Where did you go to school?
Loyola University Maryland
Where and when did you study abroad?
Spring 2011 at Monash University in Clayton Victoria, Australia (just outside of Melbourne)
What program did you go on?
I went through a direct affiliate program between Loyola University Maryland and Monash University in Australia.
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
While all experiences are greatly impacted by the people involved, study abroad may be the experience, where the people involved make the biggest difference. I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by international students on a daily basis, with an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds, upbringings, cultural values, perspectives and insights. This made study abroad the best because it allowed us to learn and grow 24/7, inside and outside of the classroom. With every discussion taking place, over a shared meal or new outing, each person present would have a unique take on the situation, or a different type of appreciation for the events taking place. The best part about studying abroad is the experiential education that occurs, the personal development and increase of capacity that one previously had, to consider all things of value within their scope! It is absolutely INSANE the amount of growth that can come from one public transportation adventure or ordering of a meal in another language. Studying abroad allows you the opportunity to discover yourself in a way that you could never imagine, unless you do it.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
I learned that we all have a lot more in common than we sometimes think. It’s good to be different and to embrace the things that set us apart, but we also need to remember that no matter where anyone comes from or where they intend to go, we ought to treat all as we’d like to be treated- Simple as.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
Being away from family for an extended amount of time was my greatest challenge. My first time abroad, we sometimes Skyped or emailed and shared pictures via Facebook, but the time difference made communications a challenge. I learned from this, and the second time I went abroad I kept a blog. This was the greatest solution because time differences had no effect. My family and friends could check it at their leisure, and I was able to develop it at my leisure, sharing my experiences with them in a way that provided an outlet and virtual journal logging for myself. Everybody won!
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
After studying abroad, I recognized a lot of the things that were most important to me: cross-cultural exchange, learning about the world outside of my home country and the ways in which the globe interacts, people- family, friends and strangers alike, working with other students, education and international business. Understanding your personal priorities helps you understand what you want to do and where you want to go next in the life journey. Gaining that understanding is just one of many steps to sorting out how to accomplish the goals most important to you.
This is not to say I had it all figured out when I returned from studying abroad- quite the contrary, I was a little lost. However, I did know that my experiential learning endeavors had only just begun, so I worked my bum off to figure out the best way to connect my surface needs, (financial, professional experience, degree completion,) with my internal needs, (drive to continue education outside of the classroom, working with people, learning about more cultures outside of my own, etc.) After graduation I did not enter the career path my degree was designated towards, but I absolutely used the lessons learned from studying it to do what I was most passionate about at the time. I earned an internship to work at the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C. I began working in the International Education field there, with the Australian Trade Commission. I was able to marry the two subjects that I cared about most: Education and Australian culture.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
Every experience I have had post study abroad has lead me to the next stop on my journey. I mentioned interning for the Australian Trade Commission after graduating from University and that was just the beginning. I met an incredible group of people within that office who helped me decide on returning to Australia. This time it would be as a college graduate to gain some global work experience though. I aimed to revisit the country in a slightly less romanticized fashion, than I had as a student. This was something simply needed to do for me.
I stopped to visit a friend in Macau, China on the way and used my teaching experience to offer some language and resume building workshops to the local community. After Macau, I made my way back to Australia and struggled for a bit to find work- but that is a struggle which I really valued and would not change, because I learned from it. I worked in a cafe fora couple of months before finding my break in Adelaide. There, I worked for the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. I coordinated their website redevelopment, launched a social media campaign and supported several other fascinating projects, including an initiative with Kids Teaching Kids.
Upon my return to the US, I began working as Outreach Coordinator for GoAbroad.com, one of the coolest most amazing resources that I ever learned about. It acts as a search engine for international opportunities. I still do some outreach work for GoAbroad but I’ve grown into a Directing role for a different resource within the organization, called FundMyTravel. I would often hear students and recent graduates discuss their aspirations to go abroad, but then quickly dismiss the idea, due to the financial challenges. I’m very proud to be a part of the FundMyTravel team, because we get to support those students and travelers who may not normally have the opportunity to see the world.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
No matter what hesitations or concerns you may have about it, studying abroad is a rare opportunity that should not be missed. It is absolutely invaluable in terms of personal growth and an exceptionally important experience, which employers consider now more than they ever have. Please put serious thought into your study abroad options. If you are willing to work hard for it, there are ways to make it happen, despite any obstacles that may appear to be in your path. Go Abroad, change your life in a great way!