Grace DeRidder - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

In high school, I was fortunate enough to go on a history department trip for two weeks to Italy and Greece. At the end of the trip when a wave of homesickness was starting to hit everyone, I somehow avoided it and was not ready to go back home. Instead, I got the travel bug and decided then and there that I was going to find my way back to new places. 

I started planning studies abroad my freshman year of college into my four-year plan, so that I knew I would be able to live out of my suitcase for a bit, build my portfolio (a small bonus), and graduate on time.

Lake Mungo, New South Wales, Australia

Why did you choose CISabroad?

My freshman year when I began planning my studies abroad, I went to my study abroad fair and got every independent study abroad program and school program I could get my hands on. I poured over them until I narrowed down the top five that fit my major and my budget. In the end, CISabroad had the most programs that fit my major and was the best fit for me. 

What was your favorite part about Australia?

The people, definitely the people. Everyone was extremely kind, warm, and full of spirit.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were there everyday and were there for everything whenever we needed them. 

What was the hardest part about studying abroad? 

The hardest part was probably the planning. It was making sure all of the credits transferred over to my home college and that they counted for the credit hours that I needed, and finding the program that was affordable for me without feeling like I was sacrificing experience.

On a train in the Australian Outback
Somewhere in the Outback

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

I wish I would have known more about the history of Australia and it’s cultural heritage before before studying abroad. You get so caught up in the paper work, packing, and studying in your other classes that it slips your mind to study up on your soon-to-be host country. 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

My program was a bitter-short three weeks. When we were on campus, the typical day was getting up, going to campus for class and editing, and then after class we had the rest of the day for free time. When we were on our excursion through the outback, everyday was different and packed with something new and exciting. From sun up till sundown, we were up photographing and taking in every experience until we passed out at night. 

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Hanging out with friends, whether we were walking around Downtown Mildura, playing card games in our hostel, or going out for the night. The Company was where it was at.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I liked our accommodations for our excursions the best. Every few days we would be somewhere else: a cabin under the stars, a “haunted” hotel, or camped out by a bonfire.

Flinders Ranges, Australia
Flinders Range

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program? 

Even though you are spending "summer in Australia," it is actually winter there. 

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

Pack clothes that are versatile and can go with any outfit. It makes getting dressed everyday a cakewalk, because you aren’t dressing up or necessarily dressing down. Also, pack clothes that you don’t mind ditching at the end of your study abroad. This way, as you travel you can buy souvenirs and new clothes, and you know if you have to get rid anything you won’t be parting with anything you feel attached too.

What surprised you most about Australia?

People driving on the left. I don’t know why but that was a HUGE surprise and took me a while to adjust to begin on the left side of the road and seeing people drive on the left. It just made everything feel a little eire.

What made your experience abroad unique?

I think our experience of camping through the outback for a week, living together basically 24/7 on a bus, and getting to know everyone on an personal level made our experience unique.

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

I think it has effected me in the sense that I don't think of travel as limited or limiting anymore. Like it is not something I can do or afford because I have now proven that it is something that I can do with a little bit of planning and saving. It's just deciding that experience is more important than materials.

Train on the way to Broken Hill in Australia
On the way to Broken Hill

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to see unique parts of Australia or see the other side of the world.

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

I would take more pictures. Seems ridiculous, but even going back through my archive, I still tell myself I should have photographed more.

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

If I could go again I would have love to be a bit bolder and do a program in either Thailand or Eastern Europe.