By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)
Sadly, the end of my time in Perth is rapidly approaching: yesterday, I had a horrible moment of realization that I only have three days left in this beautiful corner of the world! This penultimate study abroad blog will reflect upon everything I haven’t covered thus far, to both keep you informed about my final couple of months at UWA and hopefully raise my spirits during a period of somber farewells.
One significant aspect of my time studying abroad, which occurred in the second half of the semester, was my work with the Oaktree Foundation. My college frequently advertised a volunteering scheme called ‘Live Below the Line’, which entailed a small group of students living on under $2 per day, the global poverty line, for one week. Intrigued, I researched the organization and came across an advertisement for a media internship, which suited my future interests of pursuing a career in media and journalism perfectly. Following a successful interview, I became part of Western Australia’s Oaktree Branch. My work schedule for the following ten weeks involved writing and producing a promotional film for Oaktree, as well as calling Live Below the Line participants to offer encouragement. Although this resulted in me spending an extra ten hours per week on top of my studies volunteering, I gained invaluable experience volunteering in a foreign country, and was able to observe some of the exceptional charitable work which goes relatively unnoticed to many of Perth’s foreign visitors. I would, therefore, highly recommend taking advantage of any similar opportunities that come the way of students studying abroad in the future
Upon reflection, however, study abroad also provides so much more than just the potential academic and career benefits I have described in my blogs thus far. The friends you make when studying abroad is not something that your university will particularly emphasize, or you may even consider, before your departure. Nevertheless, they are an integral aspect of why studying abroad can be such an exceptional and unique experience. The diversity of people I met in college was astounding; as well as countless Australians, there were numerous Asians and Europeans from a variety of backgrounds. Moreover, the strong links Tommy Moore (my college) has with the University of Notre Dame in Indiana meant I was fortunate enough to meet over twenty American exchange students.
Throughout the semester, topics of conversation varied from the important, such as the recent legalization of gay marriage in the United States, to the idiotic, which included heated debate over whether the Australian ‘Tim-Tam’ biscuit was indeed mankind’s greatest invention. Corny as it sounds, having friends from a variety of backgrounds with an even more diverse range of perspectives meant even a day spent relaxing in college could be eye-opening. I would go as far as to say the people you meet during study abroad are as incredible as the places you go. There are, of course, the added benefits of having infinitely more likes on anything you post on Facebook (Aussie’s will literally like anything), and someone to stay with if you go travelling in the future.
Therefore, I certainly have mixed emotions about leaving college. Although it is one step closer to going home, as the veteran collegians explained early on, the saddest part of the semester definitely is seeing exchangers leave. The phrase ‘see you later’ is preferred to the finality of ‘goodbye’, as hopefully many of our paths will cross again.