Reflections on my time abroad…

By Dinah Whitear (University of Melbourne, Australia).

So I’ve finally come to the end of my semester here at Melbourne University. And it has been quite some experience. If I were to rewind 4 months from now, I would find a very nervous, not-so-well-travelled, girl: me. Everyone has a different reason/motive to go out and do something, and for me, studying abroad was a chance to push myself outside of my comfort zone. And there’s no doubt that I did just that…

Personally, Melbourne University brought many challenges to my plate. The structure of their degrees, for starters, is quite different to how my degree is structured back home. And that’s not too much of a surprise – of course if universities within the same country vary considerably, universities across different countries are, too, going to have very different rules to what you are used to. So this change is something you should expect. Adjusting to the system here for one semester only has been quite testing and I do feel as though I have had to have quite a high turn-around to be able to go from one academic system to the next within one year (it will probably take a little while to get back into Manchester’s way of life when I go back home too). However, this in itself is a very valuable experience to go through and may actually help to show employers that you are adaptable and can take on the challenge of a different culture. So this has been a positive. One thing I would suggest is to make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be doing abroad in terms of course units, and make sure you have discussed this thoroughly with your programme director at Manchester beforehand, so that you are both clear of what you’ve got to do. I think this is probably where I have found things the hardest – matching up course units so that I don’t miss out on anything vital has been tricky, and has actually meant that I have to do a few of Manchester’s modules on top of my full-set of credits here in Melbourne. This will obviously vary for degree programmes but is something to consider. And of course the time difference and not being able to just pop into University back at home makes things harder as you have to rely on the relay of information by email, which can be long. However, experiencing university at a different institution can make you realise what you’re missing out on at your own home university. For example, the on-campus activities at Melbourne university are far from few! There is always something going on, and that is great! There is so much free food on campus, and as a student, or anyone for that matter, this can really make a difference to your day! Of course, in true Aussie style and their love for BBQ’s, sausages and veggie burgers are the cuisine most up for grabs, and I’ve no doubt had my fair share!

I think it’s also important to remember that you do actually have to do some work. I know most people think that just because you’re abroad at another university means you mustn’t have any work to do, but especially for me coming for a semester where my grades count towards my degree, there is a very difficult work-play balance to juggle. Again, this takes some skill to master, but is another one of those things you could say you learnt to develop when talking to future employers! I only say this because you’d probably be quite wrong in thinking that it’s going to be easy studying abroad – all you have to do is get there and you don’t have to worry about anything but going out and having fun, right? Hmmm, studying abroad has definitely put a strain even on my organisational skills as there are a lot of applications/deadlines to do before you even get there! I think this is all part of the process, though, and has helped me to learn a lot about being pro-active and independent and just taking things as they come.

It’s strange because I don’t feel as though it’s just Australia that I’ve travelled to. Meeting so many other international students from all walks of the world has definitely made this experience even more of a cultural one! My roommate was Australian, which I’m so glad for as I feel as though I’ve got to learn about other parts of Australian culture that you can only really get from actually being friends with an Australian! I’ve also met some other great Australians, but aside from that, I have met and made friends with people from all over the world – North Americans, Scandinavians, Asians, other fellow Europeans, to name but a few! This has definitely widened my view point on many aspects of life, and in a weird way makes the world seem a lot smaller and less daunting than I had previously thought. Also, it now gives me the excuse to go and do more travelling and visit all these people!

For me, travelling played a big role in why I wanted to study abroad, but since being here, I’ve realised there’s more to moving away from home than just travelling. Trying to avoid being as cheesy as possible, I will say this: moving away from home for any amount of extended time, whether it’s for a semester or for a year, definitely brings its challenges, but it’s that that gives you the space to grow a bit more than what you may have done at uni back home. Being in Australia is pretty much as far away from home as I could get. I didn’t really have the option to go back home, even if I wanted to. But I’m glad I did it. Now anywhere I go in the world, anything I do, will seem that little bit much easier, as I have now been there and done that.

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