Tammen studied abroad on the Gold Coast of Australia and in York, England. He now works for CISabroad as a University Relations Coordinator.
Where did you go to school?
When and where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad Fall 2007 with CISabroad to Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia and in Fall 2008 on an exchange program to York St. John’s University in York, England.
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The best part of study abroad was trying to see things from a local’s perspective, and thankfully getting the opportunity to do so. A few weeks into my first experience I made friends with a couple locals who were intent on showing me the “real” Queensland. For the rest of the semester we went on mini-roadtrips to places I would have never discovered on my own or in a travel book: small natural parks, bush towns, remote beaches, local farms owned by family friends. I didn’t make it to some of the big attractions like Uluru or the Great Ocean Road, but I couldn’t have cared lass.
I was also in Australia during the 2007 election when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister. Seeing Australia’s election process and hearing from locals about the issues that mattered in their country was a unique experience that couldn’t have been replicated without actually being there. It was eye opening to step outside the U.S. media bubble and see how current events in the world are reported in other countries, and hearing the perception of the U.S.
The following year when I studied in England, it was time for the U.S. to host our election. I was living in a flat with four Brits, so I was the candid American who was expected to weigh in on a lot of issues. I remember staying up to the early morning watching the non-stop election coverage on BBC and promising them that when the UK elections rolled around that following April, I’d wake up early to follow the British coverage. I wouldn’t say that politics was the BEST part about study abroad, but I was (and still am) completely fascinated by learning what was most important to local people on a day to day scale.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Studying abroad taught me the rest of the world is more than just places on map to conquer and say you’ve visited. You can live in one country for an entire semester and still not know much about it – and that’s not a bad thing! Just like parts of our own country have cultures and subcultures, so does everywhere else. No matter how much you think you know about one place, there’s no alternative for actually being there.
On a tangible level, study abroad taught me how to surf, how to play cricket, why beans make a perfect breakfast dish, and even how to appreciate Kylie Minogue. Overall, I learn that I could live independently. I was able to figure out how to shop and budget in a different currency, I was able to cook with brands and even foods unfamiliar to me, and I was able to navigate the British railway system when entire branches were shutdown for the weekend (happened more ofter than you’d think). Many of the things I took for granted back home didn’t come so easy abroad, and I’m glad to say learned that I actually enjoy being outside my comfort zone.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
Midway through my time in England, my room was broken into. I was on the ground floor, so whoever broke in busted the latch and came through my back window. They must have heard someone in the kitchen, or just didn’t have a lot of time because all they were able to grab was my laptop.
The night and following morning I had the interesting experience of filing a UK police report, learning that just because the sign in my alley said “CCTV in operation” didn’t mean it was actually in operation, and meeting with an actual crime scene investigator who to came to check for fingerprints on the broken window latch. He promptly told me that our American CSI shows had made his job seem more interesting and successful than it actually was and that I shouldn’t be expecting them catch the burglar. Gotta love British cynicism….
While things could have been much worse, the shock being robbed was a pretty big challenge for me at the time. Academically, my papers and research for my courses were saved on the computer, but on an emotional level the computer had served as my lifeline to back home when I used it to Skype with my family and friends. Looking back, I’m grateful for the experience. I learned life goes on and sometimes there isn’t anything you can do about unfortunate events. I used the computer lab on campus for the rest of semester and communicated with those back home via email. Believe it or not, I survived.
One very satisfying piece of this ordeal was that whoever took the computer forgot the charger.
How did studying abroad change your life?
Studying abroad certainly changed my life. In college I studied Sport Management with the intention of working in Major League Baseball or some other professional league upon graduation, that is until I studied abroad. I took a few sport classes in Australia and was immediately struck by the culture of sport and leisure in Australia and how it differed from the U.S. In Australia, most people follow amateur sports, and almost every outdoor activity from surf lifesaving to orienteering is considered a sport. Seeing different organizations and commissions with the focus of harnessing sport and leisure as a way to eliminate social divides between Indigenous Australians and those with European ancestry, promote healthy lifestyles, and provide outlets for disability recreation really altered what I wanted to do with my degree. It’s not that we didn’t have similar commissions in the U.S., but in Australia these initiatives firmly took precedent over the professional leagues.
Upon returning to the U.S. I worked for a couple summers as an intern for a non-profit organization in the U.S. that used soccer and a social tool and a form of counseling to help homeless men and women in New York City. Without my study abroad experience, I would have likely never sought out that type of position or even knew that these types of extraordinary endeavors exist.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
My life has come full circle since studying abroad. For the past three years, I’ve been working as the University Relations Coordinator for CISabroad. My job is to travel around to different campuses and help students decide where they should study abroad, or if they’re on the fence about study abroad explain how they can’t afford to NOT go. It’s been a blast to be on the other side of the conversation because I had so many of the questions and hesitations just a few years ago.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?