By Cole Campbell
Damon Smith, a senior Human Resource Management student, has made the long journey from the “Land Down Under” to Stillwater, Okla. in search for his first cultural experience in the United States. Smith is an exchange student from the University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia, one of the 90 reciprocal exchange partner universities of Oklahoma State. Before deciding to come to OSU, he weighed his options of other schools such as Colorado State, Northern Arizona and Minnesota State. But he thought that the south would be more of a change of scene to what he was used to in Australia. “The sports drew me here, I also liked the size of the university and the business school is highly ranked. I also read that Eskimo Joe’s was a fairly iconic sports bar,” Smith said. He is in his second semester of his yearlong stay and he says that there are many differences between Stillwater and his hometown. “Adelaide is a city of 1.5 million people that has a Mediterranean sort of climate and is only a 20 minute tram ride to the beach. Stillwater is pretty barren in comparison but I like the university and it has a really friendly atmosphere,” Smith said. When he arrived to OSU, he says that many people were willing to help him get settled in. “Everyone wanted to help me out and asked if I needed rides to Wal-Mart; people seemed to be surprised to find out that there was an Australian on Campus,” Smith said.
One of the biggest initial adjustments for exchange students is getting acclimated to the different teaching philosophies between countries. Smith says that at OSU, he has professors that count attendance for grades, something that is quite rare in Australia and he has experienced more random testing. One of the interesting opportunities that one can take advantage of during an experience abroad is learning about your major study through another country’s perspective. As a Human Resource Management Student, Smith is interested in learning about and comparing the very different labor systems in the United States and Australia. “In Australia, the minimum wage is $640 a week, we are guaranteed 10 sick days a year, mandatory 401ks and a required 4 week vacation for all full time employees.” After studying America’s employment benefits, he believes that Australia’s method is fairer for the average person and that the United States is going to have a hard time paying out pensions with fewer taxes. When Smith is not studying, he likes to run, see guest speakers at the Spears School of Business, hit the Strip with his friends and travel around the U.S.
In five short months, Smith has seen more of the States than most Americans will see in their lifetime. Last semester alone, he traveled to Los Angeles, Dallas for the OSU-FSU game, Montreal, Canada to visit a ‘mate’ and Austin for the Austin City Limits music festival. Taking full advantage of our four week Christmas break, he went to Las Vegas, San Diego, New Jersey, Manhattan, Boston, Nashville, Denver and San Francisco before heading back to Stillwater for the spring semester. He plans to move to L.A. after this semester in search for an internship and getting involved in the underground band scene. So far, Smith has had a really positive experience at Oklahoma State, and is happy to experience a new life in a new country.
When asked what Smith wants Americans to know about Australia, he says that he wishes that more Americans would watch Australian football. “It is a hybrid of soccer, basketball and rugby, but it is essentially Gaelic football but with more tackling and on an oval field,” Smith said.
For information on studying abroad at Damon’s home university, University of South Australia, visit the Study Abroad /National Student Exchange Office or visit the website at http://www.abroad.okstate.edu