Semester 2 2015

2nd Place

Jacqueline Klimek – University of Sydney


When I imagined studying abroad, I didn’t think it would actually consist of studying…or an internship. But now I’m almost done with my semester long experience with the marketing team at the Taronga Zoo and I couldn’t be more happy that I decided to take part in it. I have got to experience the Australian culture in a completely different way, meet incredible people that work all over the zoo and see how one of Sydney’s more notorious attractions operates. I’ve taken part in meetings, worked with the design team, wrote material for advertisements, brochures, and awards, helped with events and made website updates. I have gaining new skills that will be invaluable for my future endeavours. But the zoo hasn’t just been all work. After all things do tend to get a little wild here. I’ve got to take a special tour through the zoo where I met kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and even got to hold a feathered tail glider! I went through our wild ropes course, an obstacle course across the zoo, where I got to walk through the treetops and see the Australian animals below me and the most incredible views of the harbour in front of me. I watch the giraffes wander about as I eat my lunch and as I leave for the day, I get to walk through the zoo after it closes. Finally, I get to take the ferry home and watch the sun set over the harbour. Honestly, going to work has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my time here in Sydney. The experience overall has really made my study abroad experience one of a kind!

3rd Place

Raquel Soat – University of New South Wales

Raquel Soat

When you think of studying abroad in Australia, many things come to mind—beautiful beaches, spectacular nightlife, wonderful wildlife, travelling, etc. But when I thought of studying abroad, I wanted to attend a program that would challenge me academically, and help me strive to achieve things I had never dreamt of achieving. UNSW and IFSA have done just that. From the diverse professors to the wide array of classes taught, UNSW taught me how to study for tests more efficiently, manage my time, and (most importantly) they have sparked an interest that I never knew I had before coming to Australia.

My favourite part of my study abroad experience was taking classes not offered at my home university. I am currently taking Terror and Religion, Ancient Egyptian History, Geoscience, and Intro to the Australian Legal System. All of these are of interest to me, but none are offered at my home institution. This semester was all about learning from new perspectives and sparking new interested. The first day of my Terror and Religion class, my professor gave a long-winded lecture about the format of the course, and it was the longest three hours of my life. But throughout the semester, the topic really intrigued me. As a political science student, the course was already right up my alley, but the professor presented the topic in a way that I’d never heard before, and prompted me to apply to write an honours thesis on the subject when I return to my home university. I never thought I would find something I was so passionate about, let alone want to write a thesis on the subject. Moreover, I wrote two (heavily-weighted) assessments for the class, and received HD marks on both! That is certainly something I never thought I could achieve before coming to UNSW.

The semester had its low points as well. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning perfecting a research paper, studying for two weeks for an exam, and making the library my second home are not going to be the highlights of my Australia trip when I look back, but they have taught me some things about myself. First, I’ve learned that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. Coming into this semester, I told myself I would get better grades than any college semester so far (and even though we haven’t taken exams yet, I feel that is a very obtainable goal). Secondly, I learned that it’s okay to be confused and ask for help. The resources offered at UNSW are wide-ranging and if I looked hard enough I could find a tutor for every subject I was taking. The assessments for the Terror and Religion class certainly would not have received HD marks without the help of the learning centre and writing tutors. Lastly, it taught me that walking to the beat of my own drum is not only okay, but should be celebrated. While many of my friends enjoyed the social scene in Sydney and travelled across the country, I chose to focus on my academics. At first, this made me feel very alone on a campus so large, but eventually I realized I needed to do what was best for me, not everyone else. Yes, I did travel a fair amount and enjoy the nightlife, but my primary focus was my school work—and that is nothing to be ashamed about. After all, it is called STUDY abroad for a reason!

Academics have always been at the forefront of my proprieties, but UNSW and study abroad has ignited a fire in me that I will take back to my home university. I want to get involved with more social justice and mentoring programs, apply for the political science honours program, and take more challenging courses when I return home. Overall, I have become a better student and a stronger person because of my study abroad experience, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Rhett Maiorana – University of Queensland

Rhett Maiorana

The rigor and variety of the courses I have been able to take in Australia have made this semester so gratifying!

I am a senior majoring in mathematical economics, and in order to stay on track to graduate I have had to take two 3000-level classes in economics—applied econometrics for macroeconomics & finance and financial markets & institutions. The former is a course split evenly between graduate students and advanced undergraduate students like myself. These classes have been challenging, but I have shown the ability to ‘hold my own’ if you will. For example, on the mid-semester assessment in the financial markets & institutions class (my very first Australian exam) I scored a 6.

Beyond the upper-level courses, I have been impressed by the diversity of the classes I am taking. Besides classes in economics I am taking a course called Introduction to Australian Literature, as well as another called Australia’s Marine Environment. These classes have provided me with the perfect chance to engage critically with truly Australian perspectives. For example, field trips involving studying coral reefs on, or grappling with the discourse over Australia’s history by reading the nation’s novels. Because of this, I have found both courses to be extremely rewarding. Even though the disciplines of biology and literature do not fall within my major, I have found them to be very interesting. That may be, in part, why I earned a 77% on the Australian literature take-home exam.

This semester has been intellectually fulfilling both in terms of the toughness and the range of uniquely Australian topics that I have been exposed to. And my ability to succeed has made this the most memorable semester so far!

Samantha Derderian – University of Melbourne

Samantha Derderian

As a film major in my home school I have become accustomed to studying film from an academic lens however my passion for film stems from studying it in a contemporary landscape. Given the nature of my small department at my home school I am rarely afforded the opportunity to study film contemporarily. Entering into my Australian Film and TV class at Melbourne University I expected a similar experience. I was blissfully proven wrong. My class follows Australian cinema through its local and international successes by introducing us to films like Wake in Fright to Crocodile Dundee and Priscilla: Queen of the Dessert. In this class I could apply my knowledge from older more niche films to the broadband films I have been longing to study. The pinnacle of my experience in the class came when I asked my Professor if I could write on Finding Nemo, to which she responded with gleeful encouragement. At my home university I wrote essays strictly because they were needed for the course yet in my essay for my Australia Cinema class I was motivated to write the essay just because I was excited to. While writing the essay, I kept thinking that the essay could never receive a good mark; it was on a Pixar movie how could it? But I was so thrilled to analyse a successful and mainstream film that I pushed off my thoughts of doubt. I continued to joke about the fate of my Finding Nemo essay and avoided even looking at my mark once it was released. Finally, my friend in my class encouraged me to look at my mark and I was shocked. I received an excellent mark and no film essay of mine had received as well of a comparable grade at my home university. I could have been content having never known my mark for that essay and knowing that I was proud it but the high mark validated my desire to study contemporary and mainstream films. My home school strays students away from the films I want to study and being able to study write about those films at Melbourne University has encouraged me to pursue the study of contemporary films back at my home school. I was so proud of my Finding Nemo essay and hope to continue to write as passionate essays on contemporary films as this one.

Sydney Staudt – Flinders University

I am an excellent student back in the states. I was told from multiple sources, though, not to set my expectations too high for my grades here in Australia; “the grading is harsher,” they said, and, “There’s much more critical thinking than in the U.S.” For my first assignment, an essay worth 20% of my final mark, I was naturally worried. I finished it a day before it was due (so early!), but I had to wait weeks and weeks for a result, which is something I’m not used to.  When the grade was posted, I bragged to an advisor; I received a 90%, when multiple classmates failed!

I don’t think that tells the whole story, though. Yes, I was worried about this assignment and how harshly it would be graded, but I didn’t kill myself stressing over it. I sought out the resources and help that was available, and I was grateful for it. I took weekly notes in preparation. A person in the library read over my essay to make sure I cited my sources correctly. I made an appointment with my tutor to talk about the assignment, and he later told me I was the only one who took him up on his offer. Help is available to students, and taking advantage of that help is what makes me an academic achiever.

Mia Konstantakos – University of Melbourne

Mia K Academic

Before going abroad I set multiple goals for myself. Academically, I didn’t want to be one of those students that went abroad and didn’t care about learning. I didn’t want to be the student that just went to have a good time (although that was a strong part of my experience), I also wanted to grow academically and take advantage of the opportunity I had to study abroad. At Franklin & Marshall College, my home university, students are required to complete three semesters of a foreign language. Going into my study abroad semester I had only one semester left to complete this requirement. I studied Latin a bit in high school, and when I went to college I figured I might as well continue it because I already had a basic understanding of the language. Coming to Melbourne, I hoped to just complete the class. At F&M the subject was a burden to me and really was something I was taking just because I had to.

However, something really interesting happened during my time abroad regarding my studies in Latin. Instead of being in a class that about 70% of students were taking just to complete a requirement, I was now in a class full of students that were taking Latin because they were interested in it and most likely majoring in the classics field. It gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for the language. All my fellow classmates were so animated in class and clearly wanted to learn the language, not just to pass, but because they genuinely loved Latin. This attitude was infectious, and now nearing the end of the semester I have come to really appreciate Latin. Unexpectedly, what was once a burden has now become a deep appreciation. Although when I return to F&M in the spring I will have completed my foreign language requirement, I think I am still going to continue on and possibly add Latin to my curriculum as a minor.