Savannah Cassidy - 2014 Program Participant
Why did you choose to study abroad in Australia?
I chose Australia because it was not a place I heard that many go abroad to. Most of my friends, from both home and college, chose to study abroad in Europe, and I liked the idea of being different and exploring an area that not a lot of people know about. I also love being outdoors, and I knew I would have plenty of opportunities to be outside in Australia's beautiful sunshine and do outdoor activities.
Lastly, I chose Australia because of the distance. It's hard for Americans to get to Australia for a vacation, let alone stay long enough to pick up the lingo, learn about its history, explore multiple cities, and get immersed in the culture.
Millaa Millaa Falls - Savannah spent an entire day in various waterfalls in Cairns, Australia, during her pre-trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Safe to say one of the best days she has ever had! - Photo Courtesy of Savannah Cassidy
What made The Education Abroad Network stand out over other study abroad organizations?
While exploring various programs to go abroad through, The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) stood out to be because of its organization. As silly as it may sound, even navigating the website was simple and well organized, which I liked. There are so many decisions to make when going abroad that it can become very overwhelming. I felt TEAN was very on top of everything. I also liked the opportunities they had for pre-semester and mid-semester trips; I ended up participating in both the pre-semester trip to Cairns and the Thailand mid-semester trip!
Savannah enjoying the waves at Clovelly Beach in Sydney with her roommate - Photo Courtesy of Savannah Cassidy
What were your housing arrangements like in Australia? What was the best part?
I lived in Bondi Junction in the Meriton Apartments through The Education Abroad Network. Our view was breathtaking. I woke up to most beautiful view of the city every morning and gazed at colorful sunsets every evening. I truly could not have asked for better housing. We had an array of incredible amenities and the staff was always ready to help. I spent many afternoons playing tennis with my roommate or reading on our porch in the sun.
The best part was that we were directly on top of both the bus and train station, which made getting places extremely easy, especially for someone that has never really had to use public transportation before.
What was the most memorable experience you had during your time abroad?
The most memorable experience I had abroad was traveling to Thailand for my mid-semester break. I have never been so culturally enriched or so in love with a country. It was such a unique place from any I had ever visited. The trip was perfectly planned, and we were able to explore so many different areas: Chiang Mai, Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, and Phuket. I was able to lounge on the most beautiful beaches (including where one of my favorite movies, "The Beach", was filmed!), explore the markets of Chiang Mai, ride an elephant, hike through the forests, spend a night in a remote village, visit a temple, and much more.
It was truly and inspiration for me to want to continue traveling and learn about other cultures and ways of life.
Watching the sunset in Maya Bay, Thailand - Photo Courtesy of Savannah Cassidy
What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?
Being alone and out of my comfort zone was the biggest challenge, but that's what I wanted and what made me grow so much as a person during my time abroad in Australia. I signed up for the program and city knowing no one, and quickly found out that that was not the case for many others. Many of the people in my program came from the same schools or with friends. At first, I was shy, nervous, and overwhelmed. But after time I found people with similar interests and ended up making great friends. I'm proud that I went alone and would recommend doing the same thing to others.
What makes Australia such a great place to study abroad?
So many reasons! It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and there is so much to explore. Every city and town I went to had something unique to offer and new to explore. It's a different kind of cultural immersion. Over time, you begin to pick up and learn about the lingo, enjoy the laid back lifestyle, and overall way of life of Australians. It's a place that you need time to get integrated with, and because of the distance that is not something you are able to do easily. You also are able to travel to places that are typically harder to get to places once there: New Zealand, Thailand, Fiji, Tasmania, etc.
If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?
The first thing I would change is that I would have wanted to be there earlier! Maybe two pre-excursions? The timing of the Australian school system is different, so I didn't get there until February (and even that was early because I did the pre-trip to the Great Barrier Reef). I loved my experience in Australia so much; my only wish is that I could have spent more than five months there.
The second thing I would change is that I wish the program had a greater variety of schools that participate. It was almost entirely made up of University of Michigan, Penn State, University of Maryland, and Syracuse students. I would definitely have liked to see a greater variety of students involved.
Finding new spots along the coastal walk in Sydney, Australia, the most beautiful walk; Savannah did it as often as she could! - Photo Courtesy of Savannah Cassidy
What advice would you give to other students from the College of Charleston as to why they should study abroad?
I understand it is hard to leave Charleston. I agree with my peers in saying that the love and pride I have to live in Charleston is endless. But, that did not hinder me from going abroad as it does many other students. Many don't want to step out of a place they have fallen in love with, but after going abroad I constantly preach to others that they should study abroad. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, "the greatest risk is not taking one". You don't know what you are missing out on unless you try new things.
My advice to other students is that you should study abroad to try new things because you very well could fall in love with another city just as you did with Charleston. While studying abroad you learn about yourself and your interests; you make new friends, try new things, explore other cultures, and that is something that I want everyone to experience.
What are the top reasons you'd go back to Australia if you had the chance?
I'm not even sure where to begin! Five months was not enough. I cannot wait to get back to Australia. On the top of my list would be to explore the areas I wasn't able to during my time abroad: the Whitsundays, Perth, the Outback, etc. Shortly after that, I would love to be back in Sydney for the people and the culture. I loved everything about the city of Sydney and I miss it every day. There's still more I need to explore in that city and I would love to re-visit my favorite places.
How has studying abroad impacted your life?
I really felt like I learned a lot about myself studying abroad and became more comfortable in my own skin. I also realized how much I enjoy traveling and have already incorporated that in my life as I will be traveling to Europe this summer for over a month!