Why study abroad?

Studying abroad can often be a scary experience. However, Melanie Birch-Inwood tells us about her experience in the USA, combining her love for travel and studying in one awesome experience.

Why study abroad?

Good question!

I love to travel so the moment I started studying at university I was researching opportunities to study abroad.

But there so are many to choose from!

Between semester exchange, short programs and study tours I had plenty to choose from. In the end it came down to value for money. The cost of the short program and the semester exchange was very similar. Of course, I would choose the longer option, any reason to spend time living overseas!

So why the USA??

I have already spent time living in the UK and Canada, so they were ruled out. Having travelled extensively through the USA, I know it is not the same as living there. This may be my only opportunity to experience everyday life in the States.

I am fascinated by society and I love observing people so I am interested in the following cultural differences between the USA and Australia:

  • Alcohol and the impact the legal age limit has on activities based on campus and with university clubs.
    • In the USA the legal drinking age is 21 compared to Australia at 18.
  • Lecture and learning styles.
    • Is it really like what we see on TV?
  • Student involvement and school spirit.
    • America is known for their school pride but to what extent?

By the end of my student exchange I will be able to answer these points so stay tuned for that post!

I also enjoy sharing the Aussie culture and perpetuating our myths like, my personal favourite, Drop Bears.

Image courtesy of Australian Geographic.

The Australian Museum and Australian Geographic have very helpful articles to access when discussing with non-believers.  I would not be Australian if I did not share our sense of humour with others!

Here I am with Beni from Bendigo, my travel companion and cousin of the Drop Bear.

Even though I have travelled far and wide I still believe that studying abroad is a unique opportunity that only comes along once in a lifetime.

For a seasoned traveller like myself it provides an opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture and lifestyle. In the USA I live on campus in a dorm I share with one other and back in Australia I live off campus, this alone provides challenges and opportunities.

For someone who has never travelled, a study abroad opportunity would be the perfect way to travel. There is a safety net around you provided by both your home university and your host university. If you are thinking about study abroad programs and are nervous, you may want to consider an English speaking country as it eliminates much of the culture shock you would experience in a non-English speaking country.

Speaking from experience, here at Appalachian State University everyone is really nice and very interested in getting to know exchange students. The Office of International Education and Development on the App State campus run programs to help international students make the most of their time. One such program is the International Friendship Program. This program matches international students with locals who want to get to know people from another country and show us what the Boone area has to offer. It could be a simple as going out to dinner or a day trip to a nearby town. Whatever the activity it is apparent there are many people here who want to share their culture and I am sure the same could be said for other universities that offer exchange programs.

No, I am not being paid to promote studying abroad. I am just passionate about travel and live to inspire people to experience other cultures. Study abroad programs are a great way to get started!

I may participate in another program next year, but only a short program during my winter break.  I have my eye on Japan…

You can also find out more information about La Trobe University’s Exchange and Study Abroad programs.

Melanie is a studying a Bachelor of Business (Management and Marketing) at Bendigo campus. She also blogs at https://adventuresofbackpackermel.com/