All the way from the USA, we caught up with Campus Life’s new resident intern, Megan Corder. We asked Megan some questions about her exciting time exploring a new country and experiencing what FedUni has to offer during a chilly Mt Helen winter.

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Current University and Study: I am a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston, Illinois. I’m enrolled in a Masters in College Student Affairs. This program is a mix between student development, counselling, and university administration. Everyone in my program is required to work and gain practical experience through a graduate assistantship. My graduate assistantship is with University Housing and Dining Services, where I work as an Associate Resident Director and Marketing Specialist. My responsibilities include working with our departmental marketing research and apartment complex operations. I love my experience at EIU, but I’m really excited to have an opportunity to gain experience and learn at FedUni!

Previous Study: I received my Bachelor of Science in Public Relations at Kent State University in Ohio. Kent State is a large state school near Cleveland and Akron in Northeast Ohio. When I was there, I lived on campus and was involved with residential government, the campus newspaper, student leadership conferences, and I was a Resident Assistant. I loved being involved at Kent State and my experiences inspired me to pursue a career that would allow me to work at a university.

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Why are you joining us at FedUni? I applied to work at FedUni through an internship exchange with the Association of College and University Housing Officers International (ACUHO-I). This is an internship exchange for housing and residence life internships. Every student in my graduate program is encouraged to complete an internship during our summer holiday, so we can learn about other offices and campuses. I applied for the internship at FedUni, but I didn’t think I would get it. I was so excited to be invited to interview that I joked that I’d cry if I got the position, and that I’d cry if I didn’t! I will be here for just over two months, and will be working with the Campus Life office for the duration of my stay. Following my internship here, I’ll return to EIU and finish the second year of my graduate program.

Favourite thing about Australia?  My favourite thing is how casual it is to go with a friend to a coffee shop and sit down to talk. I think it’s easy to take those moments for granted, but I love how normal it is to go to somewhere and not rush. I also really like Australian coffee culture and the amazing food you find at cafés around town! I always find new foods and coffees that I am excited to try.

Most unusual difference between the U.S. and Australia? I am sure everyone says this, but seeing people driving on the other side of the road is strange. You become used to seeing something for years and suddenly it’s different. I’m getting more used to it each day, but I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I’ve also noticed that a lot of people and things are given nicknames or shortened here in Australia. That happens in the United States too, but I’m not sure I noticed it as much. I love that everyone calls McDonalds ‘Maccas’. It sounds much more exciting!

Biggest Australian myth busted after coming to Australia? This probably sounds silly, but I think I had this impression that everyone was a wildlife expert, like in the movies. I know there are some people like that, but not everyone. I also expected there to be kangaroos everywhere. I’ve heard it’s really common to see kangaroos, but I think I had expected them to be everywhere.

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Top tips for overseas study or travel in general: Everyone’s travel style and experiences are different, but it’s important to remember that your trip is a personal journey. It doesn’t matter if you are travelling alone or with a group, this is something you have to figure out individually. These are the best tips I can offer:

  • Don’t be afraid to look silly. You’re not always going to know what to do and what to say, but that’s okay. The more you put yourself out there, the better the experience you will have.
  • Asking questions and asking for help is all part of figuring out the new culture. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about a town you’re visiting.
  • Pack less! You don’t need to bring everything. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter if you’ve worn the same shirt several times during the trip.
  • Do some research. I like to be a prepared traveller, but not so prepared that I don’t go with the flow. Research where you’re going and then highlight activities you’d like to do. The rest of the time, walk around and explore. Let yourself decide what’s interesting and I think it’ll be a more exciting journey for you!
  • Expectations are important, but don’t stick to them. It’s really easy to travel with one idea and one image of how a trip is meant to be. That can hold you back. Let yourself fall into the beauty of uncertainty. Sure, make plans and think about what you’ll do, but let experiences happen and don’t be worried if they aren’t exactly the same as your expectations.
  • Stay organised. I like to keep copies of my paperwork or have extra items stashed away in my suitcase if I need them. I think it helps me feel like I’ve got everything sorted and I’m prepared if something goes wrong. I can’t prepare for everything, but it’s easier to solve problems if I feel organised and have a plan!
  • Only through vulnerability can you find strength. Traveling abroad is scary and exciting. It’s okay to be vulnerable and get to know people, even if it is temporary. Don’t hold back because your time there is short.

Favourite quote: “Success is the child of audacity” – Benjamin Disraeli.

What is something unique about FedUni that you haven’t seen in the U.S? I love how unique the experience at FedUni is for students. With so many program options, FedUni strives to be accessible and supportive. I think FedUni does a great job of putting that mission into practice. I’m also really impressed with how focused everyone is on being sustainable here. It’s built into everyone’s habits and the university culture, which is so interesting. It just becomes a normal part of everyday life.

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Have you tried any Australian food? Yes, I have! I’ve tried a sausage sizzle, pavlova, fish and chips, a meat pie, and some great pastries and scones. I’m a fan of the food options here!

Are American universities like the movies? Most things in the movies do come from a bit of truth, but I do not think that college in America is exactly like the movies. Some things are similar though! For example, many schools have football teams and big sports games, which are really exciting experiences. EIU has an annual homecoming football game where everyone wears their favourite blue EIU gear and we tailgate with a big cookout in the parking lot, with hundreds of people coming to celebrate the game. There are also annual campus traditions that students plan for all year. At EIU, every year our residents participate in what is called ‘Residents On Campus Fest’ (ROCFest). This is a huge competition amongst the halls. There are competitive events such as scavenger hunts, and my favourite, the annual boat race. Students create boats out of cardboard and duct tape and race their boats across the campus pond. Sometimes boats sink, but students always have a fantastic time and talk about it for the rest of the year.

Is there something you love back home that you wish people in Australia could try? Yes! This sounds crazy, but I love the restaurant Panera. I wish everyone had a chance to try the amazing shell mac and cheese or grab a soup and bread bowl. I also wish everyone had the chance to go to an American college football game. It’s an experience I can’t really describe. People are so excited and passionate about their team or their alma mater that they get carried away with their team spirit!

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Words by Jess Kelly

If you want to follow Megan’s journey and gain some greater insight into what foreign exchange might be like, you can view her blog here.