Study Abroad Reflections on Return

I have been back in Manchester for a semester since living in Australia for one year. I have learned so much from moving away and living on the other side of the world. Studying abroad is such an amazing and unique way to grow academically and personally in a short period of time.

Before I moved to Australia I really believed that I would be heartbroken when I left but I wasn’t. I was so grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and friends that I had made but I was excited to come back home. Studying abroad has made me realise how small the world really is. A flight across the world only takes one day! Since being back in Manchester I have had two Aussie friends come and visit me and have Facetimed with others almost daily. On reflection I wish I hadn’t been so worried about leaving as I am so happy to be back in Manchester!

Another reflection upon returning is how quickly a year passes. It only feels like last month that I was writing my application to study abroad and attending all of the pre-departure sessions. I can’t believe that I am already back. One tip I will give that is a bit cliche is say yes to everything! Your time flies by and you will regret the socials you didn’t go to and the trips that you missed to stay in and study.

The highlight of my year in Australia was definitely all of the travelling and trips that I did! I would recommend saving some money for road trips and spontaneous holidays as they really made the year. It is depressing to write this post in rainy dark Manchester knowing that this time last year I was in Bali.

Studying abroad is the best thing I have done during my time at university and I would recommend it to anyone. I would say go into your exchange with zero expectations. Don’t worry about the small details as you will look back after a year and wonder why you were so worried about them. Join societies, travel as much as you can and enjoy yourself as before you know it you will be back in Manchester.



1 Car, 7 girls, 10 days, 3200km

By Rachael Harrison, University of Western Australia

So it’s been a while since I last posted, but Australia is keeping me very busy. This blog post is seriously long overdue but I hope you’ll all still be interested, but it will probably also be very long, I apologise!

The mid semester break saw us travelling in excess of 3000km North along the beautiful Western Australian coast, for a total of 10 days. Day one saw seven very excitable girls, trying strategically pack all belongings into one very small boot. We had a one backpack limit for each person, but obviously there were some people who did stick to this, which meant it was time for a game of Tetris. We left on a Thursday afternoon and out first stop was at the Breeze inn lodge in Dongara, a very small time with not much to offer. This was only a overnight pit stop before we headed to explore the town of Geraldton, for the afternoon before driving another two hours to Kalbarri. This was to be our home for the next two days.


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Final Days in Perth

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.

The Western Australia Oaktree team

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

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Travelling the West Coast

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

The midterm break during my semester abroad provided the ideal opportunity to explore Australia’s west coast, which has proved to be the highlight of my study abroad exchange so far. Having excitedly planned the trip in the preceding weeks, I took to the road with nine of my fellow exchange students, cramming a week’s worth of food, sun cream and ‘Goon’ (The Aussie equivalent of Tesco’s own brand red wine), into two hire cars. With a rather unfortunate amount of American pop music being blasted from our stereo, we set off on our first real adventure down under!

My incredibly gangster car-mates

The one downside of our excursion was our accommodation, or lack of it. Due to the financial restrictions of student life, we decided to buy $40 tents and sleep in campsites throughout the trip. Despite the ever-present plague of flies, roughing it in Australia’s countryside whilst visiting a variety of national parks provided an authentic experience of the stunning Aussie desert. Even more incredible were the beaches of the west coast: my description of the sensational views, pure water and soft white sand they have to offer truly does not do them justice. Our visit to Shark Bay, where we wondered at one of only three surviving stromatolite formations on the globe (which provide a glimpse into the biological history of the earth), exemplifies the astonishing natural features that confirm Australia’s coast provides much more than beaches on which to tan (or burn, if like me you have an incredibly pale complexion).

The Pinnacles, Numbing National Park

The wildlife we were fortunate enough to witness, however, managed to eclipse the outstanding natural sights. Throughout the trip we were able to snorkel above coastal coral reefs, coming within inches of an extensive variety of beautiful, multicoloured tropical fish. Furthermore, we were able to see both wild dolphins and sea turtles during our visit to Monkey Mia. The highlight of the trip, however, was an experience totally unique to Exmouth, our most northern destination: swimming with whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest species of fish in the ocean, reaching up to lengths of over twelve meters, with the capability to dive over three km down into the ocean and reach one hundred years of age. Despite the day costing $380, swimming with these astounding creatures was worth every penny…

Dedication to the Global Ambassador Beanie Photo

Our day began as we were picked up from our campsite and provided with a bus tour of Exmouth en-route to the harbour. From there, our whale shark swimming company Charter 1, which I would thoroughly recommend, provided snorkeling equipment and food throughout the day as we sailed on their boat. Whilst the company’s spotter plane flew in search of whale sharks, we were once again able to snorkel around coral reefs, this time in deeper parts of the ocean, allowing us to see both jellyfish and a baby shark. After the spotter planes found our first whale shark, however, we set off in hot pursuit. Once the boat was ahead of its target, we rapidly formed lines within the water to avoid scaring the shark as it swam. The thrill of being able to swim with such gigantic sea creatures five times over the course of the afternoon made for a truly unforgettable day. During our third swim, one shark unexpectedly changed direction, meaning we had to quickly dive to its side in order to avoid colliding with one of the largest animals on the planet! The image of an enormous shark being a mere two meters away from hitting you is one of the most terrifying, yet memorable, moments I have had thus far during my time in Australia. Overall, our trip was a truly unforgettable experience, which in my opinion demonstrates the incredible opportunities studying abroad offers to students outside of academic terms.

Pre-Departure Reflections

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Hello, and welcome to the first of my blogs describing my study abroad experience in Australia! Following the somewhat arduous process of applying to study abroad, I was thrilled to learn that I had been accepted to study for a semester at the University of Western Australia (UWA), based in the coastal city of Perth. Before I could get truly excited about the beaches, wildlife and relaxed lifestyle however, I had a variety of things to organize in order for my transition down under to be a smooth one…

Firstly, I was required to send letters of acceptance, apply for a visa, make provisional module selections and attend country information sessions, allowing me to complete the pre-departure essentials without too much hassle. Accommodation, by contrast, proved more challenging, as I had to both find someone to occupy my room whilst I was abroad in order to pay my rent, whilst simultaneously organizing my own accommodation during exchange. proved an invaluable resource: after posting a basic advert for my house in Manchester, I was inundated with e-mails from potential occupants. The most legitimate offer came from a fellow exchange student, completing his exchange at the University of Manchester whilst I was away. Following several e-mail exchanges, concerning rental payment and a more detailed description of my room, house and the surrounding area, I had decided upon my tenant. Vladimir, studying accountancy in Prague in the Czech Republic, arrived on the 14th of January. Fortunately, Vlad is an incredibly polite and easy-going house-mate, meaning I had one less concern before departing to Oz. Furthermore, having met University of Manchester exchange students who had studied in Australia previously at a compulsory meeting, I followed their advice to arrive prior to the beginning of term and book a hostel for the first week, in order to view any potential places to live in person before committing to rental contracts.

Goodbyes at the Airport
Goodbyes at the airport

As the UWA term only began on the 24th of February, I organized an internship with the BBC following the end of Semester 1 examinations. Consequently, I lived with several university friends for 3 weeks as my room was already occupied. This proved both an excellent way to see mates before leaving and a hectic period which left me only 1 weekend to travel home to Newcastle, pack for the next 6 months, before returning to Manchester to catch my flight. Although I felt a cocktail of emotions, due to the stress of packing and the sadness of goodbyes, by the time I was en-route to Perth, via connecting flights stopping at Munich and Singapore, I felt pure elation. The sense of adventure was overpowering: from meeting new people and visiting incredible places to experiencing a new culture and lifestyle, I realized studying abroad in Australia would be the experience of a lifetime!

And the Australian adventure begins…

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

So I don’t even know where to begin… the last few weeks since finishing uni has been so crazy and now the day has finally arrived! It’s Wednesday 17th July and tonight my Australian adventure begins at Heathrow Terminal 5! As the last few weeks have been so busy, I’ve hardly had a chance to be worried, but I guess the only reservations I’ve had came at the weekend when I had to start saying my goodbyes. Although there were lots of tears and I realised how much I am going to miss everyone, coming through that has only made me realise just how much I want this. I woke up yesterday, my heart racing with excitement and today all I want is for 7.15pm to come and for my exciting journey to begin!
If you want any idea of how I’ve planned for this in the last few weeks this is pretty much what I’ve done:
– Made the most of every single second of UK summer that I’ve had – since finishing uni 4 weeks ago I’ve been on holiday with friends for a few days, gone to Glastonbury, had a friend visiting from Australia, worked for a week, had a 21st birthday party and so much more – I now feel like I have done everything I wanted to and am so ready for the next thing!
– Started packing early – it takes so much longer than you think planning to pack for a year and not just for a two week summer holiday! Not only deciding what to take but also fitting everything into the luggage restrictions has definitely been a major challenge!
– I’ve had a dentist appointment, a doctors appointment, been ‘shopping for the last time’ so many times as I keep missing things out and this morning I even had to run off to the bank to let them know I’m going to be away so that I can use my card out there – pretty important!
– Most importantly though, I’ve tried to make this as stress free as possible – I just want to enjoy every second of the experience!
Apart from the obvious worries about going to a new country – my luggage not making it, moving somewhere new and what it’s going to be like, I am just so excited, looking forward to a new challenge, meeting lots of new people and having so many new experiences! Bring on the next year!