Michaela Kaplan - 2015 Program Participant

Tandem skydiving in Byron Bay, Australia

This here is where I fell in love with adrenaline! Best day of my life skydiving in Byron Bay!

Why did you decide to study abroad in Australia?

Ever since I was in elementary school I had always dreamed of going abroad to Australia. It was an intuitive feeling I've always had inside telling me to go; a special draw I've always had to that country.

There is so much one can learn by going to another country and stepping into a different environment. I've been in the States my whole life. I wanted something DIFFERENT, new, and exciting. I wanted to find myself. I'm at an age where I need to start figuring my life out, and going away to a beautiful place, experiencing something new, and stepping back really allowed me to find who I am. I needed a new adventure, so going abroad was the perfect idea for me.

Why did you choose The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) over other program providers?

When I went to my study abroad fair I found that I connected best with the TEAN (The Education Abroad Network) table, and the experience I was looking for seemed to best fit my interest through this program. I had a good feeling about them and couldn't have been happier that I chose TEAN.

Devils Staircase in New Zealand

Devils Staircase, New Zealand - Breathtaking views, amazing place!

What was your favorite part about Australia? 

Probably the convenience of everything. I was a block away from the beach, across the street from trams/buses that could take me anywhere I wanted, across the street from a mall with plenty of resources and anything I'd need, and on top of that I was living in a luxurious hotel for a semester. What could be better?!?!?

My most favorite little detail, within all the above that I just listed, would definitely be how close I was to the beach. There was no other location in any other program abroad that offered the same proximity to the beach as I, and my fellow American students, got. I literally had an ocean view from my bedroom, and not many things could replace waking up to that every morning; it was a dream!

What makes TEAN’s Australia program unique?

I personally think it was the amazing activities/programs that TEAN held to keep us going for the semester, whether it was a "coffee update" or an event they held for us that we didn't have to pay for (Professional Footy Game). They offered all these extra little excursions to make our experience that much better, and they were awesome!!

Additionally, the pre-semester excursion was absolutely phenomenal. There wasn't any other program that offered something like that, where before you started your semester and you could travel for almost two weeks with people in your program. That was one of my favorite weeks of my entire time abroad and it shaped my experience from the start. It allowed everyone to get to know all their new friends, relax, adventure, and get excited for the months ahead before all the stress from classes! 

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were nothing short of exceptional. I LOVED the staff TEAN had. They were extremely helpful and so kind. Any questions or concerns I ever had, they were always there to help out. A lot of the staff also were past international students, so they had plenty of great advice and were so much fun to hang out with on the exciting journey we had going on.

Selfie with a Joey in Australia

Made a friend on day two of orientation in Sydney, Australia - can't tell if he's checking himself out or wants me to leave him alone? Call me paparazzi!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

There are only two things I wish I had done differently. First and foremost, I wish I had made a little more of an effort to make more local friends. It was very difficult, considering our living situation being so far from campus, but I definitely could have gotten more involved on campus and made closer friendships with some Aussies. It would have been nice to have some solid connections that I could always go back to if I ever went back and visited. Secondly, I wish I had done a year abroad; a semester definitely wasn't enough time for a person like me! I could have used a longer trip adventuring, traveling, and meeting new people. I'm sure if I had a year, I would have made more local friends as well!

Describe a day in the life of your program.

A regular day on the Gold Coast would look something like this for me: wake up, go to class if I had it that day, go to the beach, go to the pool, hop on a tram over to surfer's paradise, get food or go shopping, run over to the beach to watch the sunset, dinner, then go out in town for the night with my mates! But, everyday was different depending on the work load, or my energy levels. However, that was definitely the most typical day, or repeated day I experienced most of all.

What were some of your favorite things to do on your free time?

Any excursions or side trips were so much fun! For example, the TEAN excursion trip to Melbourne was awesome; it was quick, yet so fun to see a different part of Australia. Also, any hikes (Mt. Warning) or day trips to beaches farther away, such as Rainbow Bay, Coolangatta. There were all super fun and memorable activities that were a part of my experience abroad.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I was placed in a luxurious hotel (Mantra Sierra Grand) a block from the beach in Broadbeach, QLD, which was absolutely incredible. I have never even stayed in a hotel as nice as this place, so to live in it for a semester was an absolute treat. It was also cheaper than if I had lived on campus at Griffith University, so it was a winner! There was a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, etc.

My favorite part, again, was the proximity to everything. It was only a block from the beach, I had a beach view from my bedroom/room, was right across the street from transportation, right in front of the mall, etc. All of the American students were also mostly living in the same building, as well as some Bond University students, so to have everyone in the same building made it very fun to socialize with all the other students.
Devils Marbles in Australia

They call these the "Devil's Marbles," which I visited on one of the coolest trips I took to the Outback by myself. This is hands down one of the best photos I got all semester!

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?

My life has drastically changed since my experience abroad. From February 2015 to the end of June 2015, I had the best semester of my existence. There is no point in my life when I’ve been happier than during my time abroad. I learned so much about myself and what I want in my life by being abroad. I learned the knack I have for travel, I became an excellent packer, I have a bigger perception of the world, I gained a huge sense of independence in myself and learned how much I can really do on my own, I learned what I like and dislike, I learned I'm an adrenaline junkie, and I figured out what kind of people I want to surround myself with; the list could go on for hours.

My life was completely shifted after I took this experience. It took time after I came home to realize all the impacts this trip has had on me, but it being about five and a half months since being back, I've noticed how much I've psychologically changed. I'm a different person than I was before I began my trip to Australia. I'm more mature, humble, well-spoken, and smart. Travel, for me, makes me a better person, and I think it makes anyone a better person. My time abroad has been the best thing that's ever happened to me.