Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Re-entry

Being home

I have been home for almost two months, and I wouldn’t say I am struggling to cope with the change, but it’s certainly a lot different to what I expected. I thought the experience of returning to Australia would leave me in despair, because of the final few incredibly intense days I spent in Los Angeles. The fourth of July was my last night in the city and rather than heading out, drinking and partying, I spent it watching fireworks outside my window with my best friend. It was the most magical moment of my life, it could have come straight from a scene in a Hollywood movie, but it happened to me and I am very grateful. While watching the fireworks show, I thought about home and how nothing could ever be this good again.

In reality, and in the present day I am very happy. I don’t think there was anything anti-climactic about going home at all. In fact, I knew that coming home was a huge part of exchange. It wasn’t a negative experience, as I thought it would be. I really wanted to see my family, I missed them a lot. There are only so many places in the world you can visit, without feeling the hollowness that comes with not having your family beside you.

I haven’t seen all my friends from home yet, but I regularly meet up with a few of my closest friends. I feel like I need that interaction, otherwise I will probably go crazy. It is difficult to stay motivated for uni, and since I am only there once a week, I’ve been looking for a job. I’m in the transition stage between university and the real world. I feel like this is one of those things that’s not as bad as it seems to be.

Anyway, I hope everyone who has recently come back from overseas is settling in and sorting out their new lives 🙂

Good luck!


Coming Home

I was meant to stay for the full year… but family issues are making me come home early. I’m still deciding whether or not it is the best decision, but really I’ll only be missing out on 4 months… I would have been here for 8. I think I’m at peace with the decision, I just hope I don’t regret it. I don’t think I will, but it will be a huge shock to go back to Australia 4 months before I was meant to. It seems meant to be though, there are just so many things going on I don’t think I can handle being on the other side of the world.

I’m so happy to have been here for the time that I have had… but I think I’m ready to go home.


Home again

I leave within the month to return to Australia. I have this acceptance that I have to leave. I want to go home, but I wouldn’t mind if I stayed here for another 6 months.
It’s strange for me to explain how I feel. It’s not like homesickness where I would cry and feel sorry for being in such a stupid town in stupid old Germany full of stupid people with stupid ancient buildings.
Now I just feel like, I know what it’s like to live in Bavaria. (I say Bavaria because it is the richest state in Germany) and I think I’d be happier in Australia.
Although, “happier” might mean angrier too. Here I’ve been completely devoid of notions of politics and stupid politicians. Recently I’ve been catching up on Australia and my god, is there a lot of things I’ll have to get involved in when I get home. Not the least getting a big sticker that says, “Failure O’Farrell”
But I also like the way I’ve seen how different things are here and how they should maybe be implemented back home. I have this feeling that from seeing how other people do things I can make my country better.
I don’t know, it is this strange sort of patriotism. I think that Australia is one of the best countries in the world, and I’ve seen some examples on how to make it better.
I’m afraid of that “I’m not from here anymore” response to returning. I don’t want it to be like that. I want to be able to just go back to the familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t strange and unfamiliar here, not anymore. It’s just that I feel I’d be happier with the stuff I’ve been familiar with for 20 years than what I’ve been familiar with for 6 months. I know,, it’s not really a fair time to compare, I also want to come back here later in life, but right now I feel like I could be accomplishing more back in Australia.
Who knows…

P.S. I also really miss sandwiches/salads/small lunches. Here a hot, cooked lunch is really common. Took me a while to notice that, but the “Mensa” or cafeteria has mostly only warm dishes, and everyone seems to think it is normal… I also miss our type of bread. I can live with bread here, but it’s mostly a choice of sourdough or really crappy “America bread” which is stale, preservative ridden, horrible tasting bread that looks like what you can get in Australia. I also am a bit of a food snob, so I can’t wait to walk into Woolies and have such selection of brands I know and fruit and veg from the next state not South America (not that it’s a problem, I just like buying Aussie grown) and I won’t miss the ability to know where all my food comes from (here nothing is labelled unless it’s something from Aldi that they sell in Aus). Probably only 3 foodstuffs I will miss from here are Kaiserbrotchen, Spatzle and Chocolate. Beer and it’s quality and diversity and cheapness is also a problematic farewell.


Culture Shock: Australian Edition

I recently returned from three months living and studying abroad in the current economic shambles that is the country of Greece.

Having travelled extensivly and lived abroad before I presumed this return would be like no other, sure I would be sad for a day or two but would get back into the flow of things quickly like an professional traveller.

WRONG.

For some reason this return has been the hardest and I was not sure why.

This was only three months away, last time I was abroad living in Ireland for seven.

I knew I had limited time in Greece due to visa restrictions, so it wasn’t a surprise I was asked nicely to leave once those three months were up.

I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends and the beautiful country which I realised I loved more than I let on.

Yet something had gone wrong this time and I fell into a pit of sadness and had a mini depressive episode the first few weeks back.

I realised that whilst my family were pleased to see me, many friends had moved on or where busy or lived in differing corners of the globe now.

Being the constant traveller makes you extremely popular on social networking sites such as Facebook where everyone claims to live vicariously through your travels, but it makes for a pretty lousy physical relationship, with many wary of putting in a lot of effort when im potentially going to run away again to some other distant land anytime soon.

Those that I have seen have helped make the transition smoother, especially my best friend. It doesn’t matter how long we go without seeing each other nothing changes and we still have the best time.

I had applied to two internships before I came home so that the re entering of Perth would be easier, both of which I found out I did not succeed in getting.

I finally found a part time job which is lovely and has deffinatly helped in regards to finances, but something is missing still.

Two of my best friends currently still live in Greece, and it is often with a pang of jealousy that I Skype with them with their tanned skin, sunny weather and hilarious stories of the daily trials of Greek life.

Whilst in the current situation I dont have a pressing desire to be living in Greece again, I have come to the conclusion that right now Australia does not hold the answer. And that I need to continue my searches for jobs and experiences elsewhere.

I also had a terrible headache for the first week and a half which I realised was my body going through caffeine with drawls from the amount of coffee and frappes I was consuming daily in Greece.

It was also hard to get up before 12pm in the day, and eating dinner at 6pm was also eerily strange, as that was normally coffee time not dinner time!

In saying all of this things are better now, I have been home a month and have really enjoyed spending quality time with my family and catching up with friends. I am still struggling to find any work or work experience or internships in journalism/public relations but am becoming more upbeat and positive again.

I think the change of weather (well in three months when spring arrives and winter ends) shall be good and I’m starting new activities and volunteering in an effort to re inspire myself and feel as though I have a purpose being back here in Perth (study doesn’t count, its like having a job you dont get paid for 🙂 )

To all of the other returning study abroaders I hope your transition home is much much smoother than mine was this time and that the reverse culture shock of returning home does not last too long.

The re entering culture shock as bad as it has been this time around, I certainly would not change the experiences and friendships that I made in Greece and would readily go through it again in a heart beat.

Morganx


Exchange gave me not just an experience… but a home.

So I’m going back soon, however it I don’t feel like I’m leaving. I know I’m leaving, however it just feels like everyday I’m just going keep waking up in America and go about my normal life just as I have done for the past 11 months. It’s funny I remember a similar feeling when I was leaving Australia. However I know when reality kicks in I’m going to miss this place so much. It’s turned into a home, I don’t want to leave. This is the best thing I have done with my life and I will recommend exchange to anyone, but I’ll tell you the one negative about it… you have to come back 


Coming home

Hi

Some of you will be beginning to think about returning home – if you’re lucky, after some more time travelling before you get here.

How do you feel about the return – nervous? apprehansive? exultant? can’t wait? We hope it has been an awesome and inspiring time away, but also that you will continue to share your thoughts with us once you get back to Australia.

We will be offering you the chance to capitalise on your time away through re-entry workshops back on campus, and hope to see you all there, sharing your thoughts and learning how to make the most of your experiences once you’re back – whether that’s in an educational or a professional or a life setting.

If you find you feel a bit like a fish out of water once you’re back, remember that transition is a great opportunity for growth. Enjoy!

Keep blogging – your posts have been wonderful. And don’t forget, there are cash prizes for students from each campus for photographs and reflections – details on the blog.

Jan


Re Entry into Australian Life: Reverse Culture Shock

Hey all,

It’s been my first week back at UOW this week and I found myself a little scared to be back! So much had changed and was different and yet so much was still the same! Every now and again I find myself thinking “I’m homesick.” I had this really weird moment the other day, where I was sorting through my UK photos for printing and I thought “I miss being home.” Huh? Was? Ich wohne nicht in London/Scotland/Wales. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still homesick.

I was thinking about what was discussed at the ‘welcome back’ session with Tonia, and I can definitely say that I feel like a bit of a hybrid of an Australian and a British girl now. As I posted on my personal blog, “I love Australia. I love the bush. I love the sun. I love my friends. I love to write Australian bushland poetry and I love going to The National Park for swims and picnics. I even love the song ‘I am Australian’, in particular these stanza’s:

I’m the teller of stories
I’m the singer of songs
I’m Albert Namajira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian.

I’m the hot winds of the desert
I’m the black soils of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the droughts and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky,
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.

But see the UK and Ireland have my family and they have the culture we don’t have.”

I decided in light of how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll sum up the things I liked best about the UK using pictures.

1. Seeing real snow for the first time and understanding the meaning of ‘proper cold.’


A day trip to Loch Ness


Stuck in a snow storm without an umbrella in London.

2. Meeting my relatives overseas in both Ireland and England for the first time!

3. My flatmates and our weird and wonderful adventures.

Halloween at Flat 12!

4. The history and culture in the UK

All those old buildings and churches were so awesome. One fond memory is of my American flat mate and I doing a guided tour of Lancaster castle with a truly creepy guide who seemed ghoulishly obsessed with death. On the entertainment front, I went to the theatre four times when I was in the UK itself! That’s a play a month! I couldn’t help it. The tickets were so much more affordable then back home and I loved the atmostphere. And after all, who wouldn’t have fun trying to explain the three hour plot of Les Miserables in London’s West End to their Chinese flat mate throughout the entire performance without annoying everyone around us?


My two play Guides. One for Hamlet and one for Season’s Greetings with some of the cast’s autographs.

5. Real Christmas Markets.

Market and fair in Edinburgh, Scotland. I took this on the actual ferris wheel.

It’s funny. When I got towards the end of my trip in the UK I was so homesick and just wanted to come home to Australia. After a week or two I instantly wanted my travelling life back! Anyone else going through this?


Photo Contest!

Photograph contest: Capturing the Experience

We’re looking for your photographs to capture the study abroad experience: what you’ve learned, crucial experiences, breakthroughs, obstacles, all the lessons and experiences you’ll bring back with you. The contest is open to students from any of the institutions participating in the ‘Bringing the Learning Home’ project.

How to enter: Send your entry to l.butcher@murdoch.edu.au with your name, email, permanent address and institution (Murdoch, Macquarie or UOW).

Entries accepted until 29 February 2012; winners will be announced in March 2012. You can submit more than one entry.

Make sure to include at least one sentence explaining the photo or describing why the photo is important to you. Remember, this is not just a photo contest: what you write, what you’ve experienced, are as important as the quality of the image. An image that isn’t necessarily artistically pretty can certainly win a prize if the experience is particularly compelling. It’s not the quality of the image but the quality of the experience that matters most.

Prizes:
Three prizes will be awarded at each institution: Macquarie University, Murdoch University, and the University of Wollongong. First prize will be $300; second prize $150; third prize $50.

We will be trying to use the images in publications about improving study abroad experience, so don’t be surprised if we ask to publish your photo.


Pa pa, Polska!

It’s the night before I leave Krakow and finish up my exchange experience. Obviously it’s time for a quick reflection.

I didn’t enjoy the university aspect of exchange much, I’ll be honest. I got through two subjects without reading a single academic article or piece of writing – I managed to write entire presentations and exams using Wikipedia and lecture notes alone. And to me, that is a complete joke and should never happen. Other classes I didn’t even bother turning up to because they were boring, because no one did the readings, because no one took attendance and it wasn’t mandatory and I didn’t feel obliged to sit through two hours of an old, fat jolly man enjoying the sound of his own voice while really teaching nothing we couldn’t really in a Norman Davies book.

And because I didn’t get the classes I’d organised to enrol in before I left Australia, my timetable ended up being five days a week, with the one class that attendance was taken for – Polish – being on Mondays and Fridays. No weekends away for me, really, I just skipped a couple of classes here and there but at the end of the day, I had to study and I had to pass. And again, it wasn’t terribly fun and sometimes I feel like I almost wasted my time here because I’ve only been to 6 countries, including Poland.

But 6 countries is still a lot more than a lot of other 20-year-olds I know at home have seen. How many 20-year-old Aussies can say they’ve hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh,  have best friends in Hungary and Slovenia, touched the Berlin Wall, seen Manchester United play at Old Trafford, enjoyed the charm of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan or – more to the point – managed to stumble through four months of living in a still somewhat developing post-communist country where they didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and had never been to before?

Not a bad effort, in my books. I wouldn’t come back to Poland to study again, and I don’t know if I’d come here to work in anything other than an EU-sponsored or funded job because organisation and bureaucracy is terrible here. But I hope there’s an infinite amount of visits to this incredible city in my future.


Student Today, Husky Forever

Even though I have only been home for a month, it seems like a lifetime since I left the University of Connecticut on a very, very cold day. Summing up a week is hard enough, so 5 months is all but impossible! Instead, I will write about some of the things that I learnt that stuck with me.

Firstly, there were the little things that were different to Australia that I simply did not think of, but made a lot of difference. Driving on the opposite side, not a problem, but crossing roads defiantly did! The first night my 2 friends and I arrived in LA, we decided to walk down to Dennys (best restaurant ever). After standing at the traffic lights, having a chat, for AGES, we were soon embarrassed to discover that in LA the ‘walk’ signal doesn’t make a noise, so we had missed about 3 goes, because we weren’t paying attention! It may seem insignificant, but I can still clearly remember it, 6 months on! Being a western country, I had naively assumed that everything would be the same as in Australia. Boy, was I wrong. And don’t even get me started on tipping! 5 months later, and I’m still not 100% sure of the proper way to do it.

Next up, adapting. While for the first couple of days I felt like a fish out of water, by the end of my stay, I was an unofficial American. I adapted really quickly to all the little things that would make my life easier. With limited funds and no one but yourself looking out for you, you have to! I also started saying ‘bunch’ instead of ‘heaps’ and ‘chug’ instead of ‘skull’, just to make my life easier when the Americans had no idea what I was saying.

I cannot write about my stay in America without mentioning School Spirit. At UConn, there is a slogan written all over the place ‘Student today, Husky forever’, and that is how I feel. Long after leaving there, I will still be a Husky, and I have all the merchandise to go with it! On any given day, half the students would be wearing UConn clothing, on game day, this would go up to 99%. The basketballers were famous around College, people would literally go up to them and ask for photos. The Co-Op sold UConn branded EVERYTHING, from Christmas decorations to dog collars to baby clothes. UConn wasn’t just our school, it was our life.

By the end of my trip, I was feeling homesick, and I was ready to go home. After 1 week back in Australia but, I was already missing everything about the place that had been my home for the last 5 months, and the best 5 months of my life. Exchange was the best thing I have ever done, and the experience will stay with me for life.


On the Road home

My semester abroad is now coming to end, with exactly 14days left until I have to get on that long haul flight back to OZ.

Its exam time here in Bath. Which I am finding quite odd. Classes finished about 5 days before christmas, students are given 3 weeks off and then into exams. If I was to be continuing on for another semester, I would only have a one week break before starting the next semester. I much prefer our univeristy system, it just seems to make more sense! (although the 3 week break over christmas did allow for ample travel time! Spain was gorgeous!)

I spent the christmas town hopping, 3 or so days in different towns around the UK with friends from uni and also friends who were on exchange in Australia last year. A cold christmas felt a tad odd, although it did feel more ‘ traditionally christmas’ or what christmas seems like in all the films anyway! But it felt pretty weird without my family and friends and the beach! although we did manage to get in some snow cricket on christmas day just for my benefit.

Having exams right before I finish my semester abroad has made it incredibly hard to see everyone before I fly out. But making sure I see everyone has made me realise just how many amazing people I’ve met over here. From england, europe, and even some new aussie mates. My english friends have taken me under their wing completely and where at the beginning of the semester I was introduced as “the token Aussie”.. I’ve now recieved “oz” instead of Erin as a nickname.  My sports team were even going to see if they could get uni funding for me to come back to italy in april for their beach tour! (unfortunately its not going to happen 😦  ) I’ve managed to convince some friends from some of my classes to do placement in the southern hemisphere, with some scattered over Aus and a  few in NZ, just gives me an excuse to go and see more of the world closer to home ( I have most definately got the travel bug!)

This 6 months has gone so fast, and yet at the same time it feels like so long ago that I was in Wollongong. Leaving Bath is going to be Bittersweet as i’m excited to go home, but also sad to leave. But yesterday when I packed up a box to send home (mainly consisting of a winter wardrobe) I thought about just how amazing this expereince has been.
Not only have I made friends from around the world and seen 16 countries,but i’ve seen snow for the first time, had a cold christmas,  learnt how to cook, tried new sports, survived a long distance relationship and minus temperatures! I’ve even been able to reccomend places and travel spots to other people. I’ve had a snow day, town hopped the UK, met reletives on the other side of the world, experienced homesickness, stood on a frozen lake and represented my country as we lost the rugby and the ashes and loved every minute of it all! I’ve even started hearing english accents as normal and australian accents as incredibly odd! (when they pop up on tv or on the street)

When I was organising my exchange trip, I met another girl from Wollongong who was also coming to Bath, we even discoverd we have a lot of close friends back home. Having her here with me in Bath has been so wonderful. Not only did it give me a travel buddy, but also a cooking partner and someone to talk about home with. She was there when I had some family troubles, and also when we both had boy troubles back home it was great to have someone to talk to.

Obviously procrastination has kicked in at its best with this long post.. But a few photos from awesome times here.

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Ultimate Frisbee Banter (post game fun with the other team, more important then the actual game itself :P), My frisbee team making it to nationals, First snow, SQUIRREL!, setting up the christmas tree,  At the top of Barcelona, amazing friends from uni, standing on the frozen lake, making it to the uni for the very first time!