Carlea B. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"You have absolutely no idea what kind of adventures are going to present themselves to you, but trust that you are meant to take them. You can handle this, and more importantly you can THRIVE from this. Believe in yourself and the power of travel."
Exchange student at the University of Tasmania, Australia
Studying International Devlopment
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
It took merely seconds to make a friend the moment I landed in Tassie. The amount of support and acceptance I received from everyone around me was outstanding, and finding myself in a group of other exchange students made the experience so much more adventurous and enlightening. It didn't take long to find that I belonged to a family- a family made up of Australians, British, American, Danish, and so many more. I learned from them, leaned on them, and shared the experience of a lifetime with them. I will never forget my exchange family and all of our travels together on the beautiful little island of Tasmania.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
Um... NO TIM HORTONS OR STARBUCKS! As a coffee lover, and a born and bred Canadian, I have a deeply rooted love for our coffee chains, whereas in Tasmania they despise any type of chain- particularity cafes! Most places you shop and eat are independent, which was actually a very cool thing to have to adjust to! Because every place was different and did things their own way, it allows for a lot of exploration simply within the city of Hobart! Another cultural adaptation I had to make was friendliness. It is not only polite, but expected that you will have a totally in-depth conversation with your bus driver, cashier, or the person you cross the street with! In Tasmania it was considered rude to keep to yourself (something that I find is part of my daily life here in Canada) and I had to get used to making conversation everywhere I went.
- Where was the coolest place you traveled to during your study abroad experience?
One of the best things about Tasmania is that it is TOTALLY underrated, which means that it has remained relatively untouched. Every hike I climbed and beach I visited was most often empty and wild. Within Tasmania, the coolest place that I travelled to was Wineglass Bay. We climbed up to the top of Mount Amos to look out at the beautiful turquoise curve of the water, then climbed all the way down to the cove and walked the beach. The sand was bright white, the ocean was roaring, and soft misty clouds covered the tops of the surrounding mountains. At night, my friends and I looked down at the water from a cliffside campsite and watched the bright green bioluminescence from the water crash up on shore. It was magical. I also had the privilege to travel elsewhere while on exchange. I went to Bali which had some of the most incredible beach clubs and the coolest, most down-to-earth atmosphere I have ever experienced (not to mention AMAZING smoothies). My other favourite place was Byron Bay which is on the mainland of Australia just south of Gold Coast. Byron stole my heart with its surfer culture, and the happiest barefoot people I have ever met.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
Study abroad takes a lot more planning than I anticipated. Of course it is all about adventure, education and good times, but there is a lot of work that goes into it before you go as well. Because I was going to Tasmania I had to apply for a visa, which took me a few consecutive days to complete because there is a ton of information that goes into it. There is also a lot of organization I had to keep on top of in terms of health insurance, arrival times and airport pickup, as well as applying for accommodation within my host university. What I wish I knew was how much planning and organizing I had to make time for, because I ended up cramming a lot of my preparations into the few weeks before I left.
- What was your best learning moment?
My best learning moment that I got out of my exchange was realizing how independent and capable I actually was. Throughout my life I have always had some sort of safety net of comfort when making a big transition, or I always had someone else there with me to see me through. Going to Tasmania was completely my own decision, and I was challenged to make all of my preparations alone. I travelled alone for the first time, and I was plopped in a completely new place all alone with a 5 month Visa. My best learning moments were actually all the things that I learned about myself- I proved to myself that I could create a life in a completely new country. I created a brand new wonderful support system of friends that I love. I met all my deadlines and adapted to a new culture, and I learned how to travel smartly, safely, and confidently. I came back to Canada feeling more self-confident than I ever have before, and have carried this lesson with me to this day.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
At the time I was leaving for my exchange, I had been in my relationship with my boyfriend for just over 1 year. It was terrible... he drove me to the airport and we could barely talk because both of us were heartbroken that we wouldn't see each other for so long. What helped, however, was talking about a plan that would work for us both and keep us in touch as much as possible. We stayed open and honest, and face-timed whenever we could- without crossing any boundaries or interfering with each others daily lives. I had lots going on, but so did he and we were equally understanding of that with one another. We didn't get angry when the other couldn't talk because we trusted each other. He also planned a trip to come see me about half way through my exchange, which is a privilege as some people cannot afford to do that. We both knew from the start that exchange was something I had to do, and being supportive of each other's dreams is what keeps our relationship so strong.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
My 2 best friends, Millie and Milly! One Millie was Australian, originally from just outside Melbourne and starting her first year of University at UTAS. I met her on my second day and she was one of my housemates for the entire semester. She was the sweetest, kindest soul and had a crazy amount of creativity. She made me paintings and joined me on all of my adventures. When I left Tassie she drove me to the airport and we both cried. We have dealt with this separation by continuing to snapchat and having the occasional FaceTime call (when the time difference allows us to). I still hold on to all the paintings and cards she made me. The second Milly was from Liverpool, England! She was super funky, wild, and had a deep passion for Abba. We spent time together every day bonding over That 70s Show and marching in climate change protests in the city. To this day we snapchat often, FaceTime whenever we can, and she keeps me updated with all of her drama. It was extremely hard for me to leave them both, but the good thing about social media these days is that we can keep in touch on so many platforms that I still feel like we share a special connection.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
I would tell my best friend (and anyone, for that matter) that exchange is not only a travelling experience or a learning experience. It is an experience that you have with and within yourself. You discover incredible things about your true character, your resilience, and your wonderful ability to make a brand new place home. Sometimes we forget who we are when we are all caught up in the chaos of our daily lives- we connect ourselves to the people we surround ourselves with, our daily routines, and our habits that are embedded in comfort. Exchange strips all of these things away and forces you to examine what you have left and what you are capable of on your own. It shows us what we truly want from our lives and the fascinating things that make us who we are. I came back to my chaos with a greater appreciation for it and a brand new outlook.
- What are your packing recommendations?
Tasmania is definitely one of the more difficult destinations to pack for, because you basically experience 3 different seasons in one semester (Usually students go to Tasmania during our winter semester, which is Tasmania's summer/fall). Therefore, packing has to be very strategic. You definitely need to bring swimsuits, hats, and sunscreen. There is a crack in the ozone layer above Tasmania so it is very easy to get a sunburn, even on cloudy days. Summer clothes are a must, but make sure you pack a jacket for when it starts to cool down. I brought a light puffer jacket (which took up very little room in my suitcase) as well as one larger, heavier jacket for the tail end of the semester. The weather rarely ever drops below 5 degrees celsius, but you should be prepared just incase. Make sure you pack running shoes and items of clothing you can be very active in. A majority of the most amazing experiences in Tasmania involve a lot of hiking or bush walking, so keep that in mind and prepare accordingly.
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
No! Everyone in Tassie speaks English so there were no language barriers that I had to overcome. However, I would suggest brushing up on some popular Australian lingo. The entire population basically speaks in slang, words like: Arvo = Afternoon, Snag = Sausage, Stubby = A small can of beer. It seems funny, but I swear it will be helpful and perhaps save you some miscommunication.
- Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived on campus in the university apartments. I would absolutely recommend this as it gave me so many opportunities to meet all the other exchangers as well as tons of fun locals. I chose the apartments because, as a third year student, I was so used to having space to cook and relax so this was a great option as it provided a kitchen, living space, and a bathroom I only had to share with 3 people. I know some exchange students who stayed in the dorm-style buildings who loved it as well. A ton of events are hosted in or by the residences, so it was really helpful to be apart of the on campus community so I could participate (while still having my own space to return to). I know many exchangers who decided to try and live off campus. Hobart/Sandy Bay specifically has a renters problem where there is not a lot of places available for students, and the ones that are are VERY expensive. Many of the off campus exchangers had to settle for very high living costs, or scramble to try and find a room in the dorms that were already full. In order to avoid all this hassle, I would absolutely recommend taking advantage of on campus living.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
I was able to collect OSAP funding for my study abroad which helped me immensely with the cost of living in Hobart. I also took some time to research and apply to travel grants through Guelph Student Financial Services. There are actually quite a few of these grants available, you just have to be willing to do a little bit of work to receive them. Keep in mind that studying abroad is going to cost more than a semester at the University of Guelph, so it is important to save where and when you can and plan out your budget in advance.
- Are you including exchange on your resume?
Absolutely. Exchange is impressive to employers because it shows that you are adaptable, curious, and up for anything. It also provides a great talking point in interviews, allowing you to draw on personal experience (it also gives you a great fun fact during ice breakers!)
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
I had room for a few electives while studying abroad, so I decided that it would be interesting to take an Australian history course. I had no prior knowledge of Australian history before, and figured it would be cool to learn it FROM Australians, IN Australia! I took a course called "Australia: 1901-2001" which focused on the contemporary history of Australia during the World Wars, and also included a look at pop culture. There were a ton of things that I learned about the country, and the professor also loved hearing feedback from a Canadian perspective!
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants?
The most important thing to remember when studying abroad is to trust. Trust yourself, trust the process, and trust that all of your fear, preparations and anxiety will be worth it. The world is beautiful and we hold ourselves back from experiencing that far too often. You have absolutely no idea what kind of adventures are going to present themselves to you, but trust that you are meant to take them. You can handle this, and more importantly you can THRIVE from this. Believe in yourself and the power of travel.