I had convinced myself that I didn’t have enough time to study abroad in college. Even though I really wanted to do it, I was studying computer science as well as studio art and didn’t think I could find a school that would be able to fulfill my remaining class requirements. I vented about this over dinner with my mom one night at a cute Nepalese restaurant in my home town of Burlington, Vermont. My ever supportive and the best mother you could ask for responded “You should try talking to someone, maybe it could work out”. I realized she was right, why not try to make it happen? After some research as well as several meetings with the student exchange office and the heads of the CS and art departments, I found a school that offered all of the classes I could take in order to graduate on time. Shortly after, I found myself in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales for my last semester as an undergrad student. To this day, I feel like studying abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made.
As a Vermonter who had never lived anywhere else, being in Sydney was more than just eye opening. I made friends from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Thailand, as well as many other parts of the world and grew from being a shy, rural girl to a more outgoing and adventurous version of myself. Since I never publicly commemorated my trip, I wanted to share a few of the benefits and learnings I gained from my time abroad that I’m sure you would too if you decided to go.
1. You’ll learn to take criticism better
Australians tend to say what’s on their mind without hesitation, which can sometimes come across as a bit harsh. This isn’t to say that they aren’t caring people, but their culture is very straightforward and blunt. This begins to rub off on you after a while—and I was glad it did for me since I was used to taking things pretty personally.
2. You get to do things that are extremely new
Have you ever heard of netball? I sure didn’t, but I ended up playing with my college’s team for a full season. I also got to watch people play cricket for the first time, go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, participate in touch rugby, take a tour of the Sydney Opera House, and camp with wombats!
3. You’ll have a whole new attitude towards swearing
Essentially no one would care if someone said “FUCK” multiple times in a grocery store with children in close proximity. Although it was a bit alarming at first to hear people curse every other sentence, I eventually started to find it amusing since it tended to make the mood more playful and less serious.
4. You‘ll get all the 🌞 you could dream of
Australia’s weather varies with temperate climates existing in Melbourne and Sydney, tropical climates in Brisbane and Cairns, and desert climates essentially anywhere not near the coast. No matter where you are in the country, though, there will always be lots of sunshine and you won’t run short on vitamin D.
5. You can enjoy the laid back lifestyle
Americans tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to constantly be doing things and performing well when it comes to work. Australians are quite the opposite and have an attitude of “she’ll be right”—which means “whatever is wrong will right itself with time”. Even with approaching deadlines on big assignments and exams, students seemed to not stress out about much of anything. As someone who tends to be quite goal oriented, it was a nice break to be in a place where the attitude was not to rush.
6. The burden of pretense is lighter
A more nuanced quality of American culture is that there can be a pressure to always be enthusiastic. When you send someone an email, it often feels a bit rude not to throw in an exclamation point or at least one :). This wasn’t really a thing in Australia and practically all my messages with Australians contained no emotion and got right to the point. At first I thought I was inadvertently pissing people off , but it became clear that this was how they tended to correspond online. I appreciated how this style of communication lifted the onus of always having to sign off in a noticeably positive way.
7. If you feel guilty about partying or having a good time, it will go away like 👏
One of the weirdest things I found when I arrived was just how ingrained partying was for practically everyone. Partying is usually a big deal in any American college experience, but with the drinking age being 18 in Australia, it’s a much more widely accepted thing to do there. At my college, drinking and loud music in the common area was never reprimanded by the administration. In fact, they were quite supportive of students having a good time and had realistic expectations around alcohol consumption.
I truly had an amazing time in Sydney and would reconsider living in Australia again due to its international population, high quality of living, and fun culture. Needless to say, if you are considering studying abroad and have the means to do so, don’t convince yourself you can’t do it and make it happen!