Trisha Winkle

Trisha on the bridge overlooking the Sydney harbor

Trisha studied abroad in Sydney, Australia and is currently studying abroad at Bond University in Robina, Gold Coast, Australia.

Where did you go to school?

Montclair State University (undergraduate)
Bond University (graduate school)

When and where did you study abroad?

2003- through the Global Education Center at Montclair State University; Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia for a semester.

2012 – I am currently studying abroad again at Bond University in Robina, Gold Coast, Australia.

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

How do you choose the best part of a study abroad experience? Everything I did and learned was a great experience for me when I studied at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I gained a sense of independence that I didn’t know I had, a perspective on the world and the world’s perspective on Americans, visited beautiful places, and realized that the career path that I thought I wanted to pursue was no longer for me. Plus, I didn’t mind having a nice sun-kissed glow from visiting the beautiful beaches of Australia and Bali (fall break trip).

What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?

Growing up in a less than diverse community as a child and experiencing some culture shock upon arrival as an undergrad at Montclair, I had no idea about the many different cultures in the world. When the opportunity to study abroad came about, I jumped at the chance.

During my trip, I was able to discover how the world viewed Americans (both good and bad) as I was in Sydney at the time the war in Iraq and Afghanistan officially started. It was interesting and at times intimidating to see riots, marches and rallies against Americans taking place. It really gave me a perspective that I never had before; that not everyone likes Americans. However, I did learn that there were many who loved Americans as well! I learned that being proud to be American was something I felt strongly about, but there was a time and place for it. It had been advised at one point that Americans studying in Australia at that time keep a low profile and away from the center of attention for fear of our safety. Huge eye opener that was! It never occurred to me before my trip that my safety would ever be in jeopardy.

While this sounds like a scary situation, I do not want to deter anyone from studying abroad. It was a great learning experience for me. I learned to never take for granted what I have as an American: freedom.

That was an important experience because I felt (and still do feel at times) that many Americans live in a bubble and most importantly I gained a strong sense of independence. By the time the semester came to an end, I was so sad to leave my new friends and a country that I felt at home in.

What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?

My biggest challenge was some culture shock with the food and dealing with a little bit of homesickness.

I found the process of dealing with the challenges of finding our way around Sydney frustrating at the beginning (having never using a bus or train regularly back home).  It could take us a few hours to get to the beach or to a friend’s house because there weren’t many direct routes. I really missed the convenience of having my car.

Silly enough, with the food, I never knew that there was anything other than that mayo I used at home. I found out quickly that Australians use egg whites in their mayo and Americans use whole yolk mayo (Hellman’s). My American friends and I went on a hunt for Hellman’s mayo and found it after a long search (let me remind you this was 10 years ago and they did not carry as many American brands).  Nowadays they sell Hellman’s mayo, for an absurd price, in the regular supermarket. My sandwiches tasted so much better after that!

So while those seem like minor things, for someone who had never been away from home that long before it was a huge adjustment. I was in a honeymoon stage at first so these things didn’t bother me right away. After some time of dealing with situations I was unfamiliar with, I spent about 2 weeks wanting to go home. Once I realized that was not an option because I spent so much money and energy making this trip happen, I decided that I much rather stay in Australia then go home. It was with the support of my two American friends that I studied abroad with and an Australian guy I met that I decided to stay.

How did studying abroad change your life?  How do you think it helped prepare you for your career?

What my trip abroad most taught me was that I really enjoyed traveling and learning about new cultures. I also realized that pursuing a career as an elementary teacher really wasn’t for me anymore. Once I returned home I changed my major to Recreation, Leisure Studies and Tourism. A career in international education teaching international students how to prepare for their trip to the U.S. or Americans for their trips abroad was the kind of teaching I was more interested in for my future. Without that trip my life would definitely taken a different career path.

What have you been doing post study abroad? What are your future plans?

After graduating with my Bachelor’s in Recreation, Leisure Studies and Tourism, I spent some time working for various cultural exchange companies and universities. However, I felt the need to obtain a master’s degree to further advance my career. So, I decided to study abroad again and pursue a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and International Relations from Bond University in Robina, Gold Coast, Australia.

The best part of studying abroad now is that I can fully use this experience to help figure out my future paths in life. Bond offers an 1 year intensive program to complete a master’s degree. Having already worked in many cultural exchange and international education related positions, pursuing the degree here will allow me a year to think about the positions I would like to pursue and finish a degree in less time than it would at most U.S. universities.

While the classes are intense, I am also using this time to once again travel around Australia and hopefully make it to New Zealand finally! I will also use this time to gain more work experience to make myself more a more valuable resource to employers and students that I may advise in the future.

In the future, I would like to eventually be a Director of an international office at a college or university. I am using my time studying abroad to take classes that will prepare me to take that next step.

What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?

Do it! Many people come up with reasons why they shouldn’t or couldn’t study abroad. I think that it’s fear getting the best of us. Face any fears you have head on. I think you’ll be happy if you do and maybe surprised at the things you learn about yourself along the way.

A motto I’ve adopted from a cable television show is “Define your own road in life”. Don’t let fears or others define it for you.

Kaelynn Sporka

Kaelynn studied abroad around the world with Semester at Sea and did an internship in Sydney, Australia. She now works as a Site Specialist Supervisor at CEA Global Education.

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