Tori Cress - 2015 Program Participant

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling with Nigel on the Great Barrier Reef

Why did you decide to study abroad?

My parents have always encouraged me to study abroad, which is why I chose to attend a university that had fantastic connections all over the world. Growing up, I was able to travel with family and it sparked a wanderlust that blossomed into the best decision I ever made: to spend five months on my own in Australia.

Why did you choose IES Abroad?

Once I narrowed down my ideal study abroad location from anywhere to a few countries, I looked into every option that my university offered and spent plenty of time talking to my study abroad advisor. I ended up choosing IES Abroad because of their program at the University of Sydney, cost, and the housing arrangements. The staff both at the U.S. center and at the one in Sydney were very easy to communicate with and helped me along every step of the way. While in the city, I felt extremely safe knowing that I could easily contact the program directors if an emergency came up.
University of Sydney

Sydney Uni aka Hogwarts

What was your favorite part about Sydney?

Sydney has everything to offer: great food, arts, sport, scenery, coffee, activities. Getting to explore this incredible city never got dull, and it really did become a second home to me. I cannot wait to go back there someday soon.

What component of your program made it unique?

The personal connection with the IES Abroad staff in Sydney was unique, comforting, and fun! We got to travel up to the Great Barrier Reef with them as well as go get coffee or ice cream and just talk about life.

What surprised you most about Sydney?

Sydney has surprises around every corner. From markets to art galleries, coffee shops to major plays, there's always something new and exciting going on.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I never really needed it, but they were easily contactable if any emergency would have arose. Also, if we had any questions or concerns, they responded quickly to emails or texts. They were also really fun to talk with on our trip or at group dinners.

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

I wish I had been able to stay for a second semester!

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Wake up (I never had class before noon!). Get a flat white or lunch from one of the hundreds of cafes. Go to class. Go to the gym. Grab a drink or dinner with friends from the Village (my accommodation). Hang out in the Well or on the Green (our communal spaces).

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

I'm a theatre major, so I loved the artsy things, like joining the Sydney University Dramatic Society 
(SUDS) and performing in one of their student-run plays or going to art galleries or professional productions.
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

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

I lived in an off-campus apartment that was still run partially by the university so it was all students. Everyone was always keen to meet new people, there were plenty of events (with free food or activities), and I was fortunate enough to live in a flat with five people, but still had my own room where I could have some time alone to do work or sleep.

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

Sunscreen, a rain jacket (buy a cheap umbrella aka. "brolly" when you get there), bring your own pillow, so you don't have to use a cheap one all semester, and plenty of comfortable shoes.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about being abroad was definitely when I got really sick and had to deal with the Australian health system. That was the only time I got a little homesick.

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

I wish I would have had a little more insight about the way classes operated and how grades were calculated. There are far fewer tests and/or assignments then you have in a typical American college class and (at least at USyd) essays were marked very rigorously.
Kangaroo in Brisbane, Australia

Kangin' around in Brisbane

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

Global awareness. It isn't until you get out there on your own and meet people and experience life with them that you are truly aware of the different working of different cultures and can appreciate the similarities and differences of those cultures in comparison to your own.

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

All I can think about now is all of the places I want to go back to or have added to my list of places to travel. I also made some of my best friends during those five months, who I know I will stay in touch with for years to come.

Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?

Absolutely. They were so helpful and streamlined the process so much. IES Abroad is fantastic.

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

I honestly think I made the best choice in choosing to go to Australia, specifically Sydney. But if I had to choose somewhere else, maybe New Zealand or Prague.