From July to December 2016 I had the chance to study abroad at the University of Newcastle or UoN in Australia according to liuxers. After a long and elaborate preparation time, the next semester in Newcastle began, unlike in Germany, in mid-July and so the adventure in Australia started for me right after the exams of the 4th semester.
As part of my preparation, I made the decision to stay on campus at an early stage, as this seemed to be the best way to quickly establish contacts and become part of university life. After my arrival, I met my first Australian classmates and made friends with my roommates. I particularly appreciated the help and the many tips that made it a lot easier for me to get used to the unknown country. During some orientation events for international students, I also met not only other Germans, but also and above all students from different countries, such as France and China and Sweden, know. This brought me closer to many other cultures besides Australian. Differences to homeland were compared on a daily basis and at the same time numerous similarities were recognized. But not only the international students, but especially my roommates were very interested in Germany. I was often able to answer questions that ranged from our language to our everyday university life to our schnitzel. I can say that this also brought my own country closer to me from a different point of view and put my English skills to some exciting and entertaining tests.
During my semester abroad I took the following three courses: “ Academic Language Skills For International Students ”, “ Cross-Cultural Management And Negotiations ” and “ Advertisment And Marketing-Communications Strategy””. Unlike in Germany, in Australia three courses are already considered full-time, so that my schedule seemed pretty empty to me at first. Today, however, I can safely refute this assumption, because tasks such as assignments, mid-semester exams, quizzes and much more are part of everyday university life for students in Australia and require successful time management. In order to get the 30 CP’s planned by the HSHL for the 5th semester, I also created a project on the topic of “The digital change in Australia”. In terms of content, my courses unfortunately dealt with some of the topics I already knew. However, this gave me the advantage of being able to concentrate fully on subject-specific terms in the English language being able to do so, and also writing a few essays, will be extremely beneficial for future professional correspondence. The lectures I have taken supplemented my existing knowledge with some interesting aspects that relate primarily to international markets. As part of my analysis of the digital change in Australia, I was also able to compare its influences in Australia with those in Germany and thus combine existing and newly acquired knowledge.
But life in Newcastle is not only different from that in Hamm in terms of the curriculum. Everyday life at the university itself also has some things that I was not used to in Germany. In my opinion, there was often “ free food ” or music on the, from my point of view, huge campus and the fact that the lunch break was spent in a sun chair was a positive surprise for me. Things like this made it easier for the students to switch off and I rarely saw the typical “escape after work” in Australia, as students often stayed to do things in the library. In the end, the casual events did not distract, but promoted life on campus.
In general, I can say that I got along quite well with the foreign language, because apart from the expected difficulties with more specific vocabulary, I found it particularly difficult not to constantly combine my mother tongue and English. However, I see this more as a sign that I had to think less and less about my words in English and that I have developed a certain routine in using this language.
If you study half a year on the other side of the world, you naturally have to overcome some obstacles. From minor problems such as comprehension difficulties to major disasters (credit card strike), all situations have to be dealt with somehow. I was not only impressed by the Australian serenity (“No worries!”), but above all the fact that my family couldn’t be there right away helped. That may sound strange at first, but at home you quickly call your parents if you have difficulties, but down under it is actually of little use. So you inevitably learn to stay calm, to think, to solve problems and only then to confront those who stayed at home with exciting stories afterwards. I have to say that this is where I’ve probably grown the most. Even before my time in Newcastle, I saw myself as an independent person, but it was only through the not always so small obstacles that I had to overcome in my 5th semester that I can really claim to have proven my independence.
Of course, I also encountered some cultural differences. Not only do the shops on the distant continent have different opening times, but in particular the mentality of the two nations is more different than you might think at first glance. This is how teachers are used, e-mails are started with a casual “Hi”, punctuality is not taken that seriously and problems are initially alleviated with a “No worries, mate!”. The majority of Australians exude a basic composure paired with a general friendliness that as a German surprises you at one point or another. For me personally, ignoring my German punctuality and deviating from the familiar way of dealing with teachers and strangers at home were not always easy. But over time I came to appreciate these aspects of Australian culture and tried to combine them with my habits.
In the past six months, I’ve also spent as much time as possible traveling. So I used the semester break to get from the east coast, to the north and to the southern foothills of the outback. The latter in particular impressed me very much, as it has an endless expanse with a lot of calm nature that I don’t know from Europe. It was also an almost indescribable experience for me to see animals such as kangaroos, eagles, penguins or whales outside of enclosures to see in their natural environment. But I was also fascinated by the many other travelers I met on my trips. You meet people with a wide variety of stories and plans and with most of them you immediately find topics that you can talk about for hours. Without my semester abroad, I would probably never have gained the knowledge that I have accumulated in this way about the most diverse countries and their inhabitants.
Now my time in Newcastle is coming to an end and, in addition to the anticipation of seeing family and friends outside of a computer again, a queasy feeling sets in. In the past four months I have learned to appreciate a lot about Australia and made friends who will soon be more than a hallway away. I know that I will miss these things and that I will probably look at many things at home from a different perspective. In addition, you will only find out in your familiar surroundings to what extent you have really changed and how this affects life in Hamm.
Finally, I wanted to thank you again! Thank you for helping me to realize my dream of a semester abroad. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience all of these things and meet so many new people! The six months in Australia will probably shape the rest of my life, both academically and personally, and I am glad I was given this opportunity.