UMass Amherst offers plenty of study abroad programs, but not as many as I was hoping for in Australia. I was between the Gold Coast and Sydney and in the end, chose Bond Uni because the semester (January through April) fit my schedule best. At UMass, CISabroad offered a program at Bond and I chose that one.
Bridget is a senior at UMass Amherst studying communications, economics, and IT. She is an involved member of the campus community and has caught the travel bug ever since going abroad.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
UMass made sure I looked at all of my options before choosing one, but ultimately left the decision up to me. Jackie Langdon (CISabroad's Australia program coordinator) helped a lot when I had questions about the application and the program itself. I made sure to follow the deadlines that CIS had for the application and it was all pretty simple and easy!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Try and budget and plan any additional trips you want to go on as soon as you can. I ended up cramming a bunch of trips in at the end of my time abroad and had to pick and choose between different places/trips because I was already out of budget.
You don't have to stick to an exact schedule, but at least try and plan out where you want to go and when you might be able to do it. Be flexible and try to do everything like going on a weekend road trip, a small beach getaway, or a big trip to neighboring countries!
The semester will fly by and be over before you know it so do as much as you can while you can.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Classes at Bond usually only meet once or twice a week. They can be a combination of a lecture and a discussion section (they call them "tutorials") or just a lecture. I ended up only having classes Tuesday through Thursday, so I was able to have a lot of free time on the weekends.
Most people will also have classes only a few days a week (most people I knew had classes Monday through Wednesday). Definitely take some time out of your day to do whatever assignments and work you may need to do and try and keep your weekends free so you can travel.
Time management is important and allowed me to go to the beach after class, lay by the pool at Varsity Shores (one of the off-campus living options), and go on weekend getaways.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was nervous about being thrown into an unfamiliar situation, sort of like how it feels when you are an incoming freshman going to college.
I was excited to be going through a program and not a direct exchange for my abroad experience because I knew that there would be planned activities and people in my same situation in CIS.
Try and talk to everyone during orientation. Everyone is in the same place of probably not knowing anybody and everyone is looking for friends. I became so close with my abroad friends it's insane! After going through that, I'm so much more comfortable talking to people I don't know and I got pushed out of my comfort zone.
Do you have any travel tips for future participants?
Don't feel like you need to buy those "all-inclusive," pre-planned trips from the travel agencies. Grab a brochure of trips you're thinking of doing and make the trip your own.
When you go on those preplanned trips, you're with so many other people, you'll be trapped by an itinerary, and you'll most likely be spending more money than you would on your own. You can save money or even spend the same amount just doing whatever you want to do and with fewer people.
Don't throw the travel agencies out of the picture though and do take them into consideration. I booked a trip with Student Flights to go to the Outback and I don't think I would have wanted to try and organize that on my own.
Also, try and travel in groups! If you're with a bunch of people rent out an Airbnb - it might be cheaper than a hostel! Travel as much as you can, but don't forget to explore the area where you are studying.
What were your favorite side trips during your time abroad?
- Sydney: If you go during "Spring" semester, try and go during Australia Day in January!
- Outback (Ayers Rock/Uluru): This is a bit of a camping trip but it's definitely worth it if you like to camp.
- Cairns/Great Barrier Reef: CIS takes you here during orientation.
- Queenstown, New Zealand: Save up for this trip - bungee jumping, white water rafting, etc.
- Brisbane: Spend a night in this city! It's amazing and beautiful.
- Melbourne: I never actually made it here (budget and plan ahead!) but I knew plenty of people who loved it.
- Mount Tamborine: This is just an hour drive from the Gold Coast and this is where I first felt like I was in Australia. Try and find a guide who is familiar with the mountain and can take you on the different hiking trails! Some friends and I took an Uber there.