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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

American in Australia: a GV student’s experience during study abroad

Courtesy | Mia Swartz

Grand Valley State University offers a wide range of study abroad programs that cater to a variety of majors, graduate programs, student-athletes and honors college students. 

Study abroad participant sophomore Mia Swartz is majoring in biomedical science with minors in both sociology and chemistry. She is currently experiencing life in Brisbane, Australia as she works on completing her sociology minor as part of GVSU’s study abroad program.

Swartz studying with Australia’s University of Sunshine Coast (UniSC). She said when searching for study abroad programs she instantly fell in love with UniSC and knew she wanted to go there.

“I picked Australia because it has been the number one place I have wanted to go since I was very young,” Swartz said. “There are so many amazing animals and I find the culture so interesting.” 

For many students, a large aspect of studying abroad is the sightseeing and traveling opportunities that a particular location offers. Swartz’s program specifically immerses her in Australian wildlife and culture, with the possibilities of travel opportunities to neighboring areas. 

“I already have had some great experiences, like going to the Australian Zoo and Noosa National Park, but I would love to be able to go to Sydney, Cairns and Adelaide,” Swartz said. “My goal is also to go to New Zealand at some point during the semester.” 

While preparing for her trip, Swartz had to coordinate class registration, insurance, housing and the proper visas. Swartz said one of the ways GVSU’s Study Abroad office assisted her in the process was helping make class selection easy.

“Grand Valley has a list of all the classes that previous students have taken and gotten credit for at your chosen university,” Swartz said. “I was able to choose three of my classes off of this list, but the last one I had to submit for approval to make sure it met Grand Valley’s standards.” 

While the classes Swartz takes in Australia count towards her sociology minor, the structure of classes are very different from that of her experience in the U.S.

“In America, we have lots of busy work and something due at least once a week. In Australia, you only have three assignments for the whole semester, they are just big projects or presentations,” Swartz said. “Also, every Australian class only meets once a week, unlike in America where each class meets usually two or three times a week.”

Swartz said this contrast in schedule and workload creates a more easygoing environment than what she has experienced in the U.S.

“I would say Americans live to work but Australians work to live, if that makes sense. I think people here are also much more connected to nature and the animals, they are always outside all the time,” Swartz said. 

Additionally, Swartz has experienced some cultural differences including the common Australian practice of walking barefoot. 

UniSC’s campus is very open, with access to wildlife and natural landscaping. Swartz mentioned there are many coffee shops and cafes that students walk to, which allow them to get to know the area. So far, she said it has been a smooth transition into the new environment. 

“I like how all of the buildings are very open, like the classrooms just lead to the outside. The university also has lots of resources for study abroad students, which has been very helpful,” Swartz said.

Aside from studying and immersing herself in Australian culture, Swartz has also made new friends, some of whom are experiencing the same things she is during the study abroad program. One of her three roommates is also American on a similar program. She said all of her roommates help create a community where they can lean on each other during the tough parts of being away from home.

“The hardest part of studying abroad is definitely leaving your family and friends back home,” Swartz said. “It’s really hard to see them all continue their life, but just without you.” 

While homesickness is a struggle, Swartz has been able to enjoy meeting all kinds of new people, in addition to her classmates. 

“I have met people from all over the world who are also studying abroad,” Swartz said. “I have met people from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Ecuador.”

Swartz will be studying abroad until May and hopes to make the most of the opportunity by learning about new cultures and exploring the national parks and lakeshores that surround UniSC.

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