"While moving to Berkeley for school taught me a lot, moving to a different country for 5 months was a totally different experience. I learned so many life skills and things about myself I would have never known had I not gone abroad."
I've always wanted to study abroad. I wanted the opportunity to live outside of the United States for a portion of my life, and study abroad was the best chance to do so! I chose to study in Australia within UCEAP in specific because I had always wanted to visit Australia, and be able to travel throughout the surrounding areas. The country has endless possibilities for being who enjoy nature and love being outside. The program itself was also appealing because it is flexible for people of all different majors and interests. When I applied, the program gave the option of studying at several different schools through Australia, allowing for me to rank my top schools. It was nice to be able to have a say in which university I wanted to study at, though I would have been happy at any one! Also, the 15 hour plane ride really made it worth it knowing I would be living there for 5 months!
Many people say Australia has a similar culture to the United States, and I'd definitely agree in some aspects. While I didn't experience an intense culture shock, I did notice a lot of small differences between Australians and Americans. For one, Australians have a totally different perspective on their lifestyle. Australians love to have fun, enjoy life and not take things too seriously. I noticed that difference in my Australian peers and friends. I think thats something a lot of Americans, especially Berkeley students, don't have because they love to stress themselves out with work and school! While acceptable in some cases, its so important to take moments for yourself and have fun.
I think the biggest challenge I faced while studying abroad was learning to manage my time and money effectively. Living in a new city is so overwhelming because you constantly want to explore a place everyday. But, for most people studying or working abroad, thats not possible. Eventually I learned how to balance school, traveling and meeting new people well!
Another thing I struggled with was managing my money. Similar to California, Australia is quite expensive, especially in terms of housing and food. It was especially difficult because I found myself eating and drinking out a lot, and spending money on things like public transit to get around. I learned how to shop for groceries better and limit myself to a couple meals out a week.
On a typical school day, I would wake up around 8am and get ready for the day. I lived across from my uni, so I would leave around 8:55 for my first class at 9. I would usually have a couple classes a day, meeting friends on campus to eat lunch or just hangout. I'd also always get coffee on campus at a cafe because Australian coffee is amazing. After class, I would go back home to workout, finish up schoolwork, make dinner and relax. Some nights I would grab dinner and drinks with friends in the city.
I took a full course load of four classes. All of the courses I took fulfilled major requirements. They were listed under international relations and government, and counted towards my political science degree. My courses abroad were definitely easier and less stressful than my courses I've taken at Berkeley. They involved much less reading and homework. In addition, we only had one lecture a week for all of my courses. It was also nice because a lot of my courses involved papers, rather than exams, so I spent a lot of my free time working on those throughout the week.
Its difficult for me to sum up my most memorable aspect of abroad, but I'd say the people I met and the memories I made with them. I was able to meet so many different people from other UC schools through UCEAP. It's so cool because I still stay in touch with many of them. I also made friends with Australians and other study abroad students throughout the world, and I think its great to have those global connections.
The same people I spent on campus and throughout Sydney with were many of the same people I got to travel with. I went to many different places, like Thailand, the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, Byron Bay and so many other places, and got to travel throughout these places with these people! It's great to share these experiences with people going through the same thing as you.
While moving to Berkeley for school taught me a lot, moving to a different country for 5 months was a totally different experience. I learned so many life skills and things about myself I would have never known had I not gone abroad. For example, I learned how to become self-sufficient, navigate my way through issues and not be afraid to ask for help! These are all things you will need in life, especially in future jobs and life situations! I also used a lot of my free time to self reflect on myself, my life and my future.
For people considering my program, I would really encourage you to go through with it! I might be biased because I had such an amazing time and loved Australia, but it truly was the best part of my undergraduate experience!