Tess Beck ’20 embracing Aussie

Photo courtesy of Ursinus Communications

Skylar Haas

skhaas@ursinus.edu

Tess Beck ’20 made her decision to study abroad in Australia this semester because, as she explained, it is “such an incredibly beautiful place, with huge swaths of protected lands and national parks –– there was just so much to see and explore, including the animals that only exist here.” Beck said, “Study abroad is this awesome opportunity to spend 4-6 months of your life elsewhere without slipping behind in your school work and career path, and that just won’t happen again for a very long time. I wanted to use that to go somewhere I would never be able to spend time otherwise.”

“Missing winter back at school is great, but the best part is that I can be outside everyday.” —Tess Beck Class of 2020

Beck was surprised to find that the culture in Australia is very similar to the culture here in the United States. “Australia doesn’t hit you with much culture shock – it’s so similar to the U.S. in a lot of ways. I think the biggest part of being in Australia that I didn’t prepare for was just how big it is. It’s actually about the same size as the continental U.S. (7.7 million square kilometers com- pared to 8 million kilometers), so it’s been harder than I was expecting to get out to certain places,” she said. “Getting out to certain national parks takes hours of travel time, and getting over to Western Australia is a 6-hour flight – just like crossing the U.S. I think it’s a feeling most study abroad students get – it’s hard to accept that the world is so big and you won’t get to do all the things you want. That’s just life.”

Although the study abroad application process may seem daunting, Beck assures students that it is not as scary as it may seem: “The application process was surprisingly easy! There weren’t long essays to write
or anything – just making sure you hit deadlines, as they can be early, getting your passport together, and answering a lot of basic questionnaires.”

Taking classes in a completely different country may also seem inconceivable, but Beck says that it is nothing to worry about: “The professors are really personable and do a good job of demanding your time and attention in class, using class time efficiently, but not loading you with outside work so you can use time outside of class to explore and really be here…I also think classes are easier here because that’s part of Australian culture. It’s so laid back and casual. Due dates are always flexible, projects can be twisted to focus on something you’re extra interested in.”

While Beck has been exploring and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere, she is still “writing papers and doing research, but everything is much more informal over here. You call professors by their first names, they all hand out their phone numbers and spend the first 10 minutes of class actually talk- ing with you about what you’re up to, and you’re expected to have a life and be enjoying yourself – getting your work done is meant to happen sort of on the side.”

This kind of environment allows for study abroad students to get the full experience of the new country they are in without having to stress about due dates. Beck said that she is taking “mostly international business courses. They are all very small classes maybe 20 students tops, so they’re similar to the smaller UC courses in size. This program is really great as far as availability of professors and other resources.”

As far as getting homesick goes, Beck said that there are ways to deal with it: “We have a full-time counsellor on campus for any home sickness or other issues, [along with] a couple other people focused on weekend activities and information just to make sure you’re having fun, trying new things, and really embracing the Aussie culture.”

Beck’s favorite part about being abroad so far this semester has been the weather. She explains,“Down under the seasons are flipped, so it’s actually mid-summer right now. Missing winter back at school is great, but the best part about it is just the fact that I can be outside every day. It’s something I really miss at school, where I’ve been overloading every semester and spending all my time in my room or the library. This experience was meant to be a little break for me, and a chance to do things I love and miss doing. The warm weather has just been really conducive to that: spontaneous hikes, beach days, picnics, outdoor workouts, or just watching the sunset.”

Studying abroad is something Beck believes everyone should get the chance to do. “I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to anyone and everyone,” she says. “It’s such a healthy break from reality, and it’s something you can really make your own. My experience is all about being comfortable and doing what I love, but you can choose an experience that will challenge you, go somewhere with different languages, cultures, ways of life, you can be in a big city, out in the countryside, or in a remote jungle – there’s no one way to do it… I would also say Ursinus is a really difficult school. I love it there, but it’s very demanding, and it is a constant grind in a tiny little town. I think it’s really healthy to take a break from that, and take some time to see how big the world is.”