Limitless Opportunities of Studying Abroad By: Danielle Green

Studying abroad is an influential experience that can help you push through boundaries and explore new opportunities. Although this can be an amazing experience, there are also many obstacles that you may need to overcome. Traveling abroad and meeting new people or discovering new restaurants is not the only reason to study abroad. There are many boundaries to overcome from one country to another that range from understanding their views on education, understanding language barriers, researching safety issues, cost of living, knowing how and what to pack, and transportation options, which is key in order to have a successful study abroad experience. These six attributes are very different from the North-Western Hemisphere than the South-Eastern Hemisphere. Living in the United States and taking a 5-month study abroad adventure in Australia will include a variety of experiences.

United States and Australia

In particular, most people would be under the impression that education is taught or organized uniformly no matter where you are, this is not always the case. Every country has a unique way of teaching, grading assignments, and yearly scheduling. The United States and Australia have seasons which are opposite, because of this winter and summer breaks are opposite and this also means the semesters are not aligned. August or September are the traditional times that a school year begins in the USA and then a holiday break for winter is during the month of December. However, in Australia the school year begins in February, this is the ending of their summer and start of fall. The school year then ends in June for a semester break. Furthermore, in the United States a system of numerous homework assignments are given with quizzes, papers, tests, and exams as well. On the other hand, in Australia most classes are run by lecturing in class and the occasional assignment, this being very rare, but the exams are the majority of the grade at the end of a unit. This leaves attendance to be very important as the material is only given during class periods and tests are done at the end of the semester. Attendance is so important in fact that if a student misses 4 classes for one unit, a fail will be issued. A student is expected to take notes and be able to remember all information from the semester, and this will be used during the exam. The exam days are set up very much like the standardized testing in the United States and are done in large rooms with Scantron sheets. Additionally, grades are also done on an unalike scale. In the United States, grades are based off an A, B, C, D, and F scale. In Australia, there are not letter grades assigned, but they are broken up in a different way. Grades are as follows: a pass being 50-64%, credit is 65-74%, distinction is 75-84%, and high distinction is 85%+. According to this grading scale a 50% is passing, and similar to a C grade in the USA. In Australia, some terminology is also different than in the United States. Instead of using the word class, the term unit is used. This is helpful to understand when studying and/or studying abroad.

Essentially, communicating within another country can be a struggle when traveling between countries where different languages are spoken. Most people will overlook a slang difference in communication. Students may worry they will not be able to communicate, but putting effort in can make your experience limitless. In principle, understanding different countries language as well as the slang could be crucial in communicating. Between the United States and Australia there are many words that are different but hold the same meaning. These two countries are both known for being predominantly English speaking, but the differences between American-English and Australian-English are enough to confuse anyone. For example, a word that is completely different and through me for a loop was trolley (Australian) and cart (American). These two words refer to the container that is used in grocery stores to push items around the store before purchasing. Another term that is quite different in a fanny pack (American) and a bum bag (Australian). Fanny pack or bum bag is the items people where around their waist to hold items, which is mostly used at festivals. Understanding different countries everyday phrases is important but also easy to do. An important term to know when driving a car is a gas station (American) compared to a petrol station (Australian). Gas and or petrol is the liquid used to drive a car. With minimal effort, you can immerse yourself into the culture. Being open to learning these everyday ways of life can be incredibly beneficial in your overall study abroad experience. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, talking to locals and then trying to use the new words in daily conversation can aid in remembering. Knowing the differences can be important to everyday life.

Safety Risk

Traveling abroad can also pose a safety risk in regard to housing options. Informing yourself of these options is essential. While traveling abroad the cheapest way to visit is by using hostels. In many countries, these can be seen as very dangerous. When looking into hostels there are many different options of rooms. Gender can play a role into which room is chosen for choice of room. There is an option of male or female community rooms, as well as private rooms. The larger number of people staying in a room makes the pricing cheaper cheaper, but when staying in hostels most of the time a room will be filled with strangers. Security wise this can be dangerous if you aren’t careful and have many personal items that someone might want to steal. You will want to keep personal items on you at all times. Some hostels may state a safe or locker is available while staying, but this will be an added expense. More often than not these lockers are time sensitive and require money for allotted time periods. Part of traveling in those situations is to keep packing light so you won’t have to keep anything in a room. When studying in another country a safe place to stay is a requirement and sometimes housing is not provided and you will need to research on whether the area chosen is safe. Luckily in most schools in Australia they offer student housing which is very similar to the dorms in the US. Every person is given the option to stay in apartments with five to eight people and everyone is given their own room. Having the opportunity to lock all of your belongings in your room is important since the people living with you in your apartment are most often strangers.

Packing for vacations may seem difficult, but packing for 4-6 months is an entirely different ball game. The larger amount of time may encompass different climates and seasons. Australia is known for its tropical weather and beautiful beaches. These temperatures by no means are all year round. The seasons on the continent of Australia are opposite of the seasons in North America. Studying abroad during the second semester in the US would be the first semester in Australia. This would mean the weather is at the highest temperature. When packing for different seasons fitting different items of clothing into a suitcase can be difficult. This depends on the airlines each different and specific weight requirements and the number of suitcases that are allowed per person. Most airlines allow one suitcase at 75-pound maximum for checked baggage. This may seem like a lot, but when packing for different seasons, including hair products, clothing, bedding, or other necessities this adds up. Shower and bathroom items can be very heavy and add to the weight rather quickly. Clothing items can range from shorts to jeans and t-shirts to jackets. Many items can be bought after you have landed but an added expense may not be an option depending on a budget.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in other countries as well as Australia is very high, much more than in the United States, and this can make traveling difficult unless you are sure to take this into consideration and plan ahead. The cost of items can be more than double the price you are used to. This can make buying items while traveling extremely difficult. While traveling abroad, I ran out of some everyday items, for example, make-up. A typically drug store mascara in the US costs $6-8 and in Australia this same mascara can cost up to $20. The exchange rate from the United States and Australia should also be noted. The US dollar is almost always higher than the Australian. This would make the $20 (AUS) mascara costing around $14(US), which is still a great deal more. As much as you try and plan ahead some simple items you didn’t expect could surprise you, so try and stay informed.

Another cost while abroad can be transportation and looking into ways the locals travel. In the United States public transportation can be non-existent in certain areas. However, in Australia, public transportation is used by almost everyone. The train systems can get someone from one side of Sydney to the other. Having the ability to use the train helped me when traveling from my living arrangements to Circular Quay, where they Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House are located, along with many other locations. Money is required upon entering the busses or trains and there are many options to obtain tickets. When first arriving in Australia I paid for my tickets ‘one way’ from one location to another. After being there for about a week and talking to locals I found out that Australia has recently implemented the “Opal” passes. These types of passes have been used in the UK for quite some time and Australia had finally crossed over to this easy to use system. The Opal card is scanned upon arrival at the train station or bus stop and then scanned again when reaching your destination. This makes traveling easy and you no longer have to wait in line at stations to get a ticket. Another reason why this was the best option when traveling is because you could stop at any one of the many stops along the way, and had the ability to change your mind during your trip. A traveler could exit the train from one location walk around the city and then use a different location to enter the train. The Opal cards could be “topped off” at any petrol (gas) station or small shop. Another option is set up to never drop below a certain amount with a credit card. An important app I discovered while abroad was called Trip View. This app would list the times the train left from one station to another and the stops in-between. The app was updated as trains were ahead or behind schedule and made traveling easy.

Limitless Experience

All things considered, traveling can be an amazing and limitless experience. To make the best of traveling, keep in mind the important limits and boundaries needed to be thought out and overcome. Studying in a different country means the educational system may be different than in your home country. Look into the rules and the grading systems is crucial to fully understand what is expected. Another item to think about is the language barrier or slang and having to overcome this obstacle to be able to communicate with local people. The last, and most important limit to take into account is safety and doing the research to make sure you are prepared and informed to keep yourself safe. Traveling abroad can be a limitless experience as long as you take into account the boundaries you may have to overcome to get the opportunity expected.

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