Lauren Skovira - 2015 Program Participant

Blue Mountains, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

Blue Mountains, Katoomba NSW

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad for multiple reasons. I chose to apply for an international program to develop a greater understanding of different cultures. I also wanted to gain a different perspective of my home culture and home institution by taking classes not offered by my home school. I wanted to experience something new and challenge myself, by living far away from home and knowing very few people in a different country.

Why did you choose IES Abroad in Sydney?

I specifically chose Sydney because it is a place I have been dreaming of traveling to since I was 10 years old. My parents have both been to Sydney and have not stopped talking about it 25 years later! I wanted to be far away from home but not somewhere where there was a language barrier.

What was your favorite part about Sydney?

I have never lived in a large city, so living in Sydney I was able to discover so many little hole-in-the-wall cafes, hikes with unbelievably beautiful views, and locals who were super friendly and loved meeting locals.

Tomaree Head in Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia

Hiked the top of Tomaree Head in Port Stephens, NSW

What part of your program made it unique?

There was a large number of us in the program, but our staff being brand new and their first year, made it so easy for all of us to become so close and create an incredible bond. We went on day trips together that most study abroad programs don't have the chance to do, which made our program that much better!

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

The professors at my university were constantly helpful, encouraging students to email them with any questions or set up an appointment to come meet with them if we were struggling. The program staff living in Sydney would send out texts to all of us in the program and invite us to stop by their office and chat or meet up at a local cafe and be treated for coffees or smoothies. Our program staff would come to each of the three schools every other month and treat anyone who could come at the designated time, for lunch, which was a great way to catch up and chat.

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

I wish I made more friends with Australians, especially in my residential college. I arrived on the IES Abroad arrival date, which was right after my "college" orientation, so I didn't really get the opportunity to become as close with the locals as I had hoped.

Lighthouse at Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Byron Bay, NSW

Describe a day in the life of your program.

I'd wake up early and go to class for an hour or two. I would come back to my college and grab lunch with some of my friends from college and talk about our days, then I'd go back to my room and study for an hour or two. I'd then take the train downtown to the CBD/Newtown area where I would meet up with some of my friends from my program and would go for drinks for happy hour or relax on the green. I'd come home later that night and go to bed, wake up and repeat!

What did you enjoy doing on your freetime?

I really enjoyed my big trips I took throughout the semester: Port Stephens, New Zealand, Blue Mountains, Byron Bay, and Melbourne. They were perfect little getaways and I met so many more great people on these trips, and saw even more beautiful views that most people don't have the opportunity to see.

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

I lived in a residential college with 90 percent local students, and 10 percent mixed with Americans and other international students. It was great because it was only about 200 people, and everyone was super friendly and nice with each other. There was a dining hall attached to the college, which provided delicious food, and the staff working there were very friendly, and cleaned/vacuumed our rooms biweekly and kept the bathrooms clean. I had my own room, which was relatively small, but since I wasn't in my room a lot it was cozy. The common room was large and most of the students would hang out up there so it was easy to make friends.

The Sydney skyline at night

Sydney Skyline

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

I learned a great deal about my host country and its people. Studying abroad has influenced my professional goals and has expanded my interest in living or working abroad in the future. I gained a new perspective on my home culture from a global context, and have developed a stronger interest in world issues. I gained more independence and confidence from my experience abroad; I can better adapt to new situations that are thrown at me.