My Australian Study Abroad

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Hello, everyone!

My name is Alex Clemons, and I was given the amazing opportunity to study abroad at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, from July to October 2016. During the flights to my new home for the next four months, I was both super excited but a little nervous as well. I would be in a country that was not only in a different hemisphere but also on the other side of the globe! This would be my first time to be away from my family for an extended amount of time, and I wasn’t sure how well I would adjust to this complete and total independence. It wasn’t long, however, before I got settled and realized that the experience of living in a new country would be one that I would remember for the rest of my life. I have a few pieces of advice to make a seamless transition from UAH to whichever university that you’ll be attending while overseas.

1. You’re going to have to do stuff that may make you uncomfortable, so embrace it. I had so many firsts while in Australia, ranging from my first cab and tram ride to my first final exam in a room with over 1,000 people. Some situations might seem scary at first, but you may realize that they might not be as bad as you think.

2. Make many friends with the locals. I knew a couple of people from other states who were studying abroad with me that stuck to a group with only international students. That meant that they had no one to help them get accustomed to the area and no one to tell them important things like the cheapest restaurants with the best food. The day after I arrived to the house where I would be staying, I became good friends with two of my nine roommates, Pui and Tim, who knew everything there was to know about Melbourne and Deakin University. They were great people with great advice, and I’ll admit that I bummed a ride from Tim to the grocery store many times!

3. Call your parents consistently. I know you may feel like your days will fly by and you won’t have time for anything other than a few text messages, but your parents are most definitely worried about you. Their baby is in a completely different country, and they are probably concerned about you and your safety. A phone call is not only a great way to keep them updated on the amazing things that you’re getting to experience but also a good way to fight homesickness.

4. Lastly, there is a pattern that most study abroad students seem to go through, so you need to be aware that what you are feeling is normal. Most people feel excitement at first, thinking how amazing the new environment is. I know on my cab ride from the airport to the university, all I did was stare out of my window at the big city with strange sculptures. Walking on campus, I was fascinated by the different accents I heard swirling around me. The second mindset you get is annoyance. I know it sounds awful, but after a while, the novelty of things wears off, and some of the things that you thought were so cool before become not as great. I don’t know how many times I got upset because I started to walk into a busy street after checking the wrong side of the road for traffic. Pretty soon after this, you’ll start to feel homesick. The best way to combat that feeling is to keep in contact with your friends and family. Luckily, these emotions are just a few small ones you’ll be feeling amidst the excitement from doing new things and the amazement from how different people live their lives from those in America. Know that these various feelings are normal, and you are getting the experience of a lifetime.

I wish you all good luck with your study abroad programs! Remember to take lots of pictures to document all the sights you’ll see and the experiences in which you will partake!

One of the many beautiful beaches in the town of Byron Bay.

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One of the Twelve Apostles, which are large rocks that have worn away due to erosion from the strength of the waves.

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These are three of my roommates and me on a day trip to Tim’s farm and town. Pictured from left to right: Tim’s super cute dog Barney, Tim, Rachel (from New York), me, and Pui (from Hong Kong)

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The Experience of Study Abroad

My experience abroad was like no other. I learned so many things, saw so many things, and did so many things that looking back it is hard to remember every detail or even the majority of them really. My decision to go abroad was a pretty easy one since it had always been something I wanted to do. My destination abroad was a little unexpected since I knew nothing of Ireland before leaving, but I fell in love and will most likely make my way back there one day. The course was a UAH mostly online course, and it involved light course work before leaving. The work was nothing extraneous, and it was more times than not informative and helpful.  We also had a couple of meetings throughout the semester to plan for the trip.

On the morning of my trip, I was more scared of the plane ride than anything else. I had been on a plane for a total of an hour and a half just three months before for the very first time. Now I was about to fly over seas for 8+ hours. Next, when we were all waiting in the terminal, I realized I had another problem. There were 12 people on this trip, and even though we were all UAH students, I had never seen any of them in my life except for at pre-trip orientations. I had thought about this some since I had obviously noticed I didn’t know anyone going on the trip during orientations and things like that, but this was the first time it truly sank in. Needless to say, we sat in Huntsville’s airport terminal in silence for about an hour before leaving. Oh how things would change. Eight hours later we landed in Ireland where it was 8 AM, and it was midnight at home. We did the hard thing, and we continued through the day to make the jet lag ‘better’ for the weeks to come. The first day together was filled with more silence and irritability from lack of sleep. We were lost in the capital city of Dublin for much of the day since this is where we were staying for our trip. When we did finally get to the hotel room, we learned there was no air conditioner in our hotel (this is a norm in Ireland), and there was no shower. Thankfully the temps in Ireland are favorable for the no air conditioning thing, and as for the no shower, well there was a shower head in the ceiling and a drain in the bathroom floor with a shower curtain surrounding it. This meant that every time me or my roommate took a shower our entire bathroom was flooded for the rest of the evening or morning. At this point in my trip, I was really wondering what I had gotten myself into. Then the good stuff started. The day trips to the gorgeous landscapes made me know I made the right decision. They were unbelievable, and it mostly felt like a dream when I was seeing these gorgeous sites. I slowly fell in love with everything Ireland had to offer. By the end of two weeks, I had seen so much natural beauty that I was truly curious if anything in the United States would ever impress me again.

As for those people that I had sat around in silence for so many days – they became my friends. Not my ‘I’m going to speak to you with small talk for two weeks’ friends, but my actual friends who I learned so much about in only two weeks, who I still talk to every time I see them, and who I truly care about. The landscapes were amazing, but the memories made with these people were just as amazing. That’s a little bit about my trip now here’s a Dos and Don’ts list for your potential study abroad.

Do

  • Keep a travel journal – This is my biggest regret from the trip because there are so many little details I know I’m forgetting from my trip. If I had kept a travel journal, I know I would love reading it now, but I would especially love it in the future.
  • Find those friends who will walk to Burger King with you at 1 AM when you didn’t enjoy any of the local favorites you had eaten that day, the friends who will steal the mint chocolates you LOVE off the housekeepers cart when she’s not looking for the days you don’t have time to eat breakfast, take pictures of you at the gorgeous scenes, go into all the gift shops you want to go in, and who will just be a friend to you and try to get to know you during your time abroad- Friendships made during this trip are very dear to me. If you are more of a loner, it’s still important to have those people to help make sure you are safe while you are abroad. I’m somewhere in the middle of being an introvert and extrovert. However, the friends I made understood when I needed to be alone, but also when I wanted to enjoy time with them. I was blessed on this trip because our group ended up all being fairly good friends.
  • Lose sleep for memories – You will probably have to get up at 6, 5, or maybe even 4 AM at least a few times during your trip. If many people are going to do something at night whether it be shopping, going to a local favorite restaurant (or pub in Ireland), or some random event in the city, GO WITH THEM. Leave yourself time to catch up on sleep when you get back, and take naps when you can while there (my personal favorite nap spot was on the bus/van during day trips). It is so worth it to make more memories and experience more things even if you lose some sleep.

Don’t

  • Avoid making connections- You want to share this experience with people you can call your friends! Have I stressed this enough yet?
  • Let the things you aren’t accustomed to scare you- I didn’t love the idea of the bathroom being flooded every time I showered, but I lived.
  • Be scared to try new things- Eat the food, take the hike, take the selfie, and buy the random item that you just really love (even though you probably don’t need the entire sheep souvenir collection) . This trip is about you, so do what you want to do and don’t second guess yourself.
  • Hesitate to find a new adventure when you get lost- I probably spent about 86% of the trip with no idea where I was, but I knew it wasn’t where I was planning to go. I saw so many more sites this way, and I experienced the culture of the Irish in all different areas. However, you should always remember to stay safe. If something looks sketchy, get out of there ASAP.

Here are some pics of our group not looking touristy at all. Thanks for reading and happy travels.

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Downtown Dublin, Ireland
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Selfie from a bus trip