Embarking on a Full Year Exchange Programme in Australia has been an incredibly transformative journey that has significantly impacted my academic development, cultural understanding, and personal growth. My time at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) offered me a wealth of experiences that I believe will continue to shape my life in numerous ways.
One key aspect of my year in Australia was the academic component. Studying at a foreign institution exposed me to new academic perspectives, teaching methods, and subject matter. I gained confidence in laboratory skills like microscopy, pipetting, and blood film analysis. The General Microbiology course taught me how to cultivate microorganisms using techniques such as streaking an agar plate and inoculating a broth, which will benefit my final year at my home university. Additionally, health science subjects like Public Health and Non-communicable Diseases provided a fresh perspective on my degree, emphasizing the importance of health policies, stakeholder involvement, and initiatives. These courses deepened my understanding of healthcare’s connection to social dynamics and public well-being, including challenges faced by minority groups and efforts to minimize discrimination. Teaching methods at UTS were highly engaging. Unlike my mostly online experience at University of Westminster due to Covid-19, at UTS, I finally had the opportunity to attend in-person classes, allowing for faster absorption of the material. The labs were equipped with tablets and headphones for optimal learning conditions. Grading in Australia starts from 85 (High Distinction), contrasting with the UK’s First-Class Honours starting at 70, which I find more suitable for master’s applications.
Living in a foreign country provided me with a unique opportunity to fully immerse myself in a different culture, allowing me to gain a profound understanding of its customs, traditions, and values. Through active engagement with the local community, I developed a sense of empathy and a genuine appreciation for the beauty of cultural diversity. My university courses and Sydney events introduced me to indigenous Australians, highlighting the importance of prioritising their needs and equal access to healthcare. Museums and galleries provided insights into Aboriginal experiences during European colonisation. Moving beyond historical events, Australia offers diverse entertainment, including the Australian Football League (AFL) and the spectacular Vivid Sydney festival. The AFL, with inter-state competitions in Australian rules football, gathers fans in pubs, same as the UK’s sports culture. Additionally, Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of lights, transforms the city into a vibrant showcase of art and 3D projections, attracting people of all ages.
My year abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone, fostering personal growth. Challenges included homesickness, language barriers, and adapting to a new lifestyle. Despite an 11-hour time zone difference, I maintained daily contact with family and friends. Being a non-native English speaker initially posed language challenges that I overcame. Having adapted to the British accent after years in the UK, I now had to start anew with the Australian accent and its associated slangs. However, with the help of my Aussie friends and my part-time job, I was able to adapt more quickly, learning slangs such as “arvo” for afternoon, “barbie” for barbeque, “brekkie” for breakfast, and “g’day” for good day.
Adjusting to a new lifestyle was challenging from the start. As someone used to having a wide circle of friends wherever I went, moving to a new country where I knew no one was a harsh transition. However, this experience pushed me beyond my limits. I overcame the fear of dining alone and embraced solo adventures like bushwalks, skydiving and scuba diving. This programme allowed me to develop self-assurance and a newfound appreciation for myself, as well as the ability to seek help from people I have never met before. In addition to resilience and adaptability, during this experience I have also sharpened my problem-solving skills. When faced with challenges at work or miscommunication with my flat mate, I could not simply reach out to my family or close friends due to the inconvenient time zone difference. Thus, I had to employ logical and strategic thinking to find the most effective solutions to these situations.
In conclusion, my year abroad in Australia was a transformative chapter in my life, characterised by academic growth, cultural immersion, and personal development. The exposure to new academic perspectives, practical laboratory skills, and in person learning experiences enriched my educational journey. Immersing myself in Australian culture broadened my horizons, deepened my understanding of diversity and fostered empathy and appreciation for different traditions. The challenges I faced, from language barriers to adapting to a new lifestyle, boosted my personal growth, strengthening my resilience, adaptability, willingness to learn and problem-solving abilities. As I reflect upon this remarkable experience, I am grateful for the opportunities it presented and the valuable lessons it taught me, which will undoubtedly shape my bright future.
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