Rebecca Hobbs - Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia
Byron Bay, Australia
I remember sitting around the common room in Schwartz hall Freshman year when my friend mentioned how fun it would be to study abroad in Australia. Honestly, I hadn't really thought of it before, but the moment she said it I knew I wanted to go too! Looking back on my experience now, I can't imagine what life would be like if I hadn't gone. After studying abroad, my life took a 360 and I have a completely different perspective on almost everything.
I went to Australia without any prior knowledge or expectations, and really I can't think of a better way to go abroad. Don't go with expectations; go to learn; go to explore yourself and the world! Some of my most favorite experiences in Australia revolved around discussions about word differences. I had no idea how many phrases in the same language could mean something completely different from one culture to the other. In fact, I was still learning new words at the airport when I left. There was one point at the end of my trip where I couldn't get in touch with my friend Josie, and I remember telling my Aussie friends that I couldn't get up with her. It wasn't until I had said that multiple times that I learned they had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually they said, "Ohh…You mean you can't get on to her?" To them, the phrase, "get up with" sounded like I wanted to get even with my friend, but to me, "get on to" just sounded really weird. I'm sure you can understand why.
Rebecca chilling with a kangaroo
Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef
Let me tell you a little about Wagga Wagga. This is "the land of many crows," at least that's what the name means in Aboriginal, but there really aren't any crows. It isn't pronounced "Wag" like the dining hall, but more like "Wog". However, the name is funny either way, and you are right, it isn't where you typically think someone would study in Australia. I know what you are thinking, because those are the two things I have to say every time I tell someone about my experience. I always argue that anyone who visits Australia will go to Sydney, Melbourne, and the Great Barrier Reef, but what about the small towns? Wagga is like the heart of Australia. CSU is the only university with an exchange relationship with UNCW where you can walk to class with kangaroos and go wine and cheese tasting while overlooking the University's very own vineyard.
Australian Idol auditions on campus
One of many dress up parties
Wagga is not where I thought I would be, but looking back now, I would never take it back. I was there for a reason and I can clearly see it now. Growing up in Raleigh, I never thought I would enjoy living in a small town. Wilmington was almost my limit. Now I have a different view, and that is simply summed up in the following phrase: Only the people make the place. Wagga is beautiful, and it is the people that make it so for me. I want to return and possibly live there, not because of the beautiful gardens or the kangaroos, but for my amazing friends.
I still talk to my Australian friends every night, so I have to keep the vocabulary I learned while abroad to communicate more effectively with them. While in Australia, I met the most incredible people and lifelong friends. Somehow, in only five months, I felt like I was closer to my friends in Australia than even some of my closest friends in America. Australians are so open and willing to talk about anything. Coming from America, where people tend to put up walls, especially for new acquaintances, I really appreciated this cultural difference. I really got a since of the "mateship" in Australia, and felt like people were more concerned with who I was inside than what I looked like on the outside.
Fox hunting: a true cultural experience
A night out
It's time to talk about the major changes in my life post study abroad. I'm making plans to return to Australia after I graduate in December 2008! This summer I'm applying to graduate school in Australia for a masters in International Communication or International Studies. After returning from Australia, I gained a new passion for international students, so I switched my Communication focus from visual communication to intercultural communication. Thank God for a major like Communication Studies! I switched career paths and my major easily facilitated my new focus. I also signed up for the student mentor program with the Office of International Programs (OIP) and I made friends with every international student I could find. I picked up a job as Desk Receptionist in the International House and now I'm interning (soon to be working) in the OIP.
Looking back, I can honestly say that I learned and grew more while studying abroad than I did over the past 7 years prior to my experience! I'm now passionate about learning, I have direction, confidence, and overall complete satisfaction with life! Now, on a more personal note, I promise you won't find purpose or complete satisfaction with life solely from studying abroad, but for me, it was definitely a time of growth spiritually and intellectually. I felt like God revealed my life's purpose to me in a very real and exciting way.
Now about you! Don't just sit there! Make study abroad a reality in your life, because I guarantee you will never regret it. I guarantee you will learn and grow like never before! Visit the office of International Programs and start your journey today!
~Rebecca Hobbs, Communication Studies Major
Working at the American Embassy in Canberra, Australia on July 4th