John studied in Wollongong on the CIEE: Wollongong, University of Wollongong, Arts and Sciences program in Spring 2016.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
If I could study abroad again, I would dedicate more time towards studying for courses. The Australian education system is exceptional, however, it can be hard to adjust too, thus you have to take assignments seriously. When you have school assignments, you should get your work done on the weekdays, Monday through Thursday. Leave Friday through Sunday available as you’ll want to explore Wollongong, Sydney, and so many other places that Australia has to offer. My main point is that school is a top priority.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
Prior to study abroad I had traveled to 11 different countries so, as you can tell, travel is a passion of mine. I had been throughout Europe and North America, so I wanted to explore a new continent. Australia was a perfect fit because it did not have a language barrier, it was a new place to explore, and it was close to other countries such as New Zealand. Going abroad allowed me too experience living in a different country, which was a good way to gain knowledge about life prior to entering the “real world”.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
Australia is amazing, however, it takes a long time to travel from my native New York to the Sydney airport. If I had a severe emergency back home, it was not going to be easy to respond. Do not let fear deter you though, once you embrace a foreign culture and make it your home for the next several months, that place then becomes your second home.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
University of Wollongong had an Exercise Science degree option, thus I was able to take a lot of courses which met requirements for my major. I was pretty much set on studying in Australia, thus I did not look into that many other programs in different countries.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
I have used some of the skills I learned while abroad. Studying abroad taught me how to manage money, considering I had to support myself for four months on the money I had saved up prior to departure. Australia also showed me that I can work outside of the United States, which is something I have kept in mind as I am applying to graduate school. Lastly, study abroad showed me that there is a whole world to explore, and I should take time to travel in the future.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
In April of 2016, University of Wollongong had it’s Fall semester break. Myself, my roommate Mike, and good friend Kristen all went on an eight day trip outside of Australia to Thailand. It was more affordable to travel to Thailand from Australia compared to if we had left from the United States. My trip to Thailand, New Zealand, and the Great Barrier Reef would have been far more challenging had I not studied abroad.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
If you know you want to study abroad then plan ahead. You’re going to want to travel so make sure to save up spending money, I would recommend at least 2,000 USD. Also, make sure to take easier classes such as electives so that you can obtain the most amount of free time while studying abroad. Australia is close to a lot of other countries such in Asia and the South Pacific, so maybe you’ll spend your mid semester break outside of Australia. Lastly, Australia is a big country with such unique nature and wildlife, make sure to explore places like Cairns, Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru.
Location: Wollongong, Australia