Name: Lauren Allsop
Program: UMSL affiliate program through Australearn in Melbourne, Australia
Term Abroad: Fall semester during junior year
Having always loved to travel and experience new cultures, studying abroad was something I had always anticipated doing. While every study abroad experience is different and truly unique, I knew it would be a rewarding and possibly once in a lifetime experience. Although there are so many different countries and cultures that have always interested me, I ultimately chose to spend a semester in Melbourne, Australia. I found Australia to be a very easy culture to assimilate into with, in my opinion, minimal culture shock. Obviously, English being the national language makes living and traveling in Australia much easier. The city of Melbourne is such a global melting pot, and while living there I felt I was able to experience not only Australian culture but many others as well.
One of my favorite things about Swinburne University was the location. Situated in Hawthorn, an inner-city suburb just East of Melbourne, the train station was right on campus (about 30 seconds walk from my apartment), and only about a 5 minute train ride to the city. My apartment was located right on campus, literally a minute walk to class, the train station, the grocery store and shops. Hawthorn is a perfect surrounding for a college campus, featuring tons of shops, restaurants, and bars. I was easily able to find work within the first couple weeks of arriving in Melbourne at a café just a few minutes' walk from my apartment.
I found the class structure to be quite different from American universities. Typically at UMSL, you attend one class three times a week for a little over an hour, whereas my classes at Swinburne were either once a week for about 3 hours, or twice a week with one lecture for 2 hours and a tutorial for 1 hour. While perhaps unique to Swinburne, I found the work load to be quite different as well, with grading typically based on one or two large projects or papers, rather than numerous smaller assignments, requiring a bit more self-discipline and proper time management.
While I loved Melbourne and the seemingly limitless things the city offered, I of course wanted to travel and see what the rest of Australia had to offer. I was able to visit Cairns and snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, travel to the Gold Coast and see the beautiful beaches of Queensland and New South Wales (including Byron Bay), and take a road trip out of Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road down the coast of Victoria. Unfortunately, unlike condensed Europe, Australia is a huge country, making travel a bit more expensive, but they do have a few discount airlines like Tiger Airways and Jetstar that often offer cheap weekend getaway tickets to Sydney, Brisbane, etc.
One of the main turnoffs of Australia is often I think how expensive it is to live there, and while it is certainly a much higher cost of living compared to the U.S., finding an easy part time job while you're attending school is the best advice I can give you. Minimum wage is over $15/hr and you should have no trouble finding work for between $15-20 per hour. Just 10 - 15 hours a week (less than most of us students work while going to school here in the U.S.) with certainly provide with more than enough to travel and truly enjoy your time in Australia. From culturally diverse and bustling cities to unbelievably beautiful beaches and nature, there is too much to do and see in Australia for just one semester.