Bradley Thompson has completed three programs with us – an exchange to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Semester 1, 2015, and again for a Full Year across 2016-2017, as well as an engineering placement with Fire and Risk Alliance in Chicago for Semester 2, 2017. We asked Bradley some questions about his overseas study experiences and how they’ve helped him to develop not only his employability, but his independence, confidence, and personality.
What degree are you studying at the University of Adelaide?
I’m currently in my fifth and final year of a double degree with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic) (Honours) and a Bachelor of Finance.
What are you specialising in?
My honours thesis is on efficient path planning in autonomous robotics and my final year project team is on the way to competing in the 2018 National Instruments Robotics Competition in Sydney this September.
What drove you to apply for your first overseas program?
Wanderlust, and the desire to have the typical ‘American college’ experience. The main goal that I had was to join a fraternity and take in as much of the American way of life as I could.
Had you travelled before (prior to the first program)?
I had travelled to the USA on holiday with family, as well as New Zealand and Japan for short cultural tours throughout my schooling.
Which of your multiple programs did you find to be the most rewarding?
Difficult to say. My first exchange program promoted self-discovery, providing the opportunities to gain more confidence, independence, and maturity. Whereas the second program allowed me to start building a professional presence overseas and begin my international career in engineering.
Tell us some highlights from your overseas experiences.
Spring break to Louisiana with a group of 20+ international students in 2015, spring break to Mexico with my fraternity brothers and other international students in 2017, Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day apartment crawls, finding other Australians and curious Americans to celebrate Australia Day with, frat parties and football tailgates, ski trips to Montana and Colorado, two 5000 mile road trips looping through a majority of the interior and coastal regions of the USA on both the east and west coasts, 4th of July celebrations all over Chicago, hiking through the Arizona desert or the Appalachian mountains … the list is endless.
What did you learn about yourself from your experiences?
I learnt to embrace the unknown while trusting in my own instincts to provide direction and safety; to chase after opportunities I want and to make sure I don’t take a back seat in my own life; to not stress or worry about aspects of my life or situation beyond my control; to take every day as it comes without overeager expectations; and a positive outlook.
What opportunities did the experiences give you?
Studying overseas allowed me to meet a wide array of people from all walks of life and countries around the world and create lifelong friendships. These people became my roommates, study groups, travel buddies and more, and made the time spent overseas worth every second. I was also lucky enough to meet my former employer at an industry night on campus and organise an internship for after the conclusion of my exchange program. I was able to work full time in Chicago as a fire protection engineer after my exchange. This experience allowed me to secure part time engineering work in Adelaide while I’m still studying.
Has studying overseas given you an advantage in finding other opportunities once you finish your degree?
From my experience in the USA I was able to find engineering work in Adelaide with good employment prospects going forward after graduation, and there is also good potential for me to return to my previous employer in Chicago as a qualified engineer after graduation.
Did you talk about your overseas study in any interviews for opportunities (internships, job interviews, university applications, etc.)?
It’s difficult not to have your overseas experience creep into every conversation you have, not just when it comes to job interviews. An exchange program forces you to confront yourself and learn who you are in a way that staying home and going to your home university every day can’t. The stories, anecdotes, and life experience gained through overseas study are invaluable to an employer and allow you to answer interview questions confidently with examples from your own life.
How would you sell yourself using your international experience?
My international experience made me a more independent, mature, critically-thinking, ambitious person. I have developed a deeper understanding of global cultural diversity through first-hand experience in international travel and have had to relate to people using newly learned languages and idioms. Professionally, these traits have allowed me to communicate effectively with a host of international clients on complex projects with varying local customs and design specifications.
Do you think that completing the experiences helped you to stand out from other candidates?
Many employers will reject a candidate on the basis of ‘lack of life experience’. Overseas study will certainly provide this desired experience and is a lot of fun too! The personal and professional skills that can be picked up along the way will also bolster your candidacy immensely.
Are you still friends with/do you still keep in contact with anyone from your overseas study?
The second time around you are more prepared in terms of independently organising accommodation, coordinating with university staff over email and dealing with any unusual local customs. I’m still great friends with many people I’ve met while overseas. Some have already visited me in Australia, others are planning to visit soon, and some I’m planning on visiting when I graduate at the end of this year.
What is your aspiring career path?
I currently have a few ideas on the table, but my main paths of exploration are with the Australian Defence Force, engineering work both locally or back in the United States, and failing all that I’ll probably get a job at a ski resort in Canada for a while.
What have you discovered about yourself since taking part in your first two overseas study experiences?
I’ve learned to embrace new or unusual experiences without passing prior judgement on it, whether that’s a culture, food, extreme sport, social event, etc.
What do you want to accomplish in the next six months?
Complete the autonomous robot in time for the competition, submit my thesis, and graduate with good grades. All while maintaining current levels of activity in Uni sport, work, volunteering with CFS, and pursuing future employment after graduation.
Where would you like to visit next?
I’d love to backpack around Europe and South America. I’d also like to organise a road trip throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
How has the overseas study you took part in through the University of Adelaide helped you get to where you are now?
It has boosted my personal confidence and professional communication skills beyond what I thought I was capable of as a first year when first deciding to pursue my first exchange program.
What is your favourite destination you have ever visited?
This is probably the most difficult question! I’m having a hard time deciding between the picturesque hikes of Zion NP, the parties and beaches of Cancun, the mind-blowing expansiveness of Grand Canyon NP, the serenity and natural beauty of Shenandoah NP, and the snow pow-days and hot tub snowball fights at Big Sky Resort.
How many countries have you visited throughout your overseas experiences?
5 – New Zealand, Japan, USA, Canada, Mexico