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Why did you decide to study abroad?
When I studied abroad junior year it was my second time abroad, as I was accepted to Colby as a FSA student and spent the fall of my freshman year in Spain. I decided to study abroad a second time because my first time abroad was an extremely positive experience, and opened my eyes to a new language and culture. I chose to study abroad again because I wanted the chance to experience and explore yet another culture and open my eyes to new ways of living, thinking, and learning.
How did you choose where to go?
I choose to study abroad in Australia on an SIT program focusing on sustainability and environmental action. I knew that I wanted to study in either Africa or Australia, so after I narrowed it down to those two continents I started looking at programs. I knew I needed to choose a program that supported my environmental policy major. I choose the SIT program because it was a program that strongly supported my major and additionally was a program that moved around a fair amount allowing me to see a significant portion of Australia in a short time span.
My program was composed of 10 weeks of experiential learning following by five weeks of an independent study period. Over the first 10 weeks we attended various workshops, went on lots of excursions, and had many guest lecturers. During those 10 weeks we were in no place longer than two weeks and visited places such as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, Byron Bay, and Lismore. During the last five weeks of the program we were able to choose an independent project which could be either research, an internship, or a creative project. I choose to do an internship with a community garden and during my time at the garden I helped create a children's garden within the greater community garden. The program focuses heavily on experiential learning, so the areas and topics we were learning about we were able to touch, see, and experience.
There were so many memorable moments while abroad it is hard to choose just a few. The first I would say was during my first few days in Australia. We spent our orientation camping right next to the beach surrounded by wild animals and the sounds of nature, the ocean was just feet away and the pristine and stunning landscapes around me, left me awestruck, I remember thinking to myself I can't believe that I am lucky enough to be in such a beautiful place. Another memorable moment was when I presented my independent study project to my fellow students and professors, I was extremely nervous to present my work, but once i got up in front of everyone and started talking about my experience I realized how much the project had shaped and changed me. The independent study period really forced me to think about where I hope to get in my life and what type of work I want to get into, those five weeks were life-changing, so being given the opportunity to discuss it was amazing. The scenery and wildlife was one of the most memorable parts of being in Australia as it is so stunning, and often the most beautiful things can be deadly, there is also a very stark contrast in the type of landscapes in the country so it was really fascinating to see desserts, subtropical rainforests, and mountainous regions.
My greatest challenge was leaving Australia and all the wonderful friends I made on my program and in Australia, adjusting back to life at home has also been challenging because the way of life and the pace at which I was living in Australia is very different from the pace of life in the States.
My attitude, career goals, outlook on life have all changed as a result of study abroad. The program I was on was one that challenged me to really discover what I stand for, how I want to live my life, and what is important to me. I learned so much about how the Australians live and about their culture. I discovered what type of career path I hope to follow. Most importantly I grew and changed emotionally, I am much more independent, strong, and mature. I am also a much better traveler.
The advice I would give to a prospective study abroad student is to go for it, this is the best time in your life to travel. There is no better way to learn about yourself and your culture than to go and live in another culture. Study abroad will benefit you in countless ways and I guarantee it will be an experience you will hold on to forever.