Does this time of year give you the winter blues? Thankfully, spring break is just around the corner. In the meantime, escape the Minnesota winter by reading about Haley Auger’s semester in Australia and Hannah Stelter’s current experience in Sweden! 

1. Why did you choose to study abroad?

Haley Auger in Australia

“I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but I just didn’t know where,” said Auger. “After meeting with the Study Abroad Office, I chose the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia because they had a Communication Studies major which matched with mine. I spent my Spring 2018 semester there, so escaping the cold Minnesota winter for palm trees was nice.”

Hannah Stelter in Sweden

“Everyone always asks why I chose a cold place similar to Minnesota to study,” said Stelter. “After doing extensive research, I found the program at Linnaeus University in Växjö was equivalent to a semester at MSUM if not slightly cheaper (including housing, food and airfare!). I think it is common for students who dream of studying abroad to picture themselves hopping around Europe on weekends, or staying an extra week after the semester gets done to go to their dream city (at least I know I did). Choosing a place that’s kind of cold and (maybe) less desirable than the sandy coastal universities in someplace like Australia has allowed me to have a larger financial cushion, and less stress for my semester. I love it here and having that extra cash to spoil myself with a fancy dinner here and there or an extra coffee (or two) is very nice.”

2. What was your favorite part of being abroad? 

“It’s definitely hard to narrow it down to one favorite part,” said Auger. “Academically, it was great to experience another culture for the first time. Meeting other students from abroad (i.e. Germany, Norway, Japan, etc.) was an amazing opportunity to connect with different cultures since we were all sharing a common experience. My favorite part about being in Australia was seeing a whole new country, specifically the landscapes. The best experience was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef! I honestly said “wow!” out-loud when I first stuck my head underwater and saw the reef (of course had to come up for air as I just took in a lot of saltwater doing that!).”

“I have been here three and a half weeks so far and there have been a few experiences that really stuck out,” said Stelter. “Fika: to take a break during your day for a coffee and pastry or sweet. This tradition is something the Swedes partake in between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, after dessert, and sometimes even before bed. Coffee shops are found on every corner including five on the campus alone. Professors even give breaks during class for fika! Getting used to the idea of setting aside your work to have coffee and conversation was weird at first, especially since I’m used to the “go-go-go” American lifestyle, but it is something I have quickly adjusted to and thoroughly enjoy. 

“Since being here, a few new friends and I purchased round trip flights to Poland for $15 and spent the weekend in Gdansk,” added Stelter. “We spent the days enjoying Polish pierogis (dumplings) and taking in the beauty of the city (along with plenty of Fika of course). Home to a beautiful church, a World War Two museum, and streets of beautiful Amber shops, we returned home exhausted but even more excited to plan our next trip. Spontaneity is common here due to extensive train and bus networks that make travel incredibly easy, and affordable as well. Constantly planning new trips and thinking about all the opportunities is incredibly exciting.”

3. What was the most challenging part of your study abroad experience?

“What ended up being the most challenging part was learning a different education system,” said Auger. “While American education isn’t better than Australian education, they are both different. I am glad I saved my LASC goal courses to take abroad, so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed taking higher up courses and could focus more on learning how the Australian education system works and how to adjust to that. Homesickness was definitely a challenging thing as well. But there are opportunities for family to visit and electronics (i.e. Skype) helped greatly!”

“The most challenging part for me has been learning to navigate the city,” said Stelter. “Not having a car took a few weeks to get used to. For example, I have to leave 30 minutes before class because the busses frequently run late, but if you get to the university early, you can just sit down and enjoy fika! Getting groceries was also an adjustment because you need to buy enough food, but not so much that you find yourself lugging three bags of heavy groceries on the bus. Of course, maybe it’s my fault for deciding to by the jumbo jars of Nutella and peanut butter when the small ones would be fine.”

4. What is your advice to students considering studying abroad?

“My advice is simple: go. Choose to study abroad. You won’t regret it,” said Auger. “How often do you get the opportunity to immerse yourself in another country for a whole semester? You have an amazing opportunity as a student to do this. I have never once regretted spending the extra finances and I cherish the experiences and adventures I had every day.”

“My advice for students considering studying abroad is to do it,” said Stelter. “Just say yes and make it happen. The hardest part is deciding you want to go, after that everything will fall in place. Don’t stress too much on the location, no matter where you go you will have tons of new experiences and opportunities that you would never get back home. You can travel on the weekends, so even if you really wanted to study in Italy, choosing a cheaper program somewhere else might work better because you can still visit Italy in your free time! My life has become way less stressful since getting here. I have no job, fewer classes, and a lot more time to do whatever I would like. Just go, say yes, study abroad. You won’t regret it.”

Do these stories give you the travel-bug? To learn more about Study Abroad click here. Take a deeper look at the MSUM Study Abroad programs by contacting Janet Haak at haak@mnstate.edu or stopping by her office in Bridges 249A.