Melissa Lichota -  2014 Program Participant

Students holding a Michigan State Flag

Showing our Spartan Pride after white water rafting in the Tully River

What inspired you to study abroad?

I knew a journey abroad would add to my college experience as a whole by bringing me a greater understanding of cultural differences that I could use in the future to know how to better deal with people from all over the world, as well as learn about the different business techniques used to create such an impressive tourism industry. As a hospitality business student, I’m always learning from guests that stay at the hotel from different states or countries, and I wanted to be able to understand the feeling of being in a new country. It’s beneficial understanding different cultures or even small phrases that can make a guest still feel a little at home while on vacation.

What type of accommodation did you have in Australia?

During our time in Australia we mostly stayed in hostels, which I LOVED. I will say hostels will not be for everyone, but my favorite part was meeting travelers from all over the world! While we were in Byron Bay, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne, Gold Coast, and Cairns we stayed in hostels, in rooms from four to eight people. It was fun cooking or lounging in common areas, because that’s when I met people from other areas like Germany, Italy, and New Zealand.

Hiking at the top of Ubirr, Kakadu National Park

The Tourism group hiking at the top of Ubirr, Kakadu National Park

While we were in Sydney, where we spent two weeks of our trip, we stayed in the dorms at The University of New South Wales. These dorms were just like small apartments. Universities are much different in Australia because students do not usually stay on campus. Students still live at home, play sports for community teams, and stay active off campus, which is much different from weekend tailgating and football games at Michigan State. Each dorm has a small kitchen, living area, balcony, bathroom, and two individual bedrooms.

Our group was fortunate enough to have the chance to camp in Kakadu. Our housing arrangements were tents and sleeping bags! I will never forget waking up in the middle of the night convinced there was a croc outside our tent, and later find out there were over 40 wallabies hopping around outside. Regardless of the nightmare, camping in the Northern Territory was very fun, and observing the stars was memorizing.

Why would you go back to Australia if you had the chance?

I want to travel back to Australia for the weather, the people, and the food. I couldn’t get enough of the weather. Even though I traveled during Australia’s winter season, the days were never below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was always shining. We had a few rainy days, but it never brought us down.

Visiting a koala at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia

Making friends with Daren, the koala, at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia

The culture in Australia is so welcoming! Every local I met was friendly and interested in learning about my past; it truly amazed me. I could get used to the much more laid back life, beaches, and line, “no worries, mate!” I will never forget the sunsets on every beach, or the stars while camping in Kakadu.

From flights to restaurants, I was wide-eyed impressed by the food I received and ate. On the flights we were given apples, other fruit, snack packs full of biscuits and chips, full water bottles, and even ice cream bars! This is much different from the usual water cup and miniature sized pretzels I’ve had. The meals were fantastic everywhere we went. From kangaroo to crocodile, and emu to buffalo, all the food was so authentic and delicious. There was a food market almost everywhere we went full of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat and more, too.

Now that you are back in Michigan, how have you noticed your experiences studying abroad impact your life?        

Studying abroad has opened up so many opportunities for my future I never thought I would have gained. I am very thankful the students traveling abroad were from universities all over the country and not just Michigan State University. I have stayed connected with the people from my trip and can plan a visit anytime.

Also, I’ve been in the interview process for a career after graduation, and with all the connections I’ve gained I’ve been able to seek positions in other parts of the United States. The Education Abroad Network has opened up job opportunities in the travel industry if I choose to go overseas and work abroad. Our group visited multiple businesses, hotels, and convention centers that make the opportunities endless! The interpersonal skills I gained while abroad will allow me to be more accommodating and understanding to guests, too. Overall, the network and opportunities that have opened in result of my study abroad trip have been incredible.

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb in Sydney, Australia

At the top of the Bridge on the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb in Sydney, Australia

Would you recommend your Education Abroad Network program to others?

The Education Abroad Network is a fantastic company to study abroad with. From before my flight, to post trip, and now a Global Ambassador, everyone at TEAN is so accommodating. Before the journey abroad, if I ever had a question I could easily call or email and it was always less than a 24-hour response. Whenever we reached a new city a resident director was there to tour us around and describe the life around us. The TEAN staff that traveled along with us were great resources for the country, other programs, and guided us around to class at each new location or excursions. The staff was great at being there for questions, emergencies, and personal stories, but also gave us the independence to explore on our own.

Lastly, I’m enjoying being with the team as a Global Ambassador to help promote TEAN and studying abroad. They do a remarkable job at connecting with students who travel and embark on a journey with them to make sure the trip is memorable.

If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?

I would want it to be longer! I feel so fortunate that we were able to travel to so many cities (Byron Bay, Brisbane, Darwin, Kakadu, Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, and Cairns), but I would have enjoyed having more time in some of the cities we were only in for a weekend. Our trip was six weeks long, so it is very tough to include the number of locations and travel time but I would have wanted to stay longer.

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

If I were to study abroad again I would want to explore Thailand. The life and culture are so different from my own and I am very interested in their tourism industry. I would love to experience what it feels like to live there and try authentic meals.