From an Uncharted Territory to a Life Learning Opportunity

To say I have come a long way to study at Curtin University would be an understatement, both figuratively and literally. It all began when I decided to take a risk and apply to the Student Exchange Program for a semester. I know it would be a lot of work to give myself this opportunity, but I decided I was up to the task. After interviews, class sessions, visa applications, school applications, learning more about my host country, all while handling my heavy course load the semester before leaving to study abroad, I thought I was going to explode. However, I reminded myself in a short few months, I would be in sunny weather, visiting beautiful beaches while meeting all sorts of new people.

A view of the Indian Ocean at Hangover Bay in Namburg National Park
A view of the Indian Ocean at Hangover Bay in Namburg National Park.

The time finally came, and I boarded the first of my many flights to arrive in Perth. After 30 long hours, I was excited to finally be in my new home, but I was also very overwhelmed to be in such a different place from where I grew up in Ohio. I was stressed and unsure if I was going to make it five months in a place where I would essentially be starting from ground zero. The cars were on the left of the road, people spoke fast with Australian slang words, and I did not know what was considered normal to Australians. I knew I needed time to settle into somewhere that was vastly different from what I have been used to my whole life. I made sure to do all the right things to get myself acclimated to my new home. I socialized with many people, learned the layout of the general vicinity I would be staying at, and put myself out into the world. Soon enough, my sense of being overwhelmed faded away and were replaced by new ones of pride and joy for Australia and its people.

Feeding some kangaroos
Feeding some kangaroos.

Through my past few weeks in Perth, I reminded myself why I came to Australia in the first place. I wanted to meet new people with different perspectives, learn from a foreign school, and see what the world is like outside the United States, and I can say I have done exactly that. I have met students from all over the world including India, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Canada, Finland, Portugal, Malaysia, and of course, Australia.  The biggest thing I have learned so far through these interactions is that people from all over the world are not that different; they’re just people. I had always kind of thought in my mind people from different countries like Sweden, Australia, India, and Malaysia would have radically different personalities, beliefs, and perhaps be more intimidating, but in my experience many people want to have fun, socialize, explore different things. My experiences are living proof that people from different countries and ethnicities cannot be placed into different prejudiced beliefs, because everyone is unique, but at the same time share similar struggles and desires.

In my classes, I have noticed that there are not that many differences compared to courses in the United States. In fact, most of the textbooks come from America and most of the examples used in my lectures are from American companies or American historical figures. On the other hand, there are some differences. At Curtin University, showing up to class, reading, and completing assignments are all really a personal choice. None of my classes take attendance (Not that I wouldn’t show up) and none of my classes truly have assignments. The classes are graded by a research paper and an exam or a field trip and two practical quizzes, for example. This is much different from my Ohio State classes, where I typically would have homework every week and was required to show up to lecture. Having this much freedom feels empowering, especially for someone who may not struggle to succeed in school.

Another difference I noticed was that all my classes had someone aged 35+ in them. In the United States, we have more of a “keep pushing forward to the next step” and an accomplishment-based culture. This leads to many people being stuck in a job they hate for the rest of their lives. While in many other European countries and Australia, it is not uncommon to take a gap year or do something else until it is clear what you want to accomplish in the future. The older people in my classes are a testament that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Lastly, the things I have seen and done since coming to Australia have been life changing.  I have done things like petting a koala, going sand-boarding, visiting the beach, and much more. This has all been a great experience so far and I know that the best is still yet to come! I look forward to the trips I hope to do to Ningaloo reef, New Zealand, Margaret River, Tasmania, and Bali. Meanwhile, I am having the time of my life exploring Perth and engaging with many diverse people. Please enjoy my pictures from some of my adventures so far! Until next time. Cheers, mate!

Sand boarding at the Lancelin Sand Dunes, which are a little over an hour from Perth!
Sand boarding at the Lancelin Sand Dunes, which are a little over an hour from Perth!