Summer Meer - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I wanted to travel the world while I was still in college and learn about a new cultures and ways of life.

Why did you choose CISabroad?

I met the criteria for what they were looking for, but, more importantly, they met my criteria! They had the courses I needed to stay on track with my major. In addition, it felt safe going to study in a major city that you hear about in everyday life.

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef - happy spring break!

What did you like most about living in Sydney?

I had the best of both worlds, being so close to the beach as well as only a half hour from the city. I could see the Opera House and visit Bondi Beach all in one day! It was a short flight to Queensland but you could get to the famous Blue Mountains in only a few hours.

What made your semester with CISabroad unique?

My program was unique because I was able to take my courses in English and still see a completely different part of the world than the one I'm familiar with!

What surprised you most about Sydney?

My biggest surprise with Sydney was how big it was! You could be three hours away, in Katoomba, and it would still be considered Sydney. Sydney has so much to offer. There's botanical gardens, city life, beaches, nightclubs, jet boating, and more. You'll never be bored.

How did CISabroad staff support you during your stay in Australia?

Jackie and Charlotte were wonderful! They were always only a phone call away. They helped get us acclimated to the culture and answered any and all questions I had throughout my time “down under”!

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Open house day at the world famous Sydney Opera House! 

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

I wish I had done more research on my program before I accepted to go to Sydney. Don't get me wrong; it was a wonderful experience and I'd love to do it all over. However, had I known better and explored outside of my comfort zone, I probably would had gone further up the coast to a more tropical part of Australia.

How was an average day studying in Sydney?

Everyday was different, which made it amazing. Of course, days I had class were important and the entire point of being in Sydney, but we were always traveling. Luckily, my roommate’s father was born in Australia and she still had family there, so, on occasion, we had a nice, home-cooked meal and place to sleep with familiar faces. Some days, we woke up at the crack of dawn to hit the beach. Other days, we were so exhausted from travelling that we slept late and spent the day catching up in the library. No day is typical when you're abroad! Everyday is a learning curve.

What did you enjoy most outside of the classroom?

Traveling! And heading to the beach (which we did often). We loved waking up early to catch the rail into Bondi Beach then hit up Boost Juice and catch some rays.

What were your living arrangements like in Sydney? What did you like most about it?

I lived in a five-person apartment on Macquarie University's campus. Each of us had our own room and bathroom. It was nice because I lived with two other girls from the States, as well as two locals! We had the best of both worlds; people who could relate to us as well as people who could teach us the culture and show us all the coolest places locals frequented!

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Sydney?

The best packing advice I can give you is: pack less!

Blue Mountains in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

The beautiful Blue Mountains in Katoomba, NSW

Trust me. I did my research prior to my trip and said to myself, "What do you mean pack less! I'm moving to Sydney for five months!" Seriously, I am the queen of overpacking. I went to Las Vegas for five days and stuffed an entire suitcase. You will thank me when you aren’t lugging 100 pounds of luggage through the airport, trying to make your connecting flight! Australia's fashion is awesome and unique, so you'll want to shop as it is, and take into consideration wanting to bring home souvenirs. Trust me, the people at United Airlines were not happy with me when each of my bags were five pounds over on my return flight to the states.

Bring a little for each season. In your travels, you'll experience a little bit of everything. Cold, rain, scorching hot days, and even some freezing temperatures! Have clothes that you can hike in, but don't forget stuff you can experience Australian nightlife in. Trust me, if you haven't worn a piece of clothing in the past two months, you probably won't wear it while you're abroad.

Aside from the obvious “You Probably Don't Need To Bring It” packing technique, I learned the most effective packing method is to roll all of my clothing. If you don't know what I mean, there are hundreds of YouTube tutorials that will help you out. Fill your shoes with socks and smaller items, and keep all your valuables in your carry-on (as well as at least a few articles of clothing). My roommate’s luggage was lost for a few days on her way to Sydney, and though she was compensated, the reality is that money can't replace the fear of not knowing where your laptop or medication is.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Australia?

I wish I had known more about the public transportation. My first few days trying to get around were really rough. I didn't realize that it took so long to get around. We made the best of it. However, I fell in love with Queensland (especially Cairns!), when I was there on spring break. If I would study abroad again, I would definitely chose somewhere further up the coast, in the more tropical regions.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

The biggest benefit from studying abroad is that I definitely perceive the world differently now. I've lived in another culture and experienced a different lifestyle for long enough that I could adapt to it. I took advantage of all Australia had to offer in my time there. I spent hours traveling by bus and train, just to watch a sunset. It taught me the importance of everything I left behind at home as well as everything I learned abroad. The rest of the world sees the U.S. for what they believe we are, but Americans don't always know enough about the rest of the world. I'm happy to say that I emerged myself in Australia's way of life.

Skydiving over Byron Bay, Australia

Skydiving over Byron Bay!

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

I see the world differently. I perceive things in a different light and find myself more independent and more mature. I grew as a person abroad, and learned a lot about problem solving and adjusting to an entirely different way of living. Coming home has definitely had its reverse culture shock (just as arriving there had its surprises), but, overall, I came out on the other side more knowledgeable. I made the full circle of prepping to leave and being terrified to never wanting to leave the beautiful “land down under” and making a safe, happy adjustment getting home and re-entering the American school system.