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Student Profiles

Crystal and her roommate pet a kangaroo at Lucky Bay in Esperance, Western Australia

Overseas Study Program

Perth,  Australia

Go abroad!! Go go go! Now is the best (and maybe only) time to see the world. After college you end up with a job and a house and a family, and you get too tied down to be able to simply vanish from your current world for months at a time.”

Crystal Matt

Crystal's Major: Biology

Term abroad: Spring 2014

Why did you choose this program? I chose Perth in particular because the classes offered at UWA matched the most closely with my requirements for my Biology B.S. degree. Because their lectures and labs are all combined, I was able to get four classes' worth of credit for attending two classes in Australia. Also, I loved that UWA was right on the Swan River, and super close to the ocean. I knew I wanted to go to Australia because the country has always fascinated me, and it definitely did not disappoint.

Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite class was my Aboriginal Health class. It was really interesting to learn about the Aboriginal culture in Australia and see how different their indigenous people are treated compared to in the US.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program? Students could choose between living in a residential college or finding their own housing off campus. I stayed at St. George's College, which was basically a hybrid between a dorm and a fraternity. The living situation was dorm-style (usually one person per bedroom), but the people were all very close and the college would frequently have large parties, guest speakers, and charity events. It was expensive to live there, but they also had a weekly maid service and prepared all of your meals for you. I highly recommend staying in a college instead of housing off campus, because it provides a multitude of opportunities that you couldn't get otherwise. It is very easy to make friends at a college, and they are all right across the street from campus.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Apply for housing early!! It will save you a ton of stress down the road. Also apply for the Hutton International Experience Program scholarship. They accept tons of students, and you don't need to be in the Honors College to apply. While there, don't say no to anything (within reason of course, safety is important). Even if an event doesn't sound like something you'd enjoy, go anyway! You'll never know who you'll meet or just how much fun you could have. Be open-minded and ready to try anything. Also, travel! Travel as much and as far as you can. Try to see as much of the country as your time allows and really immerse yourself in the culture. And finally, take pictures, buy lots of souvenirs and presents, and send the people you meet Facebook friend requests. You'll almost certainly wish you had more pictures, presents, and souvenirs, and it's great to know that you have a way to keep in touch with new friends that you may have only spent a day with.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I was so excited to finally be in Australia that culture shock was not a big problem for me. It may also have been because their culture is fairly similar to ours. They watch American movies and TV and they listen to American songs so much that the shock for me was that it wasn't more different. In the beginning, however, I was really self-conscious about my accent. I felt as if every time I opened my mouth I was shouting "HI GUYS I'M AMERICAN AND I TALK DIFFERENT FROM YOU!!!" I eventually got so used to hearing the Australian accent that I wouldn't notice my own, and would forget that it distinguished me. Reverse culture shock hit me a bit harder. I had gotten so used to the laid back, carefree, welcoming attitude of the Australians, that I was startled when I arrived back at LAX to the hustle and stress of American travelers. While happy to see my friends and family, I also immediately missed Australia and almost hated the differences. However, I soon got back into the routines I had had and became comfortable with the usual things.

“If I could do it over, I would…” I would be even more involved. I joined the outdoor club while at UWA. I had great experiences and made life-long friends, so I feel like I would get even more out of the program if I had been involved with other things as well.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? I know that I can be completely independent. Traveling the country alone made me grow as an individual. I had to decide where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to get there. I used to get very stressed if I wasn't sure what laid ahead in the future, but I was able to go places and schedule things without a single worry. I could show up to a city and have no place to stay and no way to get there, but I knew that I would be able to figure it out so I didn't worry. I now know that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for.

What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge was coping with the time difference. Being thirteen hours apart made it very difficult to communicate with friends and family, and made school issues take longer to resolve. Emails had to wait for me to go to sleep, them to wake up and respond and then go to sleep, and then me to wake up and see the response. It was difficult but not impossible.

Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Is it even a question? Go abroad!! Go go go! Now is the best (and maybe only) time to see the world. After college you end up with a job and a house and a family, and you get too tied down to be able to simply vanish from your current world for months at a time. Most travelers are college-age, so it's easier to connect with the people you meet along the way. Now is truly your greatest opportunity. You can get credit for your classes (so it's not like you're wasting a semester) while you still get to immerse yourself in a brand new culture. There are a ton of ways to help with the financial side of it, so you have no reason not to go! There are also tons of different programs, so you can stay as long or as short of a time away as you want. GO STUDY ABROAD!!

How did you find scholarships for study abroad? The scholarships that I get normally at IU still applied for the semester I was abroad, so I got to use that money towards my program. In addition, I received a scholarship from the Hutton International Experiences Program. They love giving out scholarships and the money really helped me out. I found out about that one through the Hutton Honors College.