Rachel Levine - 2015 Program Participant

Surfing at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia

Learning to surf at Manly, and possibly running someone over

Why did you decide to study abroad?

It has been a dream of mine since third grade to go to Australia. Studying abroad during university was the earliest opportunity I had and I jumped at the chance.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s program in Sydney?

My third grade teacher went to Australia a couple times and had photos all over her classroom. Not only that, but she told awesome stories of this place I had never heard of before. After that, I was hooked and the only place I wanted to go was Australia. IES Abroad was the only organization affiliated with my school that allowed me to study abroad for a semester or a year in Australia. I wouldn't accept in less time than that, so my decision was obvious!

What was your favorite part about Sydney?

I grew up in the Midwest, meaning I was about 10 hours from mountains and about 16 hours from the ocean. My favorite part about Sydney was that I had a big city, the beach, and the mountains all within an hour from me. I had endless opportunities for exploring and adventures. It's safe to say I was never bored!

Backpackers in Royal National Park in New South Wales, Australia

Backpacking in Royal National Park

What made your program experience unique?

The IES Abroad Sydney program is great because it has so many different options! There are year and semester long programs, as well as a summer program and an internship program. On top of that, there are three different schools to choose from when studying abroad.

I think one of the most unique parts though is that you never feel alone after you arrive there. Many international students once they arrived in Sydney went through the whole semester without hearing from their home school or their program. IES Abroad Sydney had their own transition orientation, planned day trips for us, and checked on us throughout the semester.

Sydney Harbour and Gardens

Too much fun at the Harbour and Gardens

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I love the IES Abroad Sydney staff! They made this experience 100 times easier and more fun. They planned the best day trips, always answered their emails and phones, and were always around to help and provide a good time.

One of our favorite things to do on a day off from uni would be to go to the IES Abroad office and say hi to the staff. They welcomed us every time and would take us out to get coffee.

You could tell they genuinely cared about how you were doing and if you were enjoying your experience. I couldn't have asked for better study abroad advisors!

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

I wish that I had been more outgoing at the beginning of the semester. I had plenty of American friends either from my program or from my housing that I didn't meet many other people. It wasn't until about halfway through the semester that I started branching out and making friends with more Aussies. They are such wonderful, kind, fun people that I can't believe it took me half a semester to befriend them. If I could go back, I definitely would make sure to be more outgoing early on in the trip.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Most days I got up around 9 a.m., got ready, went to brekkie, and then either headed off to a lecture or caught up by watching lectures online. I then would have lunch and go to a tutorial after. Later, I would have dinner, which normally took a couple hours because everyone loves to talk! After that some friends and I would go to the shopping centre down the street to see a movie, get dessert, or go grocery shopping. We might also end up in the common room hanging out or at the university bar for trivia or games.

What did you like to do on your free time?

Anything outdoors and exploring! I loved doing coastal walks! They were so beautiful and relaxing.

Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef

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

I stayed in a dorm, or college as the Aussie's would call it. I absolutely loved it, mostly because I didn't have to make my own food, but also because there were always people around to talk to and hang out with.

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

Well, it has certainly instilled a travel bug in me! I just got back four days ago and I already have I list of at least 20 places that I want to go to, and soon! Besides that though, I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities to survive in the world.