Kaylee Batcha is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Australia
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Studying abroad was unlike anything I had ever done. Prior to departing, I had never left the shores of North America. To hop on a plane and head to the other side of the world (literally!) was a huge risk for me. I wanted that challenge. I needed to stray from my typical everyday routine and try something outside of my comfort zone. The Australia program had everything I was seeking. I was given the chance to enroll in a university and attend classes with Australian students. I was able to live by the beach, discover the aquatic life, and enjoy the beautiful climate. I could easily hop a train into the city or walk the streets of Fremantle. Looking back, I couldn't think of a program that would have been a better fit for me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
During the semester we ventured on a group 'road trip' to discover the aboriginal culture. On the last day of the excursion we had the privilege of spending the day with two aboriginal men and their significant others. At the beginning of the day we were told to become one with the land - fill our stomachs with the air, feel the sand run through our fingers, and let the water cover our skin. We kayaked to an area filled with shells that we collected and later cooked over the fire for dinner. Our guide dove in the water after a shark and even caught a sea turtle with his bare hands. Some students made damper, a type of aboriginal bread while others had the chance to play the didgeridoo, an aboriginal musical instrument. We ate dinner around the campfire listening to the waves hitting the shore. Overall, the day demonstrated how close the culture is with nature. It made me reflect on the choices I make and the values I hold near. I will always remember that cultural experience as a highlight of my time abroad.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Words cannot describe my study abroad experience. There isn't an hour of any day that goes by that an Australian memory doesn't enter my thoughts. Studying abroad taught me how to be my own individual, take chances, and pursue distant dreams. I have learned that the best things in life are the small things, that lifelong friends do exist, and that there is a whole lot of world out there to see. I wouldn't take back or change a single thing about my time in Australia and if given the chance, I would do it all over again.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
I truly believe that in order to fully understand who you are and who you want to become, you need to allow yourself time to be on your own and explore your wants and needs in life. For me, that time was during my semester abroad. I discovered that I can be spontaneous, that I enjoy taking risks, and that I can fit into a culture other than my own. Upon returning from abroad, I have found that I am pursing things far outside my comfort zone. I have gained a new sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. Challenges and obstacles no longer scare me. As crazy as it seems, I attribute all of this to my study abroad experience. Something about concurring an intricate train system, a foreign emergency room, and a currency without pennies, showed me that I can tackle anything life throws my way!
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Challenge yourself and jump in with two feet! You don't want to be the one who looks back and says, "I should have studied abroad!" You will never have a chance as unique as this come your way again. So be courageous, take a leap of faith, and go for it! It is okay to be afraid. The truth is, I was terrified the day I left. But as soon as I got on the plane I didn't look back. I said yes to every person that asked me to try something new, go somewhere different, or do something crazy. You won't come home with regrets but you will come home with lasting memories and lifelong friendships. Most importantly, don't forget to think of those who helped make your experiences possible and thank them often.
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