Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile: Elise Knezo- Macquarie University - Sydney, Australia



Major(s): Managing Human Capital

Minor(s): Decision & System Sciences

Abroad Program: Macquarie University (IFSA Butler Program)

Where: Sydney, Australia

When (Semester & Year): Fall 2012

Favourite Course: Marine Geoscience (there is a boat field trip.. so beautiful!)

Highlight: Stereosonic Music Festival at Sydney Olympic Showgrounds on my 21st Birthday

Best Excursion: Learning to surf in Byron Bay

Favourite Dish: Peri Peri Chicken Sandwich & Chips (fries) with Sweet Chili Sauce, Chicken & Mushroom Pieface

Least Favourite Dish: Vegemite and Butter on Toast

Next Destination: back to Australia as soon as I can afford the 14hr flight again or Italy to visit family

What was a typical day like for you while abroad?

Eat brekkie with my roommate, meet up with a few mates to take the 15 minute walk to campus, go to lectures, eat lunch on the outside deck at the Campus Hub/Ubar, stop at Macquarie Center Mall to shop/pick up anything and everything, go to tutorials, go to the MacUni gym, tan and swim at the campus pool/Sydney beaches, go home, do some Uni work (homework), make dinner with my roommate, go to some Aussie friends house, then head to The Ranch/Ubar/downtown Sydney for drinks and dancing!

Describe your living situation.

The first day I arrived in the University Village, I was a bit nervous. The flat I was assigned to was not very clean and I was the only girl living there at the time. By my third day I was able to have my room assignment changed to a cleaner flat with other girl roommates. The IFSA-Butler staff was extremely helpful in convincing the Village administration to move me. Everyone understood my situation which was comforting. I ended up living with two boys from Bangladesh, one girl from Singapore, and another boy from Michigan. It was honestly one of my favourite parts of being abroad because I was able to learn a lot about my roommates and their different cultures. I had my own bedroom and bathroom and shared a kitchen and living room. The Village is in a great location that has a convenience store, restaurants, and bus station less than 5 minutes away. Also, there are tons of Village events to go to for free food, etc. It was an awesome place to hang with friends, study, and enjoy life!

How did the location enhance your academic experience?

I think that my location in Australia enhanced my academic experience because I was able to speak the language (although the different Aussie accents are quite hard to understand at first!). I had no language barrier with my teachers and classmates, so that helped a great deal when working on group projects or asking for help on assignments. The fact that I took classes with all Australian students was my favourite part about Macquarie. I felt really comfortable with them because we were all taking the same classes and having the same experience. However, it was particularly hard adjusting to the different course structures in Australia. In the states, we have a semester full of little assignments and quizzes/tests/projects. In Australia, they have maybe 2 big tests, 2 big homeworks/projects, and a final exam worth 50% of your final grade. That definitely was a big change! The teachers expect you to do a lot of independent work to prepare yourself for that final exam. Also, they have a lecture for each class (200+ students) and then a tutorial for that same class (about 20 students). It was weird being in such big classes when I’m accustomed to SJU’s small ones! Regardless, Australia’s academic system is challenging but also rewarding.

What was one challenge you faced? How did you deal with this challenge?

Being so far away from home, it definitely makes you feel alone at times. As if the time differences and distance aren’t enough, there are a million other things that can happen to make you want to give up and fly back to the states. But you can’t and you shouldn’t because it’s all part of the experience! One challenge I faced was being sick while away in Australia. On a weekend trip to a farm in Bathurst I suddenly got very ill. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time when I was away from my home in Sydney. I could barely go on the small daytrips IFSA-Butler had planned. All I wanted was to snap my fingers and be at home in the US with my parents, but the closest I could get to them was through Skype. Luckily, my host family and the IFSA Butler staff were amazing. They checked on me regularly, gave me medication, and were great care-takers. With the help of the people around me, I was feeling better in a few days. It is definitely hard to be away from home when you’re in need, but you are never really alone. Your friends and those surrounding you have potential to be an awesome support system!