Shannon Mycock - Perth, Australia
My first semester
This semester I chose four units, all of which were law based. To be brutally honest, I went into the semester thinking they were going to be easy, after studying law for two years prior to coming here. I was wrong. Trying to get to grips with a new legal system was tricky to say the least, but it really helped me throw myself into the experience. I made more friends at university, because, in all honesty, I needed people’s help! This is when I realised how friendly Australian people are, it seemed that everyone just wanted to make me feel at ease and wanted me to feel settled here in my new life.
I have met some truly amazing people here, and people who I know will be friends for life. It really is true that the people you meet are what makes studying abroad so worthwhile. Had I not had the opportunity to meet the people I have met then I know I would have felt homesick and would not have enjoyed my time here nearly as much.
One of the main challenges was to find a house. Of course, its a lot easier if you try and look before you arrive, but that being said it's very difficult to do when you’re literally on the other side of the world! I was fortunate enough to stay with family for a week or so before finding a permanent place to live, and although not everyone has this luxury I would definitely recommend staying somewhere temporarily before committing to a more permanent place. After looking at a few sad-looking places I found the perfect house. I was torn between finding a place near the beach or finding a place nearer to the university accommodation, and the university campus. As I was in a new place I resisted the pull of the beaches in Perth and opted for a place near to campus. I think I made the right choice; I live in a house share with myself and three others and we all get on so well. I have also made a lot of friends from the university accommodation, a lot of whom are also on an exchange year. One worry I did have was that I was going to miss out on the social aspect of university accommodation. At first this did seem to be happening a little, but it really forced me out of my comfort zone; I had to really put myself out there and try to meet new people. Honestly, I think I am a better person for doing so.
I have been really lucky with housing as I have signed a lease for my whole time here, and was excited to do so. However, if you’re worried about housing then the key really is preparation. It’s far too easy to be in a state of disbelief when you first find out that you’re going on an exchange, but it all comes around so fast!
Although there has been a few occasions where I have missed home, and those little home comforts, but I think that the best way to combat this is to throw yourself into every event there is. There has been times early in in the semester, where I just wanted to stay in but forcing yourself to socialise is the best thing you can do. It really helped me to meet new people, and when you’re having an off day surrounding yourself with people really does take the sting away from being so far from home.
One last thing I will say is if you decide to go on an exchange year, enjoy it. I know that throughout university we’re told how fast everything comes and goes, but really it is true. These past few months have flown by ridiculously quick, I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun!
Study Abroad 101…
I think it may be best to add as a short disclaimer here that I am in no way an expert on the study abroad process, nor am I an expert on travelling to Australia. I just thought that a few tips on how I coped with the challenges of study abroad could be useful.
This was a big worry for me and one I think effects most people. Moving away from your home country is bound to create challenges, especially if you’re moving to the other side of the world! Surprisingly, homesickness didn’t effect me as much as I had initially anticipated. I am a huge believer of planning ahead and this is one of the times that this came in handy. This may go without saying but making sure you have your nearest and dearest’s contact information is key, this will not only make sure that you’re organised for any contact you wish to make but can also put your mind at ease, knowing that you still have communications with the people you’re afraid of missing most.
Another tip to combat homesickness is to keep yourself busy, and I cannot stress this enough! Even if jetlag has the better of you and all you want to do is sleep and feel sorry for yourself - don’t! Any social event that is possible for you to attend should be attended. Believe me, I know that sometimes the thought of socialising at all, let alone socialising with people who you may not know, doesn’t bear thinking about, but you will feel better in the long run!
A final little reminder on coping with homesickness is accepting that at one point or another, it will probably happen; after all, it is normal to miss people.
Even though you’re jetting off on what seems like a holiday, there is still studying to be done! Of course, socialising is a huge part of study abroad, and having fun should come hand in hand with that, however it is still important not to neglect your studies.
When on my study abroad I have tried to think positively about my studying (not always easy, but I try). Studying anywhere else is different to studying in your home country, this is an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. The chance to see how another country teaches is a really exciting prospect and one you may never get to experience again. So make the most of it!
I have always loved to travel and believe that if you have the opportunity to go to another part of the world, it is something that you should do. As I was in Australia, I found myself in a part of the world that was completely new to me, my surrounding areas were completely different and I knew from the get go that I wanted to use this to my advantage. Being so far from home meant it was easier to get to (what I consider to be the more exotic parts of the world). Within three months of being in Australia I had made my way to Bali for a ten-day adventure (working around my studies, of course!) This was a part of the world I had not had an opportunity to see before (international flight costs are a bomb) and so I was so grateful that I was able to do this.
That being said, the country you’re studying in should, of course, not be neglected. As I am studying in Perth I was able to explore the beautiful state of Western Australia. Again, this is something I am incredible proud and grateful of, and definitely something I will never forget.
As I approach my second (and final) semester on my study abroad year, I do so with a heavy heart. Although I have found myself missing the home comforts (real Cadbury chocolate), I really do feel like I have adapted astonishingly well in Australia. I am immensely excited for my next semester and although I am aware it will not all be a walk in the park (life rarely is) I am ready to face the challenges that it brings, all the while remembering that it was the study abroad exchange program that allowed me to experience such a roller-coaster ride.
As I come to the end of my year abroad, I do so with a very heavy heart. On the one hand, I am gutted to have to leave this amazing place behind; yet having said that I am excited to be able to see my family and friends after so long. By far the hardest task has been trying to balance my study life with my social life. So, I thought I would give a few tips on what helped me personally, in the hope that they may help others that choose to study abroad.
It is the easiest thing to see the studying as a chore whilst you’re abroad, after all it is such a fun experience, and the thought of staying in to finish work seems a little sad. But really, that’s not the case. Studying abroad is potentially one of the only opportunities you will get to compare teaching methods from your partner university to your home university, and this really is something to embrace. Both the subject matter and the teaching styles are going to be different from home and it took me a while to realise that this is not a draw-back, but a huge benefit. The comparison of teaching styles allows you to really see what works for you; something you can put into practice when you return home!
Change of scenery
As I said, if you’re in a new country all you want to do is explore - after all you don’t want to waste this opportunity. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t take your work alongside with you. Obviously, you probably can’t take it with you on a night out, but this doesn’t mean that when you have ANOTHER beach day, that essay can’t come too. Not only does this mean you’re not missing out; it also means that you’re in a much more relaxing environment which will show in your work. I mean, I would definitely be doing an essay on the beach as opposed to in a stuffy room.
More than anything else you need to have fun on your year abroad because it will fly by. When you have a high workload, it is helpful to remember that you picked those modules or picked the subject to study. Remember that there’s a reason for this. If you go into things with a positive mind-set then it can make all the difference. If the work is a little dull then brighten it up with some music in the background. If it’s difficult, embrace the challenge.
I hope that these little tips are helpful to anyone hoping to undertake a year abroad. These are just things that I found helpful whilst I was out in Australia and things that I really think helped me to enjoy my year as much as I did. All I can say is believe people when they say it goes by quickly because it really does! Most importantly have fun and embrace what an amazing opportunity you have.