Emily M. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"Having conversations with people who experience these environmental issues first-hand, like severe bushfires and coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, gave me important insight into how other countries are experiencing climate change. I hope to work abroad in the future, and I think having a more global perspective on these issues will be of great benefit to me."
Exchange student at the Deakin University, Australia
Studying Environmental Biology
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
The friends I made from all over the world. They are really what made my study abroad experience one that I look back on with so many fond memories.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
Australian culture is similar to Canada's so it was a relatively comfortable adjustment. I'd say the biggest cultural adaptation is learning Aussie slang. It's pretty funny when you start catching yourself saying it too!
- In terms of your own cultural self-awareness, were there any instances where you realized that your own behaviours, perspectives, or attitudes were different? Please Explain.
I quickly realized that the Aussie way of life is much slower-paced than ours. More people prioritize taking time to slow down and enjoy life than over here. Maybe it's the warm weather and the proximity to the ocean, but I found this influenced my perspective on work/life balance and made me focus more on enjoying the little things in life.
- Was there a situation where you felt your actions were culturally inappropriate? How did you adapt? How did you know these were the correct actions to take?
There were some times where I felt that I was not informed as much as I should have been, such as in conversations surrounding particular Australian issues, like fire/climate change and Indigenous Australia. I definitely made more efforts to learn more afterward.
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your study abroad experience?
My absolute favourite place I traveled to in Victoria was Wilson's Prom National Park. My friends and I split an AirBnb along the coast for a few nights and explored the national park. It's got everything in such close proximity - mountains to climb, rugged beaches to explore, boulders to climb. We hardly encountered another soul there. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
Don't worry about not making friends. You'd be surprised how quickly being in a foreign place with others who are just as confused as you brings you together.
- What was your best learning moment?
I arrived in Australia only a few weeks before the pandemic really hit. I had to make a big decision relatively quickly - whether I was going to stay and hope for the best, or go home. Things were so uncertain. No one had any idea what the future of this pandemic might look like, let alone how long it would last. Everyone was telling me what decision to make, but I knew the right decision for me was to stay. I trusted in my decision, and I made the most of the rest of my time in Aus. It was not the exchange experience I expected, but I honestly wouldn't have had it any other way. I learned to make the best of things, and navigate a life abroad with my little family of exchange students. My friends and I stuck together through it all, and now we have a pretty wild story to tell in the future of a bunch of us international kids living abroad during a pandemic.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
My close friends and family. I have been lucky to have traveled quite a bit with my family growing up, but I have never been away by myself for so long.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
My best friends (turned roommates) and my boyfriend. Many tears were shed when we parted ways. I knew I'd never feel quite ready to leave. As hard as it was to leave the people who I had shared so many special memories with, we all knew this wasn't the end - we had become friends for a lifetime. We're all just waiting on a time where we can see each other again. We have lots of FaceTime calls, and send letters and treat boxes in the mail. It's comforting to have small pieces of each other while being apart.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
If you have the opportunity, do it! When else are you going to be able to be away for months on end and travel?
- What are your packing recommendations?
Pack light! You won't need as many clothes or shoes as you think. You'll likely find things you want to buy while you're abroad, so take that into consideration when packing. You will come home with more than you left with. It makes for much easier traveling when you pack lightly.
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
- Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
A bit of both! I was living on-campus for the first little while, and I loved it. It was so easy to meet people and make friends with everyone living so close by. There were tons of fun events and ways to meet others. I later moved off-campus with friends because we thought, if we were going to be stuck during the pandemic, we might as well have been stuck together. I loved living off-campus as well, for different reasons. I really enjoyed the freedom of living on our own and not in a campus bubble. It felt like we were integrating into real life in Australia, and not just exchange student life.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
I knew I wanted to study abroad for a long time, so I had been working full time jobs the last few summers and saving up as much as I could.
- Are you including exchange on your resume?
I see my exchange experiences benefiting my future career as it shows future employers I embraced an opportunity and have the open mind, resourcefulness, and drive needed to adapt to a different environment and pursue my own personal goals.
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
I took all electives when I was abroad. The most interesting course I took was called 'Australia Today'. It was a brief introduction to all things Australia - politics, gender, environmental issues, their history with colonialism and Indigenous Australia, etc. It was a great way to understand the basis of fundamental issues within Australia, as well as compare/contrast these issues to ones in Canada.
- How do you see your exchange experience benefiting your future career?
Being an environmental biology major, my exchange experiences helped me to better understand the environmental issues that are most affecting other parts of the world. Having conversations with people who experience these environmental issues first-hand, like severe bushfires and coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef gave me important insight into how other countries are experiencing climate change. I hope to work abroad in the future, and I think having a more global perspective on these issues will be of great benefit to me.
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants?
Make the most of your time studying abroad; it really does fly by. Be a yes man and don't waste a minute!