Ashley Chanatry - 2014 Program Participant
The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne. Photo credit to Ashley Chanatry
Why did you decide you wanted to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad for two reasons. First, I always hear adults say "I wish I studied abroad in college." As nervous as I was to leave my home for four months, I did not want the regret of wishing I had gone away. Also, when else can you go to another country of your choice for four months without worrying about a career back home? I looked at this as an opportunity that I could not pass up. I often hear people who don't study abroad say, "I'll go when I'm older." Here's the thing, with a professional career and a family, how simple will it really be to go to another country for four months?
What were your living arrangements like in Australia?
My living arrangement at The University of New South Wales (UNSW) was a village apartment. I chose the villages solely because I knew I would have roommates. Many of the other living arrangements on campus were single rooms and I did not like the sound of that across the world. The village apartments were excellent. Although I did have my own room, I lived with five other girls. We had a kitchen and a common room with a balcony overlooking the racecourse and the city. I especially liked the village apartments because a majority of students who lived in them were international students like myself. My roommates were from all over the world. Living in the village apartments really helped me meet people. Many events were organized through the villages which helped me meet people right away.
The Sydney Harbour. Photo credit to Ashley Chanatry
What was the most memorable part of studying abroad in Australia?
I could never pinpoint the most memorable experience I had while studying abroad, but I can narrow it down. First, our mid semester break to Cairns organized through IES Abroad was unreal. We snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, watched the sunrise on the beach, jungle surfed through the Daintree Rainforest, and went to a dinner hosted by Aboriginal people.
Along with Cairns, the ability to travel wherever was one of the most memorable experiences. I was there for four months and traveled from Sydney to Cairns, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, New Zealand, and even Thailand. I would say that the ability to travel on weekends was high on my list for most memorable moments. Also, being a student at UNSW meant living exactly 1.6 miles from beautiful Coogee Beach. Where I'm from, there are no beaches so this was very memorable for me.
Would you recommend your IES Abroad program to other aspiring study abroad students?
I would 100 percent recommend IES Abroad to other students. I had friends tell me multiple times how jealous they were of the program I went through. IES organized multiple day trips and activities to immerse you with Sydney's culture and to show you parts of Sydney you wouldn't otherwise visit. For example, we visited the Blue Mountains and Featherdale Wildlife Park, took a surf lesson, went on a dinner cruise throughout the Sydney Harbour, and explored the Royal National Park.
If you could study abroad again, where would you most want to go?
As cliche as it sounds, if I was given another chance to study abroad, I would probably go back to Australia. Australia is a beautiful place filled with amazing people, breathtaking beaches, delicious gelato, beautiful cities, and such adorable wildlife.
Phuket, Thailand. Photo credit to Ashley Chanatry
Did you experience any reverse culture shock when you returned home?
Upon returning to the U.S., I did experience reverse culture shock. I honestly did not think I would because of how much I love being home, but I was wrong. Being home for a few weeks was so relaxing and much needed. However, eventually the harsh reality set in that study abroad, which I had so eagerly awaited, was over. When people ask how Australia was, my words do not do it justice. I wish so badly that all my friends from home could experience what I had. Reverse culture shock is real, especially when you have friends going to Australia after you. As sad as I get sometimes, I think about how lucky I am to have been given such an opportunity and to have taken it.