This past July, I took a winter break to enjoy a spectacular five weeks abroad in Europe. This was to be my longest time away from home and the thought of being away from my family and friends for such an extended period brought me to tears.
As I kissed my parents goodbye, and clung to my girlfriend until the final boarding call echoed over the terminal, I walked away from everything I knew into the unknown. Once in the cabin, I thought about how anyone could leave everything they know, all their support systems, for such long periods of time.
But this is the case for thousands of university students across Australia, who pack their bags and head to countries around the world in order to complete part of their degrees. They readily leave their supports systems behind for the sack of experiencing new adventures.
In 2012, over 24,000 students across Australia studied abroad, nearly 10,000 more than the three years prior. Numbers appear to be growing every year.
The life of a university student is immensely time-consuming, with heavy workloads and assignment deadlines, leaving little time to enjoy other aspects of life. Studying abroad offers students the chance to mix study with pleasure by offering opportunities for different experiences while attending university.
Danielle Stranieri took on this new experience and lived in Texas for a year as a student.
“I’ve gained so much confidence to really push for what I want, and there are so many opportunities that living abroad has to offer,” she told upstart.
“We get stuck in our comfort zones, and become scared to leave that bubble but I think if you leave that comfort zone it’s amazing.
Stranieri believes that travelling abroad means that you gain an authentic experience of another culture, discovering what you truly enjoy and possibly things you never knew about yourself.
Looking back at her time, Stranieri now considers Texas her second home, and has even found love with a boyfriend who serves in the United States Army.
“There will always be fear whenever you travel to a country that is different and new, but it’s definitely something that is worthwhile in the end,” she said.
One of the fears students do have is the daunting prospect of meeting so many new people and being in a community of unfamiliar faces. However, the majority of universities welcoming students from abroad provide an orientation program that connects them with their fellow overseas students.
John Tullio is about to embark on a trip studying abroad for the next six months.
“I am just pure 100% excited, Maybe when it gets closer to the date I will be more nervous but at the moment it’s just pure excitement,” he told upstart.
“This is probably the most I have prepared for anything in my life.
“There are just so many forms, and due dates to remember. You have to do your research on the university, make sure you find matches for the subjects you can get credited on. You have to make sure you find the correct flights and organise your visas,” he said.
“I don’t think I will really miss my loved ones because it will be a new and fun experience for me. It might be a little bit harder for them than me.
“But of course there will be times where you miss home, you miss Australia and the hugs of your loved ones,” he said.
John Tullio will spend the next six months studying at the University of Surrey and travelling around Europe. He explained that his life was becoming too routine in Australia and he expected his study abroad to spice up his life.
“Australia was getting a bit cruisy, stagnant, no fluctuation. My life is essentially work, school, sleep. I would hope this would spice up my life a little.
“I think I am doing this to show to myself that I can be independent, not that I’m not independent now, it’s just that with this experience is like you starting with nothing. You don’t know anyone or anything and have to take it upon yourself to make it yours,” he said.
More than ever, universities around the country are encouraging their students to take the leap and study a semester abroad. The first step is a simple click of the mouse.
Christian Janev is a fourth year Law/Media student from LaTrobe University.