Sarah Pearson - 2015 Program Participant
The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I wanted to go out into the world the see new things, get a new perspective on other countries and my own, and visit a part of the world that I had never been to before.
Why did you choose IES Internships in Sydney?
I chose this because Australia is a place that many people don't get to visit in their lifetime, as it's on the other side of the world. I also didn't want a language barrier for the first time I decided to go overseas for a substantial amount of time.
What was your favorite part about Australia?
I loved that I could fly around Australia and see other parts of the continent as well as my host city.
What surprised you most about Sydney?
What surprised me the most about Sydney was how big it actually wasn’t. It wasn’t as intimidating once you had an idea of where you were going in the city, or at least a map with you. Everything was relatively easy to find and no more than a 30 to 40 minute walk within the city itself.
Feeding birds at the wildlife stop along the Great Ocean Road bus tour
What aspects of your program made it unique?
This program is unique because it is smaller and was a summer program, which made it way more personal and homey than if it were a larger program where I didn't have direct contact with my directors or something like that.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
We saw the professors everyday and they were super helpful when we had questions about anything. Our program directors and coordinators would check up on us via email or stop by the apartments once a week or so to just see if we needed anything.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had budgeted money better. It's expensive to be abroad and most people don't realize it until you're doing something every single day and running out of money quickly.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
Monday thru thursday we had class from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. So we would wake up, get ready, walk down to the bus stop as a group, ride 20 minutes into Sydney's Central Business District (CBD), walk to class (five minutes) and have one class (leadership) in the morning, and then History in the afternoon, with an hour lunch break between. We could bring our lunches or we could go out and eat lunch somewhere, or we could bring our packed lunches to Hyde park, which is the park in the middle of Sydney, and eat there. Then we would leave and either go shopping, go to museums, markets, the Sydney Sky Tower, go home and plan our trips, go to Bondi Beach and walk around or go for runs, and then my apartment would hang out at night and eat dinner together.
What did you enjoy doing outside of your placement?
I loved visiting other cities in Australia. Our trip to Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road was amazing and one of my favorites, followed by snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef with all my friends!
The Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road trip in Victoria, Australia in Port Campbell National Park
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
We had apartments within a house, so four apartments within one house, with four to five people in each apartment. I loved this because it made me so close with my roommates, but also gave us the opportunity to visit other apartments. We would all do dinners in different apartments each week, which made us closer with our whole program. I also loved that I had a single on this trip, as it was a long stay and I had just had a roommate back at school so the privacy was so nice, but I also loved having people just in the next room.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
The hardest part about studying abroad was actually the transit. This was so confusing to me the first few days, working out the bus systems, numbers, and routes as well as just refilling money on my transport card. Eventually we got the hang of it as a group and it became a lot easier.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before arriving in Australia?
I wish I had known to budget my money more. I hadn’t made a plan of what amount I was going to spend on what, how much per week, or anything like this. This resulted in me overspending just from not realizing how fast the costs would stack up.
The Landmark, Uluru, in the Northern Territory of Australia - this rock is sacred to the indigenous people
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
I feel the biggest benefit to studying abroad is learning more about the world and different countries and how different they are from your home country, as well as increasing your independence. Going away to college definitely instills independence in individuals, but you get comfortable at your school or your dorm and make friends that are consistent. But going abroad, you have to make new friends, in a new country, in a new living arrangement, and then find your way around. It definitely made me more confident in my independence and that if I were placed anywhere that I could find my way.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Sydney?
Definitely pay attention to what season it is! Sydney is on the opposite side of the world and the opposite hemisphere if you’re coming from the U.S. I went during the summer but it was winter in Australia, meaning that I landed and bought at least $200 worth of warmer clothes for the outback and my trip to Melbourne. I had packed jeans and sweatshirts, but not nearly enough sweatpants or a heavy jacket. Pay attention or check the weather ahead, and don’t overpack! I wore the same outfit at least two to three times a week and mix and matched shirts and pants, and no one notices. They also have washers and dryers; you won’t be living out of your suitcase and not washing anything.
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
This program has given me such a worldly view of things, making small problems seem so insignificant, and making me view situations in a much more mature way. It also taught me so much about myself, where I'm from as well as other areas in America, due to the friends I made and where they were from. It has definitely made me want to travel abroad again and potentially work abroad in the future.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
If I could study abroad again, I’d go to either Italy or to Ireland. Ireland because I have family there and have never been so this would be important to me regarding my heritage roots, but Italy because it's central Europe and I could travel to many other countries from there.