Study Abroad Interview: Betsy Long Belongs in a Billabong
Studying abroad doesn’t have to be limited by your major
By Courtney Guth, University of Maryland
Finding an opportunity to study abroad is relatively easy when you’re an Arts & Humanities major. For example, English majors can explore the land of some of their favorite authors in Ireland. History majors will find that most of Europe will fulfill any of their interests. And, of course, the classics major mecca is in Greece and Rome. Studying abroad offers the chance to indulge in the rich culture we often only get to experience in the pages of our textbooks.
But what do you do when you’re an engineering student?
While no major outweighs any other in importance, it’s safe to say that engineering is no easy task. Engineering students often take on immense credit loads and multiple labs, leaving little time to study abroad for a whole semester and graduate on time. Fortunately, short term concentrated programs offer an opportunity to briefly enjoy all the benefits of studying abroad.
Meet Betsy Long, a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Maryland. Betsy wanted to study abroad, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to fit a semester-long program into her four year plan. However, after declaring a minor in International Engineering, she knew she had to go abroad somehow. This past January, she had her chance. For three weeks, she studied in Sydney, Australia through the UMD-Winter: Australia: International Business Cultures in Engineering and Technology program.
I sat down with Betsy to discuss her experiences abroad, and here’s what she had to say:
1. Why did you choose to study abroad in Australia?
I chose to study abroad in Sydney because I felt that it would be a place I might never get the opportunity to go at any other point in my life. Australia is so far away, Therefore, it’s expensive to go and takes a long time to travel to. Once I graduate and begin working, it may be easier to travel financially, but it’s more difficult to just get out, go, and leave work behind. January was the perfect time to go because it’s summer and Australia! I’d always wanted to travel to Australia, and I’m so glad that I did.
2.What are the top 5 sites to see?
We saw so much, that it’s hard to narrow it down to just five, but I’d have to say my favorite places were:
- Sydney Opera House: This probably sounds generic and cliche, but it’s beautiful. On one of our first nights in Sydney, we passed by it on a cruise, and it really hit me that I was finally there.
- Featherdale Wildlife Park: You have to visit the kangaroos and the koala’s. We got to get up close and personal with them. (Fun fact: Though often called the koala “bear”, this cuddly marsupial is not a bear at all. Koala’s fingerprints are similar to human fingerprints.
- Bondi Beach: Visiting in January meant that it was summer time in Australia. I kind of enjoyed knowing everyone was freezing back home, but I was relaxing on a beach just 4 miles East of the Sydney Central Business District. Bondi is the home of Australian surf-lifesaving. The Bondi Life Saving Club , formed in 1906. You can see more stunning beaches nearby by taking the coastal walk to Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee.
- The Rocks: This is one of the oldest areas of Sydney. A 19th Century village hemmed in by Sydney Cove. The building It looks like a small old-fashioned town hidden on top of a hill, and it overlooks the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Great views!
- The Royal Botanic Gardens: a beautiful garden and park located close to the opera house. It feels like you’re not in a city, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Plus, if you walk out to the furthest point, you can get the postcard worthy picture of the opera house and bridge!
3. How did you live like a local in your study abroad city?
I was only in Sydney for 3 weeks, so the time we had to acclimate to the city had to be condensed. My apartment for the trip was very close to the central metro station, which we used almost every day. Quickly learning to navigate the transportation made me feel like I was one of the locals and allowed my group to explore places we probably wouldn’t have if we stuck to a guidebook. My group and I learned about local markets, found our favorite restaurants and places to go out, and after our time in Sydney, really felt like locals.
4. What was the most amazing cultural experience you encountered while studying abroad?
One was learning to let go of conceived notions. The best cultural experience was probably getting a tour of “the outback” from an indigenous woman. After hearing the term indigenous woman, I was expecting her to be in some sort of tribal gear and completely different from me, but I was very surprised how similar she was. She was very modern, was well educated, and lived just outside the city. The the was she spoke about her culture was very enlightening, and she was obviously passionate about it and the history. It made me realize a lot about the way I view the world.
5. How has this Study Abroad impacted on your personal growth?
I thought that being in college had made me a very independent person and able to do things without help. I didn’t really understand doing things on my own until I traveled to another continent on my own. I have gained a whole new sense of independence, and feel confident that I could live on my own and travel independently of my parents.
6. What advice/tips would you give to yourself before you went abroad?
I would tell myself to look more in depth to restaurants, local sites, etc. Our instructor gave the group a schedule of the places we would be visiting, but I wish I would have researched some other places that we didn’t go as a group ahead of time, rather than researching while I was there because I was very busy.
Note: A Billabong is a small lake/pond, near a river, that has become secluded, due to the changing of the land and environment around it.