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Gaining Confidence While Studying Down Under

Kianna Freitag made friends of all kinds when she studied in Australia.
Kianna Freitag made friends of all kinds when she studied in Australia.

Studying abroad allows students to apply their learning to the real world, as they gain first-hand experience with other cultures, languages, traditions and people. It also teaches students a lot about themselves as they navigate new, unfamiliar environments. This Q&A highlights how Humanities and Social Sciences students have incorporated study abroad into their undergraduate career.

Kianna Freitag is a senior majoring in Communication (Public Relations concentration) and minoring in Business Administration. Her study abroad in Australia during the Spring 2014 semester enhanced her cultural awareness, challenged her to navigate a new environment, and shaped her future goals.

What sparked your interest in study abroad?

I’ve always had an interest in Australia and a passion to travel. A “Pick a Country” project that I had done in the 6th grade–on Australia–was what initially sparked my interest; it just seemed like paradise! Fast forward to being in college for two years. I met a lot of Australian students who were abroad here at NC State. They really solidified my decision to learn as much about their country as I could first-hand.

Briefly describe your experience.

I chose the University of Wollongong, just south of Sydney. I lived in a dorm setting, suite-style, at Campus East. I was a two-minute walk from the beach and about a ten-minute bus ride from downtown and the university itself. I spent all of spring 2014 feeling like a freshman, being in a foreign atmosphere all over again, but it was one of the greatest experiences! Who doesn’t love their freshman year?!

I took courses that transferred back toward my degree, and I think studying in a different country while still earning credits was one of the best aspects of my trip. Everything about classes, or “uni,” as they call it, was different than here in North Carolina. It definitely strengthened my communication skills, and helped me to grow as a person.

How do you feel the study abroad related to your major, career, or personal goals?

Living abroad for six months helped me step out of my comfort zone and become who I am today. Everything about my trip was educational, so if your perspective of study abroad is like one long spring-break trip, think again! I used almost all my free time traveling as much of the country as I could. I visited cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, as well as some hidden areas such as Byron Bay or Noosa.

What are some things you learned?

I learned so much about Australia while being immersed in its culture. The country is beautiful, from the mountains of its countryside to its most pristine beaches. I met some wonderful people, and tried to bring back the Australian perspective on life. Constantly traveling and encountering new people gave me a new perspective too; I didn’t think I had been sheltered, but after exploring a whole new world, I realized how much more is out there

What were some of the challenges?

One of the biggest challenges was when I was having a bad day, or just wanted a familiar voice to speak to, but the time difference between there and here is 14-16 hours. So it was really hard to reach someone back home without it being planned. I kept in touch with friends and family through my blog, e-mail, or planned Skype dates.

Additionally, I was abroad the second semester of junior year, when everyone back home was taking on internships, co-op opportunities and chair positions in clubs, all to put on their resumes. I felt a bit left out, or behind schedule. I had turned down the event coordinator chair for PRSSA the year prior, since I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the role for an entire school year. It was hard to know my life back home was carrying on without me, as I made a new life for myself somewhere else. But that was the trade-off of choosing to do a study abroad program, and I believe I came out with better professional and life skills than those who hadn’t experienced foreign study.

What were some of the rewards?

The biggest reward was the feeling I got on my journey home. I felt so accomplished having just made it completely on my own for the last few months on the opposite side of the world! Of course I had a huge support system, but they were at least a 24-hour plane ride away. I traveled across the world, and then again all across Australia, all by myself. I moved to another part of the world and attended a different school in a very different culture. I made new friends, I ate new foods, I saw new places and animals … The list goes on. It’s still surreal today, as if it was one big dream.