From February until June, I spent a semester studying abroad in Australia. When I initially signed up for the program, I was so excited to go. I was ready to leave the country, have new experiences, and get out of my routine for a while. As the semester approached, I was more apprehensive. Some of my fears were totally irrational and some turned out to be legitimate, like the challenge of transitions and being away from familiar support systems. Never the less, I greatly enjoyed my time abroad, and found that I learned so much more than I ever expected. Here is a snapshot of my time in Australia.
What would you say is the coolest thing you did?
Holding a koala was definitely a highlight, especially because as a kid, I thought I wanted to be a zoologist just so I could take care of koalas. I also really loved sleeping out under the stars in the Outback. You could see so many!
What was your favorite moment or experience from the program?
We went to a place called Stradbroke Island, and I think I enjoyed every part of that experience. I loved seeing and hearing what we were learning in our Aboriginal studies class in action from Indigenous Australians. It was an honor to have them impart their knowledge on us. My absolute favorite moment was listening to our guide play the didgeridoo and do the hand motions along with them (like a snake, kangaroo, or eagle) and see the animals come to life. As a performance artist, story is very important to me, so to see a form of storytelling so rich yet new to me was great.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
It was difficult to be away from my Belhaven family (my home university) and not be in theatre. I really felt like I was starving myself and missing a huge part of me. I did not realize how invested my life is in theatre and therefore did not anticipate how challenging it would be to have it essentially absent from my life. Knowing that I was away from my community and friends pre-graduation was also hard to grapple at times.
What are some of the biggest take-aways from this trip?
- I am a citizen of the kingdom first, the world second, and the US third. My kingdom citizenship should influence my actions and opinions as a global citizen and both of those should influence how I live as an American citizen.
- The Church is meant to be multicultural. It is made up of people from all over the world and when we get to heaven, every nation and tongue will be present. That being said, we as the body of Christ should be learning and growing more together. Christianity is not “Western” though we act like it is. What does it look like to be a Native American Christian? A Chinese Christian? And how can we create an environment where culture and faith can coexist?
- Our God can redeem cultural practices just as he redeems us.
- There is no percentage of Aboriginality. In the same way, there are no percentages of any nationality or cultural identity. I am Filipino American. I am Californian. I am a mixture of my places and backgrounds and there is no reason to deny anyone else’s right to identify with their own cultural mixtures.
- I am a writer. Though I don’t like to say it because I don’t want to fail to live up to the title, it is a title I take on none the less.
Do you have any advice to anyone thinking of studying abroad?
Do it! Just do it! Though it may be hard to get there or hard once you are there, it is worth it. I learned so much being out of my comfort zone and being in places and situations I would otherwise never find myself in. I also recommend going through a study abroad program like BestSemester. I was hesitant at first because I did not want to be limited by a group, but some of the best learning opportunities and adventures came from being with the group. It was also easier to transition having others there beside me and leaders supporting me.
What advice do you have for those about to study abroad?
You are there on an academic program so don’t forget to study, but remember, your grades do not define you. Spend time with people. Learn about those around you, especially those you live with (like if you have a host family). Keep a healthy distance from your friends and family back home. You can’t be in two places at once and too much contact can actually make you more homesick and/or take you away from the limited time you have in your current place. Above all, be willing and open to learn all the time, not just in the classroom. After all, you’ll have classrooms to go back to at your own university. You are only at this uni in this place for one semester. A few months goes by incredibly quickly. Trust me.