Zoey K.N. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"Putting myself into a new environment made me realize how much I'm truly capable of, how I can push myself to achieve goals, and helped me start prioritizing what was important to me and my future. All this happened thousands of kilometres away from home, but will stick with me for the rest of my life."
Exchange student at the University of Tasmania, Australia
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
The best thing that happened to me while I was studying abroad is that I found out more about myself. A little cheesy I know, but I'm serious. Putting myself into a new environment made me realize how much I'm truly capable of, how I can push myself to achieve goals, and helped me start prioritizing what was important to me and my future. All this happened thousands of kilometres away from home, but will stick with me for the rest of my life.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
The biggest cultural adaptation I had to make was adapting to a new multicultural society. Canada has lot's of different cultures but so does Australia. As a result I met many different people with various backgrounds and was surrounded by different cultures and traditions. With meeting different people there was instances where I wasn't sure what they were referencing or how they view something, but all I had to do was ask for some clarification and we could have a good conversation about it!
- 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.
In terms of my own cultural self-awareness, there some instances I realized my behaviours were a bit different. For example, usually in academic settings or in the works of event planning, I have to lay everything out, state all relevant information so people don't have to ask extra questions and have a set plan ready. When I was in Australia I found people were more laid back and didn't have the strong 'over-work yourself' drive that I sometimes experience at home.
- 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 wasn't a situation where I felt my actions were culturally inappropriate per se, but there was some instances where I wasn't educated enough on the topic and it could have resulted in me being culturally insensitive, particularly with the history of Indigenous Australians. Finding detailed information online was difficult at times, so I adapted by asking questions to people who did know and taking the time to appreciate where I was. I knew these were appropriate actions to take as it is more inappropriate to pretend like you know everything about a topic you don't know a lot about. It is okay to ask questions to further your knowledge and adjust your behaviour.
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your study abroad experience?
That is such a hard question because I visited so many cool places. I have to say though, one of the coolest places I visited was the Disappearing Tarn on kunanyi/Mount Wellington. It is a natural phenomenon that occurred after the heavy rainfall we had for the majority of the week. I woke up one morning and spontaneously left to go find it with a friend, definitely worth the hike up! The result was a crystal clear blue lake in the mountain that was ice cold but absolutely stunning. (picture in the collage at the bottom of this page - bottom left)
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
Something I know now, that I wish I knew before I studied abroad is that there is no way to fully prepare 100%. Sometimes bumps in the road occur and you can't plan for the unexpected and sometimes better ideas come along. You may have to take things as they come, but stick to your gut, be smart and be safe.
- What was your best learning moment?
My best learning moment was not in an academic setting, it was more so in a social setting. I was sitting around with some new friends, just laughing and having a good time and I realized that even though I haven't known these people for long, I care so much for them and the bonds we are creating is something special. In this, I learned that people come and go from your life, and the amount of time you've known them is not the most important thing, rather it's the happiness and memories that matter. I'll cherish those relationships I made in Tasmania for the rest of my life, even though I was only there for 6 months. Can't wait to go back to see everyone again!
- Was there an issue or topic you had the opportunity to view from a different worldview or cultural lense?
An issue that I had the opportunity to view from different cultural lens would have to be environmental conservation, an issue that brings many vantage points when viewed with a different worldview or cultural lens. Conservation should have no borders, it takes many countries and areas to bring large scale benefits to the environment. Australia has such a unique ecosystem and just being in that environment gave me a greater appreciation for the conservation that goes into maintaining and protecting it.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
The hardest to leave from home had to be my family (can't pick just one of them). We have travelled lot's together and I actually had never been on a flight completely by myself, let alone have 3 layovers to tackle by myself. I spent quality time with each of them before leaving and maintained contact while I was away through messages and FaceTime calls.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
Everyone was hard to leave. Going to the airport about four carloads of friends came along, long story short many tears were shed at the airport. My best friends, teammates, boyfriend and his family, it was hard leaving all of them because they all had such an impact on me. Also with the current situation of COVID-19, it's hard to know when international travel would be allowed and we could see each other again. I'm still dealing with it as I've only been home a couple months, but we still maintain contact and FaceTime plenty (even with the time difference). I will soon be sending some postcards and Canadian snacks for them all to enjoy!
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
If I were to recommend exchange to my best friend, I would not be able to stop talking about it. I'd start off with how they can take their degree to the next level and have the chance to learn about your major from a perspective you may not be able to be exposed to at home. Not only will this help their education, but they will return with a new perspective on culture, working in different environments with different people, adjustment and communication skills, all of these are very attractive to future employers! After the discussion about education and careers, I'll go off on the new adventure they will encounter and how travelling the world is amazing for so many reasons, you can find new interests and try things you weren't able to before and make lifelong friendships that span all over the globe.
- What are your packing recommendations?
The do's of packing: - do roll your clothes (this is a space saver) - do put any liquids in plastic bags (trust me, you do not want sunscreen all over your stuff) - do check the typical weather for the months you'll be there and pack according to that - do think ahead on how much shopping you will do, if you want to buy some clothing out there, take that into consideration when packing - do some research on typical dress code for the area and if there are events coming up - do clean your clothes and shoes before packing
The do not's of packing: - do not bring stuff you barely wear, if you don't wear it at home you probably wont't wear it abroad - do not forget to weigh your luggage and check the baggage allowance - do not overpack (I am a shopaholic sometimes and overpacking would mean I couldn't buy as much) - do not pack excessive amounts of toiletries, you can buy those there and will probably need to restock a couple of times anyways
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
English has been entrenched as the de facto language of Australia so you don't necessarily have to learn another language for this exchange. However, it would be helpful to look up some Australian lingo, as there was many words/slangs I had never heard of before. For example, new friends had asked me to go out for a 'frothy'. I had no idea what they meant at first but soon learned this meant to go out for a beer, I quickly said yes and off we went! Also if you live for caffeine like me, be prepared to be blown away with the different types of coffee you can get. Also, be prepared to learn how to ask for your typical order while abroad, I drink black iced coffee and learned after trial and error I have to ask for a "long black on ice".
- What role did language and communication (verbal and non-verbal) play in fostering an appreciation for a different perspective?
Language and communication played a pretty big role in fostering appreciation for a different perspective, especially non-verbal communication cues. Being from another country I was obviously being introduced to many new things and ideas, which generated many questions. When people were answering those questions I made sure to face them and pay attention, not interrupt, be engaged in conversation and ask for clarification if I was unsure on anything. Not only did this help me see things from a different perspective, but also showed the other person I was genuinely curious and wanting to learn.
- Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived on-campus and definitely recommend it. For starters, student accommodation helps you get settled in and can give you many tips to find your way around in a safe manner. On top of that, you will be surrounded by many other students (lot's of other study abroad students as well) who are all adapting to university life. There will be many events for you to socialize and make life-long friends!
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
To finance my study abroad experience I had many resources. I had started saving money in advance through my summer job and campus employment. Through U of G I was able to apply for scholarships and travel grants. One of the cool things about studying abroad, is that you are still a registered U of G student, and can still apply for OSAP.
- 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 had so many course options to choose from at UTAS. I study psychology and was lucky enough to take KHA336 Human Behaviour in Extreme Environments, in this course we studied the unique challenges extreme environments pose on human behaviour and how these environments influence human functioning. My professor set up a zoom call with expeditioners working in Antarctica so we could ask questions regarding their adjustment, how it is working in such an isolated area with the same group of people, challenges with gender or cultural differences. Such an interesting course!
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants?
Embrace the opportunity and study abroad. This will be an amazing time in your life that you will cherish forever. You will broaden your horizons, make yourself more marketable to employers, bring your degree to the next level with new learning environments, develop new relationships and create life-long memories. Go abroad.