Never boring...

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to get the most out of the opportunities that Reading have to offer and studied at Monash University in Melbourne for the first term of my third year. Study Psychology at MonashI never really comprehended just how far away I was going to be living until the 26 hour journey. That day was definitely an emotional rollercoaster (I am not exactly a good flyer), but in the end it was completely worth it. I had never visited Australia before, but wanted to experience their culture and country in the unique way that a study abroad program has to offer. I knew it would be challenging at times, but I wanted to push myself to do something different.

There was an extensive choice of modules at Monash and I chose modules that I would not have the chance to do at Reading, to really take the opportunity to do something different e.g. my modules about drug addiction, we had lectures on the indigenous population of Australia, obviously something that is unlikely to be taught in the UK. Living in halls allowed me to mix not only with Australians but other international students too and I have made lifelong friends all over the world and learnt about different cultures. Revising for my neurology exam on a beach in November was a slightly strange experience, but one that undoubtedly felt very Australian

Melbourne had a quirky cafĂ© scene, with alleyways and laneways full of independent coffee shops with not a Starbucks in sight. The trams network was also very iconic and slightly different, adding to the character of the city. The city felt less touristy than Sydney so I felt I was getting a more authentic 'Aussie experience'. Life never got boring. Being a keen sportswoman myself it was interesting to check out all the sporting venues as Melbourne is the capital of sport in Australia. I saw an Aussie rules football match which was an interesting experience, although I didn't really understand what was going on! I also managed to visit the Neighbours set which was only actually 4km from campus. We met a few cast members and took lots of pictures with the very fake road sign.

Study abroad gave me a fantastic excuse to get some travelling done and the highlight of all the travelling was spending 3 days in the Great Barrier Reef up in Cairns and in the beautiful Whitsunday islands. The colours were indescribable and the beaches picture perfect. I saw all sorts of marine life - stingrays, turtles and fish of every description. I slept on the top deck of a sailing boat in the Whitsunday's one night and I have never seen so many stars in my life, an experience I will definitely never forget. Also driving along the northeast coast through all the creeks was slightly unnerving due to all the crocodile warning signs!

Study abroad has improved my confidence a lot. Even though I made lots of friends, I'm definitely more independent. There was always something to do, a somewhere new to explore and someone new to meet. Without a doubt, studying abroad has changed my life and myself as a person, for the better.

Francesca Ridley, BSc Psychology

Monash University (Australia)

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