What is one piece of advice you'd give future students traveling with your program?
Kelsey: Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. While a whole semester may seem like a long time to be away from home, it goes by with a blink of an eye. Planning ahead to places you want to explore and activities you want to encounter is key to having a successful time abroad. While adventure is all around you, it is also important to plan out what is important to you and how you want to spend your time abroad.
It is easy to get caught up in schoolwork and meeting new people, therefore, it is important that you take time to plan out what you want to accomplish and when during your time abroad. There were many experiences I set out to do while abroad, but with so much excitement all around me, I got sidetracked and ended up not having time to do some of the things I wanted to do while in Australia.
This being said, it is also important to try new things as they come to you because sometimes the best memories are the ones unplanned. While it might seem frightening to explore the depths of the ocean on a scuba diving excursion, it may also end up becoming a new passion for you, as it did for me.
Studying abroad is a time to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. For some, this could be as small as eating vegemite for the first time and for others, this could mean skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef. Whether your sense of adventure is big or small, Australia's opportunities are endless and there is excitement around every corner.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Kelsey: Australia offers so many experiences and opportunities that were never available to me prior to my adventure abroad. Whether this is making friends with the local Australians, exploring the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, or learning to surf for the first time, studying abroad brings you countless opportunities.
Although these adventures are truly indescribable, one experience that is often taken for granted is the ability to learn and take classes in an international environment.
Studying a culture in a classroom can help one gain the basis of a culture's core values and beliefs, however, living in the culture brings a whole new perspective and appreciation for a culture's history, politics, and way of life.
Studying abroad gave me endless opportunities to be involved in the local culture of Australia by engaging with locals and international students in the classroom, joining clubs and organizations offered at UNSW, and traveling throughout Australia.
Studying abroad is an opportunity to take classes and grow academically with different courses, professors, and teaching styles. While this may not be everyone's initial motivation to study abroad, I took much more away from these learning experiences than I could have ever imagined.
What was the best place you visited outside of your home-base city?
Kelsey: While my time in Sydney was truly amazing, one of the best experiences I had while abroad was my two-week trip to New Zealand. New Zealand is a magnificent country with its natural beauty, great adventures, and the friendliest people you will meet everywhere you go. On this two-week adventure, I traveled the North Island of New Zealand.
My favorite experiences while in New Zealand included the following: visiting Hobbiton, where they shot scenes from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, scuba diving a ship wreck in the Bay of Islands, and hiking miles of beautiful coastline, tropical forests, and redwood forests. I would recommend to anyone studying abroad in Australia that he or she takes the time to explore New Zealand, as it truly is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been.
Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?
Kelsey: Living in the colleges at the University of New South Wales allowed me to truly engage with the local Australians. IES gave two housing options at the University of New South Wales, either the Kensington Colleges, which consist of different colleges on campus, or The Terraces, which consist of apartment style living. Living in the colleges was a fantastic experience as the majority of the residents were local Australians.
The colleges have traditions and events on a weekly basis that allow study abroad students to fully participate in the local culture. Making friends with locals and living among them, truly allowed me to see the city from a local's perspective. Having the capability to be involved in the history and traditions that the university has to offer with the Australian students gave me the experience I was looking for when imagining my time abroad.