Dorianne Ma - 2015 Program Participant

Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Darling Harbour at sunset after the rain

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

There's just something to be said for traveling somewhere new and getting to experience life in a whole new way. Granted, Australia speaks the same language and shares a common sort of history, but it's still a world over and an extremely different place. These new experiences are what I wanted and, glad to say, what I managed to achieve.

Why did you choose IES Abroad?

IES Abroad comes highly recommended at my school; their Sydney summer program wasn't exactly affiliated, but I knew that it would help me make the most out of my experience.

What was your favorite part about Sydney?

The amazing dichotomy between the city and nature. A beach was always right around the corner and trails crisscross around the city; it's amazing to be able to experience the harmony between the two.

Cliff along the Bondi to Coogee Walk in Sydney, Australia

Bondi to Coogee Walk

What characteristic of your program made it unique?

It really allows you a ton of freedom, while providing a fantastic safety net should you ever need it.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They always made sure that whatever we needed, we had, and answered questions promptly. They took us out on fun excursions and recommended tons to do.

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

Definitely stayed longer than the program was, six weeks flew by and I definitely wanted to stay longer.

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Sydney?

We would wake up, get everyone together to go to class, eat lunch outside, come home from class, and then spread out to various activities. Sometimes we would go surfing, some went shopping, others went sightseeing, and still others just wandered around aimlessly. But we always came back for dinner time where a different group of people would cook each night.

What is one of your favorite memories from your trip?

My favorite was definitely when a huge group of us tried surfing together, absolutely hilarious and tiring and so much fun.

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

We all lived in a big house that was separated into four smaller apartments with four to five people each. I loved that we were all together, but still managed to all have our own space.

Close up of the Sydney Opera House

Up close and personal with the Sydney Opera House

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

If you go in our summer, their winter, it's colder than you would think! There were few occasions for the summer clothes I brought, but think fall clothes. The houses might also not have heating, so be prepared for some cold nights, or you can go get a space heater!

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part of studying abroad was probably the fact that because the program wasn't sponsored or affiliated with my school, I didn't know anyone who was going, so I was extremely worried about how easily I was going to make friends and how to maintain those friendships after all left. It turned out to be the best experience to go in knowing no one at all though, because it turned out we were all in the same boat and it just made everyone become friends.

What surprised you most about Sydney?

What surprised me most about Sydney was probably just how relaxed and nice everyone there was. Australia has a stereotype of being like chill surfer dudes, but you still never know. They, luckily, live up to their relaxed stereotype, and are also very helpful if you have questions!

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

I feel like the biggest benefit to studying abroad is just being able to live in a different country for a while and really find out what it's like to be a local there.

Of course, touristy excursions should be taken, but the real fun happens when you can immerse yourself into the country as a local.

Surfers in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Surfing at Dusk

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

It reminds me how fortunate I am to be able to do excursions such as this and makes me grateful to be able to travel and experience different countries.

Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?

I 100 percent would recommend IES Abroad to other students. They really have your back in case something goes wrong and are totally willing to answer any questions. The staff, in my experience, are extremely friendly. In fact, our program directors are coming to Chicago during the school year and we have plans to meet up because they're just amazing people.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

If I could go abroad again, I would probably choose somewhere in Europe, because it's notoriously easy to travel across countries in Europe and I want to be able to experience as many different countries and cultures as I can.