Beautiful beaches, meaningful friendships, and once in a lifetime travel opportunities are all things that students studying abroad in Wollongong have said made their experience.

Each session, about 300 hundred students from across the world come together to study at UOW and share the experience of getting to know Australia first hand. Whether they are pursuing a full degree or are just here for one semester, no experience is the same, and everyone it seems leaves with a story to tell.

Senior coordinator for the office of Global Student Mobility, Erin Hammond said studying abroad can benefit young people.

“Usually we have quite a few students from the US, from the UK, we also have a number of students from France and some other European countries like Sweden and Norway,” Ms Hammond said.

“I think it’s really sort of transformational for a lot of students, you find out a lot about yourself.”

This is true, at least according to NJ Totsche, a University of Wollongong student studying abroad from Groningen in the Netherlands.

“I think I’ve been more comfortable with my personality, that sounds really stupid, but just because it forced me to socially interact with new people,” Ms Totsche said.

“It was more difficult [to adjust] than I imagined but that’s just because I didn’t imagine having any difficulties.”

This is why going abroad can really be valuable, it forces students into situations they would never be in if they were at home and in their comfort zone. It’s like putting your current life aside, and diving into a new one. Ultimately, you leave with a new version of yourself that you didn’t even know existed.

“I used to be a person who is not very sentimental, I used to never get homesick, but now I’m actually like ‘oh, I kind of do miss these people’, like knowing that there’s no chance of me seeing them in the next three months,” Ms Totsche said.

Overall though, Ms Totsche is grateful for her experience, and the people she met during her time here has made the struggles and challenges worthwhile.

“I’ve met super duper cool people and I love them so much, and I have the best time with them just like hanging out,” she said.

One of those super duper cool people is Emily Raine, a student on exchange from Norwich, England. Raine adapted quite well after the first week, so much so that she could see herself living here in the future.

“I don’t find myself missing home or wanting to be back in England,” Ms Raine said.

“I get to go to the beach whenever I want, I have met people much different from my friends at home and I have more fun and freedom.”

Ms Raine does believe that it depends on the type of person.

“I would definitely recommend doing a year abroad but only if you’re a very outgoing and chatty person. I feel like having good friendships really makes the experience,” she said.

Learning new things about yourself isn’t the only benefit that studying abroad has for people though. Another benefit is getting an international perspective on your education, according to more advice from Ms Hammond.

“You get a different perspective on whatever you’re studying in your home country,” she said.

NJ Totsche agrees with this sentiment, as an ecology student.

“It made a lot of sense to do Australia because it has a very unique flora and fauna,” she said.

In some instances as well, it may be easier to get certified in areas of study like psychology.

For study abroad student Myah Garza, who is from Chicago in the United States, this was a pleasant surprise. In Australia, it requires less time and money to get a certificate in psychology than it does in the United States.

“In America, to be a certified psychologist entails getting a masters degree, and sometimes even a PhD,” she said.

“In Australia, the process seems a lot less scary. Knowing that I can potentially come back to Australia after becoming accustomed to the country’s psychological practices is very exciting.”

One thing that many UOW abroad students have related on, is the difference of school culture in Australia versus their home country. Ms Totsche said that her workload in Australia has been much more heavy, while Ms Garza thinks the opposite.

“At home we mainly have one assessment per course, like one exam, one final exam or maybe two assessments with like one report or practical you have to do, versus here I have like five or six assessments per course, which is a lot of coursework during the week,” Ms Totsche said.

Ms Garza, on the other hand, was not used to most assignments counting towards 40 per cent of the grade or more.

“The workload here is less, but weighs a lot more for each assignment, which for me causes more stress on perfecting the assignments. Along with this though, I have more freetime,” she said.

What you do with your free time while studying in a foreign country is what also really makes the experience.

“If you come to Wollongong, you’re lucky in that you’re surrounded by a lot of national parks and things. If you do like the outdoors, you have so many options for hiking, mountain biking, obviously water sports and things like that, but also it’s such a student city so there’s a lot of cultural aspects as well,” Ms Hammond added.

The airport is on the train line from Wollongong to Sydney, so traveling to different parts of Australia, and even nearby Pacific Islands is really accessible.

“One of my top experiences was visiting Melbourne and staying in an Airbnb with my friends. We got to explore a new city together and became a lot closer,” Ms Raine said.

Ms Totsche accompanied Raine to Melbourne, and it was one of the first cities that Totsche actually liked.

“In Sydney I was so annoyed with all these people and all of these cars and that’s how I usually am in a city but in Melbourne it didn’t feel as bad,” she said.

As the semester is nearing and end, Totsche, Raine and Garza are excited for the upcoming traveling they have planned. On November 8, Ms Raine will leave for Bali and Thailand. On November 18, Totsche and Garza are travelling to New Zealand.

“I’m excited to see all the nature, New Zealand just seems like an unreal place,” Ms Garza said.

“After my exams it seems like the perfect place to recharge and reconnect with myself. I’m also excited to bungee jump.”

All in all, studying abroad can help students not only discover new things about themselves, but also about the world around them.

Ms Hammond encourages anyone who is considering studying abroad to do it. And once you are in a new country, never take any moment for granted.

“As you probably know time goes really quickly, so make the most of it,” she said.

Ms Totsche has encouraged students considering studying abroad to pick a country they are comfortable with, and remember that any hardship is temporary.

“There’s going to be lows and the lows are gonna be very low, but the highs are gonna be very high, so it evens out a lot,” Ms Totsche said.

“In the beginning, say yes to everything. Because you want to make friends, so just say yes to everything, even if you’re exhausted. Just go everywhere, honestly.”

It’s not impossible either, and you don’t have to be rich, as there are many scholarships and exchange opportunities available for a multitude of countries.

According to the UOW website, lots of funding and financial support is available to assist you in studying overseas, from Travel Grants from the University, or if you’re native to Australia, grants from the Australian government.