Hello! My name is Emily Sprecher and I’m studying abroad as an exchange student in Australia this semester. At home I major in civil engineering at the University of Maine in the United States, and am continuing my studies here at Deakin University in the state of Victoria! I’ve been in Australia less than a week now, but it’s been one of the most eventful weeks of my life.
It took about 24 hours in total of flying (excluding layovers) to reach Melbourne, Australia from Maine. Leading up to my departure I felt both nervous and excited, and saying goodbye to my family knowing I won’t see them again for four months was very difficult. I’m a planner by nature and was very on top of my preparatory to-do lists prior to leaving. This helped put my mind at ease and allowed me to focus on mentally adapting to the change. When I left home there was snow on the ground and it was -15°F/-26°C outside, and when I touched down in Melbourne it was 75°F/24°C and sunny. Unfortunately, my luggage was not as lucky as I was and missed my final flight connection. So here I was, overseas for the first time and without as much as a change of clothes to begin this once in a lifetime adventure. I did my best to brush off any anxiety induced by the mishap and surprised myself by how positive I could adapt to the unexpected circumstances. On the ride to my host university I began absorbing this new world around me: Trees and birds I’ve never seen before, vehicles driving on the left side of the road, buildings built into hillsides and farm after farm for miles between Melbourne and Deakin. The plants and animals are curiously different than those at home, but there are so many similarities that I often forget I’m so far away. The small differences—especially the way locals talk—are what remind me of my distance from home. I think the similarities are what have reduced the culture shock I’ve experienced so far, finding myself excited to be in a new place and meeting new people but also frustrated when I seek something specific from home.
I’m thankful for the international programs offered by my host university that have definitely helped me during this transition. My third, fourth and fifth days in Australia were spent on a welcome trip to the town of Warrnambool with over one hundred other international students from three different Deakin campuses. While there I learned to surf, play footy (AFL) and lawn bowl! On the way back we visited a park where I saw my first wallaby (finally) and many koalas and emus in their natural habitat. We also had the wonderful opportunity to speak with an aboriginal man that taught us the proper way to throw a boomerang.
The journey so far has been unforgettable and I’m excited to see what comes next!