Alumni Spotlight: Danielle Rothenberg


Danielle is an outgoing and curious alumnus of IFSA-Butler: Melbourne. She enjoys meeting new people, experiencing wildlife, listening to hip-hop music, and delving into a Malcom Gladwell book.

Why did you choose this program?

I knew I wanted to study abroad in Australia because of its scenery and culture of mateship; moreover, its distance from home provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I chose to study in Melbourne, particularly, because I wanted a city that was off the beaten path of students at my home university —65+ chose to study in Sydney, while only one other person in my class was going to Melbourne. I knew that IFSA Butler offered a program at the University of Melbourne, which is the #1 Uni in Australia. I wanted to be socially and academically challenged. The program also got great reviews from my school and their own alumni.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IFSA Butler made the many transitions from the States to Australia seamless, as they helped not only with remedial things like documentation, course transfers, and housing, but also educated us on overarching cultural norms, university culture in the new country, and everyday interactions with native Australians —even directions to get to the nearest supermarket and transit to the outer-boroughs.

IFSA left school-related concerns to the administration of the University of Melbourne, but
I was never entirely abandoned throughout my enrollment process. A few IFSA members and I took the tram to the University together (to where we knew our way after orientation) and received advising from the school’s registrar. IFSA let go of the reins but granted us independence over the course of one-two weeks... I definitely felt prepared by the time I was “on my own” in the city.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

First and foremost, I would tell ANYONE signing up for study abroad to enroll ALONE. Do not go with your group of friends from home, or even your best friend from the same/another school for a multitude of reasons: conflict might arise and affect your relationship during and after the program, and sticking with people you already know eliminates the healthy social challenge of making NEW friends (both within IFSA and in Australia), the needs of one friend might limit those of the other(s), and going with people from home will likely enable you to reminisce about your home friends/home Uni and prevent you from full immersion abroad. I went entirely alone, and thankfully 95% of my program did, too. (Let’s just say, we had a much richer, bolder time abroad compared to those who came with a partner or two... or six...)

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

In orientation, we wake up in a hostile, eat breakfast, and begin the day with either a discussion about culture or a lecture on document/administrative-related tasks pertaining to IFSA and/or Uni Melbourne and/or UniLodge. Then, the rest of the day is spent touring Sydney and going to fun entertainment and/or the beach, or a even a walking tour! (While Sydney is BEAUTIFUL, don’t be dejected about signing up for MELBOURNE! The best is yet to come!)

After four days or so of orientation, we arrive at UniLodge in Melbourne. Then, we are briefed by the staff of the apartment building on rules/regulations, given our key, assigned roommates (which WILL work out, I promise!), and given the rest of the day to pack. Then, Uni Melb orientation begins, and we are given a tour of the campus and an opportunity to visit the outer-boroughs and city of Melbourne with our orientation group. This, of course, is led by a student one-year older from Uni Melbourne. It is important to join MUSEX for the free bar-crawl and invitations to events on campus with other international students of the Uni! After the first two weeks or so in Melbourne, the rest is really left to us!!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear abroad was actually whether other people would come as friends already, as this happened to my cousin who toured with another university in Europe. Luckily, this was not the case, as everyone pretty much came independently of their friends from USA uni’s. I realized soon after landing in Australia that everyone had the SAME concerns!! The other members of the program are in the exact same boat, that is, in a new country, eager to solidify friendships... No one has an advantage over anyone else socially.

Who should/shouldn’t I talk to in the city of Melbourne? Should I be weary of anything/anyone?

This question has an optimistic, but also cautious answer. Simply put, DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF TO WHOM YOU SPEAK/BEFRIEND!! As for IFSA, befriend the people you might otherwise not have met had you not studied abroad... for instance, my friends are from all over the country... not a single one is from my home city! Respect others’ interests, as they will surely open you up to new bold experiences abroad! EVERYONE wants to stir a conversation, especially after hearing your American accent, so engage them, whether it be the barista, a fellow customer or concert-goer, or more! Feel free to make friendships with locals, but have your wits about you— don’t try anything that puts you or your health at risk... and always make arrangements with another IFSA buddy!

What can you say about your experience taking on this program?

Best experience of my life!! I’ve grown so much— I’ve not only become a better listener (as I encountered many people who love to share their stories as much as I do!!), but I also learned to incorporate a variety of different people into my life— who expand my interests to things I might otherwise not pursue on my own!!