When applying for universities in Year 13, something I took into consideration was the chance I could get to spend some time during my degree abroad, as I knew at that point I was not going to take a gap year and travel, like a lot of my peers. For BA History, King’s students have the opportunity to spend their second semester of their second year abroad, but upon my move to London, I wasn’t so sure anymore that I wanted to move away, because I was enjoying the city so much. I applied for study abroad rather randomly a week or so before the deadline with no real expectations that I was going to be accepted, but I thought that it was worth a shot. I applied for universities in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as I knew that this would be one of the best chances for me to travel further than Europe. Although the University of Sydney was my second choice when applying for study abroad, after my experiences there I am very happy that that is where I was allocated to go.
Once I was accepted, I had the panic of thinking: how am I going to afford flights to Sydney and back? Is it going to be too difficult being that far away for such a long period of time? (I had never traveled abroad alone before this!). After weeks of weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to accept my place at the USyd, as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that, frankly, I would be stupid to miss out on.
The Broadening Horizons Award is a fantastic funding opportunity awarded by King’s for students who are looking to embark on an overseas experience, whether this be for part of their degree or other short-term placements. I was awarded £400, which put my nerves about not being able to afford this opportunity at ease, as I put this money towards my flights to Sydney and back. Being from a single-parent, working-class background, I know without this award, it would have been difficult for me to fund such an experience. Once my flights, visa, and health insurance were all sorted out, the excitement (and nerves!) began to kick in.
I arrived in Sydney on 15 February, and the only real shock that I experienced was that of the weather. After months of snow and single-digit degree weather up North during Christmas and New Year, the immediate heat when stepping out of the airport was shocking, but it was not something that I was at all angry about (every Brit loves the sunshine, don’t they?).
Australian culture was easy to settle into, as I didn’t find it to be that different from British culture; the warm weather called for constant trips to beer gardens and the various beaches in Sydney – the relaxed atmosphere of Sydney called for a well-needed break from the hustle and bustle of life in London. I also did not find university life to be that different than what I have experienced at King’s, though it was different to experience university as an international student. It was almost like experiencing freshers again as there was constant events and nights out organised for international students – trips to Manly, party cruises on Sydney Harbour, and the constant barbies on the roof of our student accommodation were all definitely highlights of my time away.
Overall, despite the fears and nerves I experienced before going to Sydney, I am incredibly glad to have had this opportunity as it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. Australia is such a beautiful country, that perhaps without the Broadening Horizons Award I would never had been able to visit. Even USyd’s campus is incredible, and I often found myself having to stop and pinch myself in between lectures because I couldn’t believe I was actually in Australia.
Though I admit that it is rather cliché to study abroad and come back feeling like a ‘changed’ person – but this is definitely true. Travelling alone and being on the other side of the world for such a long period of time gave me a new sense of independence, and my time abroad gave me a lot of new friends from all around the world, who I hope will be friends for life. There is a big, wide world out there, and I have learnt that fears and anxieties surrounding new experiences cannot (and will not!) hold me back from doing things I want to do.