Business in Sydney
How did you live your study?
My studies in Australia, like my studies at Cornell, surrounded business management. Australia has a very similar economic system to the United States, and fairly similar professional and ethical standards. But there are two aspects of Australian culture that differ importantly from the U.S.: work-life balance and cultural integration.
Although I don’t dislike American work culture, I realize that compared to the majority of the Western world, we place much more importance on our working lives—one of the reasons I choose to study ILR. For my exchange semester, I wanted to experience a culture where work-life balance is held more sacredly.
While I was studying in Australia, I learned about their work culture in the classroom, but I also got to experience it for myself. My academic/work life at University of New South Wales was much more balanced than at Cornell. My commitments for classes were limited, and I was given more autonomy on how to spend my time. I took my extra free time and explored Australian art museums, enjoyed the country's natural beauty, and interacted with the local wildlife.
Australia and the United States are both extremely diverse countries, but they deal with that diversity differently. Americans expect others to adapt to our way of doing things. Australians are more tolerant of cultural differences, and in many of my courses at UNSW, the approach to handling these differences is taught as a collaborative effort. I was able to live this aspect of my studies because UNSW has a diverse student body and because the majority of my course work took the form of group projects. I worked with students from all six continents, and my intercultural competencies were challenged. There was usually a language barrier that served as a high hurdle to the group, and we each had different leadership styles and concerns for time. As I was taught how to work with cultural differences, rather than around them, I was putting those lessons into practice as well.
How have you changed because of your time abroad?
Going abroad to Australia changed me in several specific ways. Academically and professionally, I’m much more open-minded, especially as it relates to foreign opportunities. In the United States, our curriculums are very U.S.-centric, and oftentimes you have to take explicitly “international” courses in order to get exposure to foreign issues. I found that in Australia courses look outward naturally, and I learned so much about other economies and cultures, even those that might be considered obscure or negligible in U.S. classrooms.
I feel much more comfortable living and working in other parts of the world, going forward, and that’s become a big part of my professional goals.
Personally, Australia has made me, unsurprisingly, a bit more crude and honest. Americans have a tendency to avoid confrontation and critical conversation. We are very proud people, and we don't like slights to our egos. In Australia, a little mockery is a normal part of conversation and humor; they don't tiptoe around issues and criticisms. I’m a much more candid and straightforward speaker after having been around Australians, and I've learned not to take myself too seriously.
If you were to offer advice to a potential study abroad student, what would you say?
Completely lose yourself in your new surroundings. Let the city become your home. Build a life that stands alone from the one you have in the U.S.
This could mean making local friends, learning to cook local cuisine, changing up your wardrobe, changing up your vocabulary—whatever makes you feel you’re a part of the community and culture.
For me, I felt like Sydney had become my home when I began developing close friendships with locals, and let my relationships back home take a back seat. I strongly advise those going to study abroad to hold on loosely to their American lives, and invest the majority of their energy into their lives abroad.