Studying Abroad: So much more than classes – by Adrian Oruclar
How studying abroad changed my outlook on life!
I’m writing this blog post from one of the many wonderful cafes in downtown Melbourne, Australia, and in three days I hop on a plane to head back home to Canada. Reflecting on the past five months I’ve been in Melbourne as an exchange student, I could never have imagined how amazing this experience was going to be.
First, a little bit about myself… My name is Adrian, and I’m a 22 year old Marketing student from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Having just finished my exams here two weeks ago, I’ve officially finished my third year of university, and one of the best years of my life. Studying abroad in Australia has taught me so much about both myself and this world, and I feel that my outlook on life has changed as a result.
There are so many reasons why studying abroad was such a great experience, but in this post I will focus on just the top three: travel, friendships, and dealing with challenges.
I left Canada in January 2011, right after the end of my first semester, and I had the chance to say goodbye to my family and friends over Christmas. Because the school year doesn’t start in Australia until the end of February, this gave me the chance to backpack through Fiji and New Zealand for 5 weeks before even setting foot in Australia… what an amazing experience. Already, before my “official” exchange had even begun, I had kayaked with seals, climbed Mount Doom (seriously), went to a two-year old’s birthday party in a remote village in Fiji, and spent countless hours soaking up the sun on some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in my life. Then, off to Australia for a semester at the University of Melbourne!
During my time in Australia, I took advantage of the cheap flights here and spent most of my weekends traveling. In fact, for the first six weeks I was in Melbourne, every weekend I was out of town somewhere! In just four months, I drove the breathtaking Great Ocean Road in Victoria, went hiking on the isolated island state of Tasmania, saw a night-time orchestra performance at the Sydney Opera House, slept under the stars in the Australian Outback, learned to dive in the Great Barrier Reef, sailed the Whitsunday islands, and took in the sun along a 2200 km road trip down the east coast of Queensland.
Although there have been so many fantastic things I could mention about my time in Melbourne, by far the best part of my exchange has been the amazing friendships I’ve made over the past four months. I never thought it would be possible to get this close to a group of people in such a short period of time, but you really get to know people quickly when you spend so much time sharing the same experiences together. The cool thing about meeting people on exchange is that the majority of people tend to have a similar mindset to you… generally, exchange students are hard workers, optimistic, and open to anything (after all, they did all the work required to study abroad, and took the risk of leaving home!).
The coolest thing about the friends I made here in Melbourne is the fact that they are from all over the world… I’ve had such a great time learning about new cultures and languages while studying, traveling, and partying with a huge group of international students. Now, I have a strong network of people all around the world, which only further inspires me to go travelling and visit them all!
Lastly, one way in which I’ve really grown while studying abroad is through the various challenges I’ve faced along the way. It isn’t often in life that you find yourself homeless, hungry, and out of money on a street corner at night because you can’t reach your bank back in Canada and you don’t have a mobile phone. And it also isn’t often that you have to sleep in a van off the side of a highway because all of the hostels in a city you’re visiting are full. I consider myself a huge planner, but both of these situations (and much more) have happened to me during my time in Australia. Dealing with these challenges either on your own or with a group of people you’ve only just met really helps you grow personally and put your life in perspective… there is so much to explore in life, and there’s really no point stressing about the daily things that get so many people down.
Tomorrow, I fly off to Singapore for the next phase of my travels as I head back to Canada. Looking back on my time here in Australia, studying abroad is about so much more than simply taking classes in another country…depending on how you approach your experience, you can expect to learn so much through travel, make some of the best friends of your life, and find a new outlook on life.
Be sure to keep up with Adrian as he travels across South East Asia at his blog http://aoruclar.wordpress.com/