My study abroad experience
I sat in a Sydney café with a long-time school friend exchanging stories from the previous seven months over mugs of the best coffee I’d had in a while. She remarked at the newly self-assured person sitting across from her: “I can’t believe everything you’ve done and the confident person you’ve become!”
I had recently returned from my exchange semester at the University of Malta, a country that runs on laid-back Mediterranean time, and is a historic melting pot of cultural influences that manifest in language, architecture, art, food and traditions. I heard from inspiring lecturers who led rich discussions on history, archaeology, international relations and marketing, and I took an internship at a historic house museum in the ancient fortified citadel. In my free time, I swam around the fortified harbours constructed by the Knights of St John, visited forts, palaces and ancient temples, attended art exhibitions and music events, basked in the opulence of the theatre and wandered along the winding cliffs as the sun set over the edge of the world.
But this is not where my experience abroad began. I also received funding from Griffith’s Global Mobility office to attend the United Nations University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok in August 2018, where I was reunited with friends I had made while studying in India on a New Colombo Plan scholarship the year before. The speakers shared the goals and achievements of UN offices and associated organisations, with a focus on Australia’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific. The amazing people I have met from all over the world have solidified my faith in the possibility of a brighter future.
After exploring Bangkok, I began the meandering route to my tiny Mediterranean home. I flew to Moscow and caught the train to St Petersburg. I hiked around Poland for three weeks while never tiring of Chopin or apple-pie. I visited large-hearted friends all around the UK before beginning my exchange semester in Malta. I spent a blissful Christmas in Naples and New Years in Rome. A short-term program in Germany led me to Berlin the year before and sparked a tradition of spending New Years in European capitals. After my exams and time in Malta had come to an end, I began my protracted journey home. I spent two weeks in Israel, where the history is rich, the geopolitics raw and the falafel delicious and also managed a brief sojourn into Jordan upon meeting fellow travellers who had plans for Amman and Petra.
There is so much truth in the age-old saying that one returns from travel a different person. Since my first study abroad program in India, my newfound confidence undoubtedly contributed to exciting academic achievements, and reignited my love of sports and music. I was no longer a teenager paralysed with anxieties and had been catapulted away from my tumultuous last years of high school and rocky first years of university. I threw myself wholeheartedly at every opportunity that presented itself during my final undergraduate years at Griffith and wonderful things happened.
While Griffith Global Mobility has undoubtedly facilitated life-changing opportunities for me, overseas travel isn’t necessary to learn and grow. Here at home, I joined Serotonin A Cappella Choir, met some gorgeous people unapologetically themselves and travelled to Melbourne where we became national champions. I danced a semester of tango with the Latin Club. I completed the BusinessPlus program to gain an edge in the corporate world. I was involved in the Mentoring program and corresponded with an inspiring Griffith alumnus and New York artist, and I revived my love of sport with the Griffith athletics squad. It’s amazing to know that these are only a few of the opportunities that exist for students at Griffith.
I took the last sip of now cold coffee and listened to the strangely comforting Australian twang around me. I gazed over the familiar squabble of domestic politics headlining newspapers heaped on the bench beside me and sniffed the Eau de Aussie beach café — a combination of coffee, sunscreen and avocado toast. It is good to be back, and I am ready for whatever the future will bring.
By Mieke Kassulke