Studying abroad with people you are familiar with can make experiencing another country less intimidating. But Tom Hartney, a senior majoring in English and minoring in Business, felt that studying abroad in a country that had no familiar faces would be more beneficial to his experience.
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When deciding to study abroad during the Spring 2017 term, Tom chose the University of Melbourne in Australia. “I didn’t have a specific country in mind so I used the My Study Abroad search tools to help me find a program that fit my specifications. It ultimately came down to Sydney and Melbourne. I chose Melbourne because I knew that I wouldn’t know anyone there.” Tom enjoyed the fact that studying in Australia also gave him a new perspective on academics. “I’ve been at Illinois for two and a half years, so it was nice to have a new classroom setting and get out of the same environment for a while.”
When it came to preparing for his time abroad, Tom found the IAGE staff to be very supportive. “Every time I came in with a question they answered everything and were really helpful.” But he was also glad that they didn’t do everything for him. “I think it’s good that IAGE gives you a good amount of responsibility. They shouldn’t have to do everything for you and it allows you to learn and grow a bit.”
“The realization that you’re an ocean away from home is daunting, but the feeling fades quickly. It’s like going to college for the first time.”
Tom had an easy time adapting to the new culture and environment, but the first day was the hardest. “The first twenty-four hours were difficult because I was trying to figure everything out. But once I met my first friend and went through an awesome orientation program, I felt a lot better”. Tom didn’t know anyone from Illinois when he first arrived in Australia. “Not knowing anyone felt risky, but it worked out the best for me because I got to meet new people that I still talk to today.”
Something that surprised Tom while he was abroad was how easily he adapted to the culture. “I felt like I seamlessly adapted to Australian culture and it was just natural. I saw how Australians live their lives and how they approach academics. It was a different perspective that I was able to take home with me”. While studying in Australia, Tom even enjoyed a new way of going about his routine. “I realized that there’s more than one way to do college life. I’m someone that gets used to my daily routine and by studying in Australia I was able to go with the flow and break my routine. It was off brand for me, made me more flexible.”
Tom wanted to make sure to share some advice with students that are considering studying abroad. He wanted students to think differently about the hesitations of studying abroad. “Try not to be nervous about studying abroad, but embrace it as a new challenge.” He also wanted students to know that choosing a study abroad program separate from your friends is a good thing. “Don’t be afraid to go somewhere that your friends won’t be. Get the benefits you want out of it, not what your friends want.”