When applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I had absolutely no clue what type of school I was looking for or the major I wanted to pursue. However, one thing I definitely knew was that I wanted to study abroad. I finally got the opportunity to do just that in the second semester of my junior year when I traveled across the world to Sydney, Australia through the program The Education Abroad Network (TEAN). Six months later, I have no doubt this was hands down the best decision I have made in my entire life, besides deciding to attend the University of Michigan, of course!
My decision to study in Australia stemmed from several key aspects. First, there was no major language barrier. With English as the national language, traveling and exploring on my own was easier since I could express any questions or concerns I had at the time. However, I was surprised to find that while we were technically speaking the same language, the abbreviations and speed with which Australians spoke threw me off more than once. Even getting something like an Acai bowl (which is basically an amazing smoothie in a bowl that I have yet to find in the Midwest) was challenging as I had to ask the worker to repeat himself three times because I couldn’t understand that he was merely asking me if I would like a lid on the bowl.
The vast variety of cities and landscapes in Australia was another reason I chose to study in this incredible place. Living in a residential area with the beach as my backyard and a 5k coastal walk as my gym made my transition to an Australian lifestyle highly enjoyable. From hiking the Blue Mountains, diving in the Great Barrier Reed Reef and camping in the Outback, to visiting the Lord of the Rings sets in New Zealand and an elephant reserve in Thailand, my time abroad was a non-stop journey full of self-realizations and personal growth. Not only were the places I visited aesthetically amazing, they are all culturally different. The surf culture of the Gold Coast, the city pace of Melbourne, the stunning harbour and Opera House of Sydney, and the carefully preserved Aboriginal culture and rainforest in the Northern Territory gave me new insights into the diverse lifestyles and cultures of Australians.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to work as a communication intern and report directly to the CEO of the small business, HerBusiness. This experience was the final facet that truly completed my study abroad experience. Working for the Australian company helped increase my knowledge in applications like Hootsuite and WordPress, which coincided with my desire to broaden my media skills portfolio. Here, I also discovered that although employees work hard while in the office, their work usually stops completely when they leave for the day, providing a different outlook from the American culture of being the first one in the office and the last to leave. My internship in Sydney allowed me to fully experience the workplace culture and make lasting friendships with my coworkers and boss. This opportunity helped me to gain global work experience in my area of study while still continuing my quest for personal growth through my solo and group travels and academic endeavors in a Sydney classroom.
So many memories were made in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but I wouldn’t change a single part of my study abroad adventure. I learned I could not only do anything I set my mind to, but also that my goals and dreams no longer have any geographical boundaries.