Student reflects on life in Australia


I am studying abroad at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Brisbane as a physician assistant (PA) major. When I attended the Learning Abroad Fair my first semester at Gannon and Meagan McHugh, the associate director of learning abroad, told me that it was actually possible for PA students to study abroad, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
For PA majors, the study abroad preparation is quite simple in my opinion; all I had to do was take research process and leadership seminar a year early — in the fall semester of my sophomore year instead of my junior year — and my junior year fall semester was clear to go abroad. Gannon allows students to take their nutrition course abroad in Australia, so I am taking nutrition, theology 2, theology 3, and popular music this semester.
At ACU, students only have to take classes that directly relate to their major, so I have felt pretty out of my element in these classes in which I am, for example, the only non-music major in my popular music class. This, of course, is quite different from Gannon liberal studies courses that are filled with people of all different majors. However, in the friendly Australian way, each of my professors asked me where I was from and my major on the first day, and subsequently all have been more than helpful and understanding of my inexperience in the subjects.
I have been absolutely loving my time abroad in Australia. My favorite part is that I have become friends with people from all over the world: Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand… the list goes on. Through these numerous international friendships, I have learned so much about other cultures and my own, namely how we are all a lot more similar than I originally thought and how people of other cultures view American culture.
I have met the majority of these friends in my apartment building, a student accommodation building called Urbanest. Many of the people who live here are also on a study abroad program for the semester.
The building is essentially a college residence hall; it has resident assistants, a laundry room, study rooms and even a gym, but it is located in the middle of the city, an ideal location, which is quite far away from any college campus.
Another major difference between Australian and American universities is that the majority of Australians live at home while attending university, so most college campuses don’t have dorms. Consequently, the campus life is very different in that it is not as lively at ACU as it is at Gannon; however, I feel that Urbanest is my “campus” in a sense because it is where I spend more of my time and is where my friends and I socialize, study, work out, eat, do laundry, etc.
Studying abroad is a constant adventure. Between going on mid-semester break to Bali with my roommates, taking several weekend trips around Australia and spontaneous ones to nearby beaches and simply being open to new experiences, I would say that I am making the most of my time in Australia.
In reflecting on my time here thus far, I can already tell that I have gained so much from studying abroad. With my greater understanding of other cultures, I now know that I can communicate and become friends with people from all over the world.
From constantly meeting new people on my travels, I now feel perfectly comfortable having conversations with complete strangers. In leaving everything and everyone I know for five months to explore a different part of the world, I have actualized my strong independence that I know is here to stay.
It truly does take a leap of faith and a thirst for adventure to pack up a couple of suitcases and move across the world for a period of time, yet I am so grateful that I chose to do so because I have been afforded the experience of a lifetime.

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