about 10 hours. Sleeping on the bus was a little difficult and I probably only got a few hours of sleep in total before we reached our destination. We couldn’t let sleep deprivation get in the way though because we had a full schedule planned from the minute we arrived in Sydney. This time around we stayed in a hostel right in the middle of the city. The hostel definitely had a city vibe to it and was very different from either of the hostels I had stayed at previously. Unfortunately, my first purchase in Sydney was an umbrella. The weather was rainy and pretty crummy the entire time we were there, but we had a good group of people determined to make the best of our trip regardless of the poor weather. While in Sydney, we got to experience the New York City feel of downtown Sydney, a very fast paced city. We ventured out to the Botanical Gardens, took a party cruise around the city at night, saw the famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge, experienced the Gay and Lesbian Parade, took a trip to Manly Beach, and did a coastal walk from Bronte Beach all the way to Bondi Beach. Though it rained for the majority of our trip, I had a blast the entire time and was glad to be able to cross Sydney off my list of places I’ve seen in Australia.
Checking Out the Beach Scene in Melbourne
One of the things I was most looking forward to about studying in Australia was the beautiful weather and hanging out at the beach at a time that I would usually be trekking through the snow. So as the snow continued to fall in Oswego, I sought sun and sand at the beaches in Melbourne. Now i should clarify that Melbourne is not the perfect place to be a beach bum seeing as it is not particularly the beachiest of cities in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying our time in the sun. The closest beach to La Trobe University is called St. Kilda Beach. Its a smaller, more simple beach and not exactly the most breathtaking beach I’ve seen. It is however, a lot of fun on a sunny day and still a pretty beach. The town surrounding the beach is more of an attraction than the beach itself. There’s tons of shops and restaurants around the beach and you don’t have to walk far to find good food, which is a definite plus for me. Nothing like chowing down on some amazing grub before you bask in the sun and laze around on the beach. This past weekend the gang and I hit up a small burger joint near the beach and had some of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. On the weekend, there are also tents set up with small street vendors selling everything from jewelry to soap. So on the sunnier weekends, the gang and I will hop on the tram and make our way down to St. Kilda. La Trobe is located a little far from everything so we are used to taking the tram for about an hour to get places. The ride can be a bit of a pain, but in the end it is worth it and it gives us something fun to do on the weekends. Luckily public transportation is pretty amazing in Melbourne. Its pretty easy and there are often trams running that will take us directly to campus. For me, life is good whenever I’m on the beach, no matter how long it takes to get there.
Uni Life: Oz (Australia) vs. Oz (Oswego)
Just starting my third week of classes and beginning to adjust to school life in Australia. Sometimes in the midst of everything its hard to keep in mind that school is the primary focus of studying abroad. You tend to get caught up in meeting new people and traveling around the country. Those moments truly are the highlight of the trip and what you’ll most likely remember the most. However, there is much to be said about school life while abroad and the differences in teaching techniques from your home country. Though you may not think you’ll look back on those times you were sitting through a two hour long lecture, those moments have helped you grow as a person. I am currently enrolled in four business classes, three of which are required classes from my home campus. For each class, I have a two hour long lecture once a week and a one hour long “tutorial,” also once a week. The lectures are held in big classrooms and there is little interaction between the professor and the students. The professor pretty much spends the whole two hours reading power points and elaborating off them. The tutorials, however, are a little more personal; the class size is much smaller and there is a high level of interaction between students and the tutor. I find the lectures to be a tad boring and harder to pay attention to, but I really quite enjoy the tutorials. Back in Oswego, you either have a class that is taught lecture style or a smaller class that is more similar to a tutorial. Its interesting to me to have both here. I am used to having smaller class sizes for my business classes so it’ll be more of an adjustment to have such little time in a more personal setting. Also in Oswego, meeting times are a little shorter but you meet more times throughout the week. For some of my classes, I have both the lecture and the tutorial on the same day. So a week will pass before I go to class for that subject again. The breakdown of the classes is very different for me and something I’ll have to learn to adjust to. All the lectures are put online so if you miss a class you always have the option of just listening to it online, which actually discourages some students from showing up to the lectures. All the lectures can be viewed any time throughout the semester, though, so you can always go back and review it if you’d like, which is a nice option. All of my classes have a group project assignment which is something I am actually used to. Being a business student, I am accustomed to having to work in groups to complete an assignment. I enjoy the fact that I have group assignments in all my classes because it has introduced me to new people and helps me get to know them better while also learning to work in a team dynamic, and here I get to do this with people from another country. You don’t always socialize with the people you sit next to in class, but if you’re forced to work in a group, you have to branch out and meet the people in your class. I anticipate that the most challenging aspect of school life will be learning to balance school and fun. There are a lot of opportunities to blow off school work to go hang out with friends here, especially among the international students. A lot of us feel that we are only here for a few months so we’d rather not spend that time buried in book work. We are however here to experience everything about the Australian lifestyle, including their educational lifestyle. As a business student, I understand how global the world has become and I personally would like to make the most out of my educational experience abroad as well. It is my hope that I can find that balance between school work and my social life. I want to make the most of every minute here and have no regrets about the things I should have experienced here, whether that be taking trips to different parts of Australia, or learning a new perspective about the business world.
College Kid Challenges (aka Cooking)
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no world class cook. In fact when it comes to cooking, I’m actually quite challenged. Back in Oswego, I spent the last two and half years living on campus with a full meal plan. Oswego meal plans are no joke either, buffet style, unlimited swipes, access to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even “late night” (basically second dinner). At home, I’ll make myself lunch but my parents will cook dinner for the whole family. So, with no cooking experience to my name, I was shocked to learn that the dorm I was staying at here at La Trobe had no dining hall but rather a kitchen on every floor, where residents would cook for themselves. I’ve spent about a month now living on campus here at La Trobe, and I’m not going to lie, I haven’t gotten much better at cooking. I have however, become the master at making pasta topped with jarred sauce, probably one of the simplest and cheapest meals a college kid can make. Having to cook for yourself is a real adjustment when you are used to having food provided for you on a daily basis. Budgeting your money for grocery shopping and deciding what to make each meal is no easy task and I’ve come to really appreciate my parents for providing me meals the past 20 years of my life. Lately I’ve accepted the fact that I can only really cook pasta and have cooked it pretty much every night for the past month. However, I have vowed that before the semester is over, I will start to eat healthier and I will learn to make at least one dish other than pasta. For now, pasta gets the job done, but I think it would be a real accomplishment for me to learn to cook something more challenging and perhaps healthier. As if cooking isn’t hard enough, I’ve also learned the joys of grocery shopping. There is a grocery store near campus that is about a 20 minute walk from my dorm room. The walk there is not so bad, but the walk back can be pretty torturous, with plenty of grocery bags to weigh you down. I’ve learned that a backpack is essential when planning a big grocery trip and I’ve also learned that buying everything at once is not a good idea. Not only is it hard to carry back, but it is expensive and can be wasteful if you buy perishables. I’ve gotten a little better at grocery shopping having been at it for about a month. I still remember the first grocery shopping trip I made here, wandering aimless up and down the aisles wondering how everyone does this and picking up anything that didn’t require cooking utensil (which wasn’t much). Oh yeah, that’s another joy of cooking in college, you realize how many utensils you need to actually buy for cooking, which is shocking when your used to them just being there. Though cooking may not be my forte, I have taken this as a learning experience and know that it’s only a part of life and a huge part of growing up. Next year I will be living off campus and will have to continue cooking for myself. It’ll be nice to have a little experience by then and perhaps (I can only hope anyways) I will have graduated from cooking pasta every night for dinner.