All kinds of pairs decided to study abroad, even newly-weds.
When I transferred to OSU my sophomore year from a small private university, I knew I wanted to check into the study abroad options here. However, apart from just being a transfer student, I was a Non-Traditional student in that I was married. I still remember going to the study abroad office to ask if there was any chance married students could study abroad. I expected discouragements and explanations of how difficult it would be to work that out. Instead, the study abroad advisor encouragingly replied, “Of, course you can. Married students study abroad all the time.” I was shocked and elated. Still, some part of me expected that studying abroad would be much harder and maybe even impossible for Non-Traditional students like my husband and I. Nevertheless, this was the first step that led to my husband and me studying in Adelaide, Australia for the spring of 2012.
Throughout the process, I was surprised by how little being married actually seemed to cause any problems at all. Most of the obstacles we faced were typical for all students, and everyone seemed more than willing to work with us. Concerns we did have, however, included issues such as finances and living arrangements. To deal with the costs of studying abroad, both my husband and I applied for a number of OSU and outside study abroad scholarships. We were shocked by how many we received. Especially helpful was the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which I received. This is a substantial scholarship and made the difference in us getting to go. We were also concerned about where we would live and did not know if we could live on campus. We had both always been interested in doing a homestay. Again, I expected to be met with discouragement when I emailed the Australian Homestay Network, and again, I was instead met with acceptance and support. Over and over again, I was amazed at how Non-Traditional status did not limit our options.
Finally after months of preparation and 17 hours of traveling around the world, we arrived in Adelaide in late January of 2012, just two days before their annual celebration of Australia Day. Our homestay mom met us at the airport and gave us our first introduction to Adelaide. My first impression was “wow!” There were beautiful beaches, mountains and a bustling city all within 20 minutes of each other.
Since classes didn’t begin for another three weeks, we had plenty of time to explore Adelaide and its surroundings. Coming from a very small rural town (seriously, we have one stop light!), I fell in love with the city of Adelaide. Adelaide is not huge in the overall scheme of large cities, but it’s clean and it’s beautiful and I loved it! In those three weeks, my husband and I also got to swim with dolphins, kayak with dolphins (can you tell I like dolphins?), feed kangaroos, visit an old German town in the mountains near Adelaide, and much more.
Perhaps some of the most memorable of the experiences came when things did not go quite as expected. For starters, we arrived in late January, the height of the Australian summer and we arrived in the middle of a heat wave. I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life, so I’m used to HOT summers. However, I’m also used to air conditioning… and our homestay mom’s aircon (as the Aussies call it) was broken when we arrived. That made for several sweaty weeks. Other “unexpected events” included numerous bus and train debacles (I didn’t get a bus schedule figured out the entire 6 months!), a few interactions with some new foods (I confess I ate kangaroo and worse, I liked it!), and various unexpected “adventures”.
I got to travel along the south coast of Australia and see the Great Ocean Road. I took a road trip into the outback and saw a view of the stars like no other. I even got to spend three days diving the Great Barrier Reef in my first-ever diving experience. Though it’s cliché, studying abroad was truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I learned so much, both from my challenging but truly enriching courses and also through the array of experiences themselves. None of it ever would have been possible if I had not asked. Studying abroad was not only possible for me and my husband, but I learned that ANYONE can study abroad and, after my own experience, am convinced that EVERYONE should!
Written By: Megan Bennett