Mary Y. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"The great part about exchange is that you meet so many new friends that they become your new support system- they become your person to go to for help."
Exchange student at the University of Adelaide, Australia
Studying Wildlife Biology and Conservation
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
It was really eye-opening to be in a new country and experience all that it had to offer. It was just awesome to be able to escape the usual routine of: wake up, go to school, come home and repeat. Instead, I got to explore a new city, go to the beach, make new friends and travel to all the places I've dreamed of. Every day was a new adventure and I truly loved every second of it!
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
I was in Adelaide, Australia so for the most part, the culture is pretty similar. That's not to say things didn't throw me off. For one they obviously had different store names for our equivalent of: Walmart, No-frills, Dollarama, Best-Buy. It took me a hot minute to realize where I could buy everything and where it would be most affordable. Not to mention, items were also different, so there was definitely an adaption period where I had to figure out what I was looking for and what it's called in Australia.
- Where was the coolest place you traveled to during your study abroad experience?
Hands down the best place I went to was Bali! I went with a bunch of friends (about 10 of us) so we were able to travel together and make awesome memories as a group. We got to rent out a beautiful villa (literally living large), ride around in scooters, dancing on the beach, and watch the most STUNNING sunsets. Best of all, everything is quite cheap in Bali so it really wasn't a large hit to my wallet for all the stuff we got to do!
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
You got to trust that even if things fall through that it'll be okay. Not everything abroad is smooth sailing, let me tell you. There were definitely times where plans fell through, fights with friends back home and new friends, receiving bad news and just not feeling like yourself. You just have to remind yourself that when something is out of your control and you can't do anything- just let it be. This is for sure easier said than done but don't let the little things ruin this amazing time you have to discover who you are. It's all about taking one step at a time.
- What was your best learning moment?
I learned to be more easy-going. I'm the type of person who likes to have a schedule, items planned out and knowing what I'll be doing tomorrow. Sorry to break it to you, but that's just not how it's always going to be while you're somewhere new. You have to take things as they come and solve the problem that's in front of you. When I was planning my trips, it was stressful to get everything organized and planned out. The truth is, most of our plans were decided on the spot- some things just can't be accounted for and you just got to live and learn.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
The hardest person to leave at home was definitely my best friends from school. It's weird to go from seeing someone every day to literally not see them at all! Especially with the time difference, it was hard to make conversations work and have video calls. My friends are my support system and I go to them for everything, so not having them there was an adjustment, to say the least. I would usually call them from time to time and text them whenever I could; just to keep them updated. The great part about exchange is that you meet so many new friends that they become your new support system- they become your person to go to for help.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
The hardest people to leave were my roommates while I was on exchange! (12.06 forever baby) I lived in an 8 person apartment while I was abroad and it was the BEST experience I could ever ask for. We would do dinner together, movie nights, go to the beach, plan trips together and of course party together. I'm more than grateful that I meet all those incredible people and I got to call them my Aussie family. We all still keep in touch through Snapchat and WhatsApp; it's amazing how easy it is with technology these days. We're all planning a reunion soon so that's something I'm looking forward to!
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
You just HAVE TO DO IT! It is so much fun and you come back with so many unforgettable memories. I've talked to so many other students who regret not going on exchange during their undergrad. Why not just take that leap of faith and just go on an adventure of a lifetime?! You really don't want to leave behind university with an exchange sized hole in your memory. 100% I recommend this opportunity to everyone and that is satisfaction guaranteed or your money back! (not really but you won't regret it).
- What are your packing recommendations?
Seriously, pack only what you need. I had 2 checked bags and 1 carry on and it was a complete nightmare- especially when travelling alone. It's also expensive to have to add more checked bags in the case that you need more baggage (which I did). Don't bother packing any toiletries, you don't need 10 pairs of shoes I promise, and you don't need a bag for every occasion! I'd recommend checking the weather that you'll be going to, take into account if you're going to be travelling somewhere colder/warmer. It's a good idea to just have at least one item of clothing for each weather condition!
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
No need to worry about learning a new language in Australia! Their official language is English so you are all set. It'll take a while to get used to some of the Aussie slang and accent but you'll pick it up super easily.
- Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived technically off-campus. The apartment building I lived in was called Urbanest and they were recommended for international students by the University of Adelaide. It was SO convenient to live at Urbanest because it was right across the street from the university (not even a 5-minute walk) and the entire building will full of exchange students. It was so easy to meet people and it comes with a bunch of amenities: a movie room, gym, pool table, rooftop with bbq. It literally had everything you would need! It's a bit more expensive but I'm so glad I chose Urbanest over some of the other options.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
I had some money saved up for this trip because I knew it would cost me a good amount. I had worked different jobs during the school year and summer leading up to my trip. I also applied for some travel grants and OSAP was also a big help!
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
One of the courses I took that was quite interesting was called "Urban Futures." We looked at how cities were organized and how we can move urbanization into a more eco-friendly environment. I learned a lot about how different cities are structured and the patterns of people who live in those cities. It was also nice to learn about Australia cities like Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney rather than Toronto for a change. Very cool class!
- How are you including exchange on your resume?
I'm putting exchange under the education section of my resume. Also, because of exchange I got to be a peer helper for the Centre for International Programs. As part of my role at CIP, I do the info sessions, answer student questions, and do promotional work for the office. This is great work experience on campus that I will be including on my resume as well.
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants?
Take advantage of every opportunity! Even if it doesn't seem like the most exciting thing or something that doesn't seem like it would interest you- just do it! You'll regret the experiences you miss out on- so truly, go out and explore, live large, do something you said you'd never do! This is YOUR chance to experience the world so make the most of it!