Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Re-entry

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.

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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!