Global Learning blog

katie portraitKatie Bezzoubov graduated from the University of Adelaide in 2016 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences, specialising in Health Promotion and Indigenous Health. Katie completed two overseas programs during her time at The University of Adelaide and currently works as a Project Support Officer for Disability SA.

Katie told us she had previously travelled to Bali and her home country, Russia, but had never been away from home for a long period independently. Katie reflected on the highlights of her programs, stating that her favourite parts of her Mexico trip were visiting the Pyramid of the Sun and old Aztec pyramids. She also recalls visiting an AIDS clinic, which she said opened her eyes to how people in developing areas were struggling. She noted the conflicting contexts between culture and health, telling us the quality of the AIDS clinic was high and provided incredible support. In regards to her program in China, Katie reflected on visiting the Great Wall of China and going to karaoke with students from Shandong University. She also detailed her visit to the Centre of Disease Control in Beijing. She felt extremely lucky to have visited the Centre, as it is considered quite a prestigious privilege to visit in the US. The Centre manages a variety of epidemics and outbreaks, and is seen as an advanced facility by those in the health industry around the world.

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

We asked Katie about what she had learnt about herself while overseas. She told us, “I used to think that you’re not really an expert at anything in first year, then going into second year you realise that even though you’ve studied so much, you would struggle to answer a more advanced question regarding your study area. When I was overseas, I realised that I did actually have skills, and that I had learnt how to think critically. I used my knowledge to compare and contrast, and realised just how much I had learnt.” Katie felt that this made her more employable. She stopped asking yes or no questions, and instead began asking when, where, how, and why.

When Katie returned from her study tour to China, she realised that the quality of her work had improved. She was taking a more holistic approach to her assignments, and felt that this is what helped her land an internship with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). When she completed this internship, she was more motivated to apply for graduate programs. This time, not only was she searching for jobs, but she was searching and realising that she was qualified and had the skills and knowledge to apply for some that she perhaps hadn’t considered before.

 

 

Homestay Accommodation, Mexico City

Homestay Accommodation, Mexico City

Katie felt that her overseas programs gave her a definite advantage in searching for employment. She explained “When you finish university and start searching for a job, everyone has a Bachelor’s degree. You’re all at the same level. Compared to those who perhaps didn’t have overseas study on their records, I definitely felt that I stood out a little more by including those experiences on my resume.” She found that in her job interviews, she was asked directly about her overseas experiences before she could slip them in to her standard responses. Professionally, she felt that she was able to show that she could apply her knowledge in a practical setting. She also found that those interviewing her had not had those same opportunities, and were extremely pleased that students were being offered these overseas programs.

Katie believes that in her professional environment (working in the public sector), having experience working with vulnerable people who are culturally and linguistically diverse provided her with the skills to speak about how she could apply her experiences to a new working environment. Since graduating from the University of Adelaide, Katie started working in Housing SA in the Department of Community and Social Inclusion. She was assisting with project work regarding support for people in terms of housing and homelessness. Katie then secured a position with Disability SA as a Project Support Officer, assisting with some of the changes to the National Disability and Insurance Scheme. On the day we conducted this interview, Katie revealed to us that she had just received a promotion – congratulations Katie!

Great Wall of China, Beijing

Great Wall of China, Beijing

When she first began university, Katie did not know what she wanted to do with her career. She knew that she enjoyed health promotion, but also studied areas such as anthropology, ethics, and gender studies. Her overseas programs allowed her to study in different cultures and to see things from a different perspective by working in developing areas of Mexico and China with a diverse group of people, in some cases quite vulnerable people.

In the next six months, Katie is considering looking into further studies in Public Policy and Management. She believes in striving for change and hopes to one day be in a position where she can make positive change for those who need it. She also has plans to visit Europe with her partner, particularly Austria.

Katie’s overseas experiences showed her that taking part in an overseas program triggered a chain reaction of opportunities for her. As she told us, “I studied overseas, realised that I have skills, and a broader vision of public health and how the world works. I then started to do better in my assignments, and secured an internship as a result. I talked about the internship in my job interview and got the job. And now I’ve gotten a promotion. It’s a domino effect! Not immediate, of course, but my experiences definitely helped pave the way to get where I am now.”

 

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Grace Cunningham studied part of her Bachelor of International Studies at Simpson College in Semester 1, 2017. 

Where Even Is Iowa? 

Those were my exact words when I found out I had been placed at Simpson College for my semester exchange. I will be honest; Simpson College was not my first choice, but I had been set on the fact that I would study in the United States. I had applied for two big schools and put Simpson College down as my safety. I had done a small enough amount of research to know the state it was in, that I could study my degree there, and the student population. The thoughts that ran through my head when I saw that I was placed at a school with no more than 1,500 students varied widely: Should I even go? What is there to do in a tiny town in a tiny state? I’m obviously going to go, but what if it isn’t fun? to name a few. I had wanted to go to a big state school in a big city where the classes and social scene would be big.

G. Cunningham 4

After the initial shock had worn off, I sat down and did a massive amount of research, starting with getting out a map and finding where Iowa is. I found out a lot of information about Iowa, the surrounding states (Chicago, Illinois is a mere five hour drive and trust me – it’s worth it!), and the fact that it gets very cold in the winter. I learnt that Simpson College is in a town called Indianola, a 20-minute drive from the state capital of Des Moines, and a thing called ‘Iowa nice’ (a theory that states that Iowans will treat you like family). I definitely encountered this throughout my five month stay in Indianola.

G. Cunningham 2

After my initial panic was over, I couldn’t wait for the next semester to finish so I could finally get to Simpson College and start my adventure. I was lucky enough to meet another University of Adelaide student who was also going to Simpson College at the same time as me, Laura, who would soon become one of my closest friends. I arrived in Iowa on a mild -12 day (if you attend Simpson bring lots of layers and big coats!) and I was taken to my on-campus apartment by Walter (Simpson Colleges International Student point of contact). I was pleasantly surprised by my accommodation, it was a spacious one bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a large kitchenette and living room area with all the basic furniture that was needed. I had one roommate, Andri, who was an exchange student from Norway. That semester there were four exchange students, Chloe from France, Laura from Adelaide, Andri from Norway, and myself. While on that first day we thought we would be the only international students on campus, we were proven wrong the next day when we went out for dinner with some of the other international students. They were from all around the world, from Nigeria to Mexico. The international student community was large and very welcoming from day one. From that day on, I was beyond grateful that I was at this school.

 

G. Cunningham 3The campus is about the same size as the North Terrace campus. It is tree lined, often covered in snow, and has at least a dozen squirrels running around at any one time. The main building on campus is Kent Campus Centre, which includes a bookstore selling classic college apparel, a gym, and basketball courts (the weekly Wednesday night games became a tradition for me and the thousand other attendees each week). Kent also includes most of the on-campus eateries, including a smoothie and juice shop, Millie’s coffee shop, Au Bon Pain (selling everything from salads to soups), and also Tyler’s, a diner selling some of the best burgers around.

The classes offered at Simpson are made up of a small group of students, usually about the same size as a tutorial, never more than 35 in any class. Rather than a lecture and a tutorial, classes are a mixture of both. While I was looking through the course guide, the classes I found were by far quite different than the ones at most Australian universities. Classes at Simpson included the history of Harry Potter and many other non-typical study areas. Because of the small number of students in each class, a few of us would often go to one of our apartments, order tacos from the local Mexican restaurant La Casa, and do our homework. Everything at Simpson makes you feel included, social, and welcome (that’s the Iowa nice).

G. Cunningham 5There are a lot of social groups on campus so there are often events each week, including international food week (for which Laura and myself made fairy bread), a celebrity fashion show (I was Iggy Azalea), finals week puppy play-dates, political and social marches, and the most surprisingly fun and busy event was Bingo. When I first heard that there were fortnightly Bingo nights I thought about skipping it, but I am so glad I didn’t. The majority of the student body would pile into a large hall, there would be music, food, and the prizes ranged from 50” televisions (Congratulations on winning that Laura!), Beats by Dre headphones, and concert tickets (21 Savage and Chainsmokers), all the way to jumbo boxes of Cap’n Crunch, peanut butter, and DVDs. Because of the small student population, all of these events were filled with friends rather than strange faces. It’s the same for the parties too – there are eight Greek houses on campus which would host a variety of events, including parties, but the majority of the social scene took place at individual houses and apartments across campus. The two international student houses, LU (the Latino house) and the Carver Cultural Centre, hosted many parties, including a Super Bowl Party and an Australia Day party. The international student community on campus tried to make myself and other exchange students welcome from day one.

 

Not only is Simpson College an amazing school, but it is also centrally located in the United States. Because of this, it is situated perfectly for weekend trips to Chicago, New York, Louisiana, California, etc., which is something that I would highly recommend taking advantage of.

Exchange will be the most scary but exciting time of your life and it is so totally worth it (especially if it’s at Simpson College)!

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Hilary D’Angelo attended the University of Oslo in Semester 2, 2017 as part of her double degree in Media and Law. 

There is nothing quite like the Norwegian sky in early winter. It’s the palest blue, completely cloudless, and almost blinding amidst the freezing weather and blankets of ice and snow beneath. Calm, captivating, beautiful, but above all, inexplicable – just like this country, and I suppose, this whole experience.

The lake near Kringsjå Student Village

The lake near Kringsjå Student Village

I began my exchange in Oslo on a rainy Friday at the beginning of August. I always thought that going on exchange was something I could never do. Although I had high admiration for my many friends who conquered it, I still firmly maintained that it wasn’t for me; it was simply too challenging, too far out of my comfort zone, and too unfamiliar. But that’s why I decided it was something I needed to do. As I stepped off the plane and into Oslo’s summer air, I was greeted with the same 16-degree weather that I’d left the day before in Australian winter. Adjusting to the climate would be no issue. But for reasons I’ll still never really understand, I thought that arriving a week before all other exchange students was a great idea. Spoiler alert: it definitely wasn’t, and I’d highly advise against doing this if you plan on an exchange yourself.

That aside, after I settled in and my time here truly began, I was enthralled by the whole experience. It was in this time particularly that I often found myself thinking ‘Is this even real?’ because it didn’t really feel like it.

One of Norway's most famous mountains, Trolltunga

One of Norway’s most famous mountains, Trolltunga

On many occasions I felt as if I was just suspended from reality, floating around in a dream-like haze. On some level that almost made it harder to immerse myself in the experience, as I felt a little removed from it. But that didn’t negate the wonder of everything in front of me. I could go on spontaneous hikes with a group of strangers I’d never met and form instant bonds; I could eat wild blueberries in the forest; I could fill up my water bottle from the purest running water any time, anywhere – including from fresh streams; I could go on last-minute weekend trips with people I barely knew or had never met; I could take advantage of being a 5-minute walk away from the most beautiful forest/lake hybrid in the world; I could feel totally liberated by doing solo trips and navigating my way around a foreign place by myself; I could feel the rush of independence from staying at the same village as my friends – and leaving to and from activities with them, navigating our way together – and being able to catch up or make dinner together within minutes. The list goes on. But these were just a few of the most exciting at the beginning.

 

After less than two weeks, my friend compared exchange in Oslo to being stuck in a game. It was this temporary, crazy, challenging, yet voluntary experience that we threw ourselves into for a reason – we knew that overcoming the bizarre obstacles this country and this experience threw at us would be worthwhile. After all, people play games because they want to challenge themselves; they want to have fun, and they want to win. And that’s how it felt.

Have to sacrifice seemingly routine pleasures due to astronomical prices?
Part of the game.
Won’t even get served coffee in a pub due to being under 23?
Challenge 2.
Confronted with less than 6 hours of daylight from November onwards?
Level-up.

The thing about being an Australian on exchange in Europe is that you’re further away from home than most other students. Many of my friends had experiences that were bewildering to me: they went home some weekends, they were ‘dropped off’ by siblings or parents who came over with them to help them settle in, they could use their original phone cards, they never had to worry about maintaining relationships in an entirely different time zone, they didn’t feel the need to travel as much as they could while on this side of the world, because you know… they live there. Being in such a different time zone, further away from home than anyone does feel a little isolating. But there’s something quite surreal and exhilarating about it. Somehow, it’s like a time machine. And it makes you feel like you’re in the biggest bubble, which is in itself a little euphoric. Not to mention – people seem to be particularly fascinated by Australians, because didn’t you know – we’re home to the world’s most dangerous animals.

Another one of Norway's most famous mountains, Kjeragbolten

Another one of Norway’s most famous mountains, Kjeragbolten

I could have never anticipated that reverse culture shock could be a thing. But after nearly 5 months in this beautifully bizarre place, I think it will be. Maybe when I arrive home I’ll be looking for things that won’t be there: babies in high vis and matching jumpsuits all over the place, dads running with prams, people skiing down concrete stairs, vision dominated by the perpetual forest, dørene lukkes on the train, an actual working public transport system… But maybe the biggest shock of all will be when people suggest simple things previously unheard of, like going out for a meal or a drink, or an occasional coffee out – things that will suddenly be within reach of affordability. Things that, as routine as they are for many of us, I certainly learnt to live without.

As utterly cliche as it is, I learnt and grew more from this experience than I could possibly imagine. I had incredible times, incredible difficulties, and met incredible people with whom I know I’ll be friends for life. I climbed so many mountains and developed a weird yet very deep love for this unique place we call Norway. After all, I think I knew I’d assimilated (or, perhaps, just gone a little crazy) when I deemed the 2-degree weather “nice” and found $10 for one cider to be a screaming bargain.

So, I implore anyone who can to go on exchange. There will be rapid ups and downs for sure, but in the end I know you’ll win. If you’re considering Oslo and want some tips or have any questions then please contact me as I’d love to answer them!

P.S. If you do choose Oslo then stay in Kringsjå Student Village. I can’t guarantee you won’t get bed bugs, but I can guarantee you won’t regret it.

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Ryan Cunningham completed several Global Learning program while at the University of Adelaide. In Semester 1 of 2014, he attended a Confucius Institute Semester Program; in Semester 2 of 2014, he completed an exchange to Tsinghua University; for the full year of 2016, he attended the University of Hong Kong on exchange, and during the […]

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Dechlan completed the German in Germany Study Tour in Summer School, 2017, before starting his exchange at the Technical University of Munich for a Full Calendar Year in 2017. The following blog post is an excerpt from Dechlan’s blog, Dechlan and Deutschland.    I arrived in Germany on the 4th of January and spent the […]

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The GLO Alumni Series focuses on past students who have completed overseas study as part of their degree, and how these experiences have helped them in their future after university.  Ben Hauser completed a Bachelor of Media at the University of Adelaide in 2016. In 2015, he took part in the Japanese Media Industries and […]

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Rebecca Batelaan studied at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile for a Full Calendar Year in 2016. When I decided to go to Chile, I only knew I wanted to go to a South American country to practice Spanish and learn about Latin American culture. Now, I know I’ve learnt much more than that, including independence […]

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Our student Rebecca Slimming sent us this beautiful e-postcard all the way from Zurich, Switzerland. Her rave report of her exchange at the University of Zurich so far had everyone in the Global Learning office beaming. We’re always thrilled to hear from students who are having a wonderful time abroad! Dear Global Learning Team, Thank […]

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The GLO Alumni Series focuses on past students who have completed overseas study as part of their degree, and how these experiences have helped them in their future after university.  Tom Russell completed a double degree in Arts and Media, with Honours in Media, at the University of Adelaide in 2016. In 2015, he took […]

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Asat studied at the University of Mannheim in Semester 1, 2017 at part of his Bachelor of Finance.   I can’t believe it took my fourth year of university to finally go on exchange, even when I had planning on going on exchange since my first year of uni. I was always hesitant about going […]

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