Alice studying at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

It’s great to be a Tennessee VOL

Doing a semester abroad offers so much more than just the opportunity to study in a different country. The things that I learnt about myself, other cultures and countries are endless. Studying abroad offers the opportunity to explore new places, meet people from all over the world and really begin to understand your own sense of individuality.

I had thought about doing study abroad from the beginning of my time at USC and changed my mind a million times about whether I would do it. One day, someone came into a lecture and started talking about their experience and I realised I would be crazy not to take the opportunity. So on the 30th of December 2014 I flew into Knoxville, Tennessee, USA knowing no one and not much of the place I was going to live for the next 5 months. The first few weeks were a big adjustment, getting used to dorm rooms, French roommates, the southern American accent and being so far away from home. I am so glad that I pushed through those tough few weeks because it made me appreciate the experience so much more.

The academic portion of my semester was great and being in such a powerful country as America I was exposed to many opportunities that I would never have had in Australia, such as meeting one of the creators of ESRI and being involved in important discussions about climate change and human rights. Being the only international student in many of my classes, I was always called upon to give the Australian perspective on topics and surprisingly it often varied quite a lot, especially in regards to environmental issues.

While studying was enlightening, the highlight and biggest benefit of studying overseas was to be able to satisfy my wanderlust without having to disadvantage my studies. Meeting lots of other international students meant that there was always a travel buddy willing to explore a new place with you. In my time abroad I got to see many amazing places starting with Washington DC, such a powerful and important city in America. I also had a crazy trip to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras with fellow international students from all over the world. It was certainly an experience I will never forget and want to have again. For spring break I went on a road trip with my roommate and friend to party in Miami, Florida with a quick stop over in Orlando to visit Disney World and meet up with other friends to spend the day living out our childhood fantasy. I also got the opportunity to visit Nashville a few times as it was only a few hours away from Knoxville. On my first visit I immediately fell in love with the city, its music and friendly atmosphere.  There were many other trips I got to do including spending Easter with an American friend’s family in Virginia and more road trips with my roommates.

As fun as it was travelling, there was always plenty to do in Knoxville too. My love for watching sport grew as we attended countless basketball, baseball and football matches, getting into the school spirit and singing rocky top at the top of my voice. From amateur student productions to professional touring casts, the theatre was always a sure bet for an entertaining evening. I also got to experience multiple snow days where the mornings were spent sledding, having snow fights and building snowmen and the evenings involved copious amounts of hot chocolate and movies. I got to experience so many traditions of being a student such as painting “The Rock” and singing Rocky Top. We even managed to have an Australia Day BBQ with other international people even though it was about 4 degrees outside.  I will always remember the family that I had in America made up of friends from France and America. The weekly family dinners and springsgiving (thanks giving in Spring) feasts will always be a fond memory of my time in Knoxville.

After my exchange semester was finished I embarked on a month long road trip from Knoxville to LA in a 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia . To write about that experience would be a whole other blog but just a few amazing things were, flying over the grand canyon in a helicopter, hiking in Yosemite National Park, biking around Central Park all day, visiting old Route 66 towns and embracing my inner hippy in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco.

My time abroad taught me so much about independence and to just say yes to every opportunity. To anyone considering studying abroad I say, just do it! Don’t be worried about meeting new people, being away from family and friends or dealing with different cultures, all those things are great learning opportunities and you will become a better person for having taken the chance, I know I have. I have made amazing friends for life from all over the world and know that this has opened up so many more travel opportunities. Even though I only spent one semester in Knoxville, I am now a Vol for life!

By Alice Holzberger

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