Briana Pascarelli - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I decided to apply for an international program because I felt like I needed to learn more about myself and my goals in life. When you are living on your own, halfway across the world without anyone you know, you become very independent and discover what you are capable of.
I have always known that I wanted to work with animals, and over the past few years I have realized that I want to see the world and experience new cultures. For most of my life, I have been a homebody and someone who is scared to step too far out of their comfort zone, so I have begun to pursue my passions (studying wildlife and conservation biology). Also, during my experience, I met so many amazing people who became lifelong friends and made unforgettable memories that I will carry with me wherever I go.
The opportunity to study abroad was perfect because I have wanted to visit Australia ever since I was a little girl, and going here forced me to not just step out of my comfort zone, but take a giant leap. Australia couldn't have been more perfect for my major and living here has definitely made me more open-minded as I gained a global mindset.
A lot of people I spoke to about going abroad assumed I wouldn't actually do it, and for some reason it made think that I actually couldn't. One night I was thinking about it and realized that people were thinking this because I clearly didn't believe in myself, so I put all my doubts and fears aside and sent in my application that week. When I told people that I was actually going through with studying abroad, they were completely shocked, but supportive, and it helped me gain a lot of confidence. This confidence and my curiosity about the world were the big reasons I chose to go abroad.
Why did you choose The Education Abroad Network?
I chose my specific program because the staff was extremely friendly when I spoke with them and I assumed they were experts in Australia since their programs are based in that area of the world (and I was not disappointed). They were helpful before, during, and even after my program, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. TEAN offers an excellent value for the experiences and comfort you receive while abroad. Also, the program included an orientation in Sydney, which I thought would be a great way to acclimate to the culture and get to know the people in my program.
What was your favorite part about Australia?
My favorite part about the location was that it was always warm, even during their winter. I was snorkeling in the middle of their winter, and when it was November in the States, I was in shorts on the beach in Townsville. Anything you needed was a bus ride away, which is a big plus of studying in a small town. It was simple to take a bus ride to The Strand, which was a nice stretch of beaches across the street from restaurants and shops. From Townsville, you could easily get to the rainforest (Paluma or Daintree), the Great Barrier Reef, and even the Whitsunday Islands in only a few hours. Magnetic Island is a 20 minute ferry ride and it is an awesome day trip full of hiking, snorkeling, and resting on beautiful beaches.
What makes TEAN’s Australia program unique?
TEAN has a unique program because the have resident directors living in the countries with you, and even in the cities or towns you study in. There is always someone there to help you figure out your classes or the bus schedule, and it just gives you that extra feeling of comfort knowing that. Also, TEAN offers a variety of excursions on weekends and for spring break, such as the South Island of New Zealand, Thailand, Cairns and the reef, and Melbourne; the trips vary for each destination. They were the only program I encountered that offered an orientation in Sydney (no matter where you were studying in Australia), and I believe this was extremely helpful while initially adjusting to Australia.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
As I mentioned before, there were resident directors in each location, and usually these people were from the area or had been there before for an extended amount of time. I could email the staff (in Australia or the States) with any questions before departure and while I was in Australia, and they would help me with anything I needed. They usually responded in less than 24 hours and made sure I was completely prepared for my trip. They even set up coffee meet-ups with our resident directors so we could talk about how our semester was going or voice any concerns we had.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I went on the pre-semester excursion to Cairns , but there is really nothing else I would have done differently.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
I would usually wake up somewhat early because I didn't want to waste any of my days in Australia. On the days I wasn't traveling, I would go to class in the morning, grab a coffee or go to Woolworth's for some groceries, maybe go for a walk by Ross River or on some hiking trails, and head to my friends' dorms to hang out for a bit. After class, depending on the day, we would take the bus to The Strand or get ready and go into town for the night.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
I became quite the adrenaline junkie during my adventures abroad, so I would have to say my favorite activity outside of the normal day-to-day schedule of my program was skydiving over Airlie Beach. It was the most amazing experience of my life and something I never even considered doing before arriving in Australia. I am so happy I did it with some of the closest friends I made while I was abroad.
Holding the Australian flag at Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived in a dorm on campus. I liked living on campus because I was able to meet a lot of local students as well as other international students, and I really became integrated in the culture. Living on campus enabled me to eat in the dining hall with local students, attend uni events like sports games and barbecues, and easily meet up with people on campus.
Now that you're home, how has your time in Australia impacted your life?
My program has definitely made me more independent, open-minded, and eager to see the world. I am constantly planning future trips because I love being challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone, and I need to break up my routine once in awhile. I'm even looking for summer internships abroad and in other States, which I never would have considered before studying abroad. I have become much more spontaneous and I am willing to do more, especially if it will help with my career or help me grow as an individual.