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Maggie Mouat: Studying Abroad in Australia

February 7, 2018
University Communications

The following essay was written by Maggie Mouat ’18 for

There is nothing quite like the experience of studying abroad.

It’s a unique chance to live and experience another country as a student for five months — or longer. Ask anyone who has come back from their abroad experience and not one of them will be the same. The beauty of it is it’s completely shaped by you and the country you are in.

When I decided to study abroad in Australia, I had no idea what I was in for or the amazing adventure I was about to experience.

When I first arrived in Brisbane, everything felt fresh and brand new. The city was beautiful, sitting right by the river.

My first goal once I landed was to hold a koala. Interestingly enough, Queensland is the only state in Australia that allows people to hold them. So, I set out with determination to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in the city and not only got to hold a koala, but was able to pet and hang out with kangaroos as well!

It was a true Aussie welcome.

Then it was school time. I had decided to live on campus in a college. It was one of the best decisions of my time in Australia.

The college I lived at — International House — was centered around exchange students finding a place at the University of Queensland. We ate together, played sports against other colleges, went to classes together, went out for social events and became a small family of sorts. That kind of support is invaluable as an exchange student because you are far from home and have fewer chances to talk to your family and friends in the United States because the time difference.

International House became a home away from home.

Studying at the University of Queensland was an eye-opening experience and I learned how different education is in Australia.

I had to become accustomed to an entirely different grading scale and there are even fewer grades than most classes in the states. In most of my classes, the grades consisted of one paper and the final. That was it.

This was extremely difficult because I really had to apply myself to those few graded assignments while also balancing traveling. But I did pass all of them!

Another interesting aspect of my studies in Australia was how different journalism is taught there. Taking mainly “journo” classes — as the Aussies call them — I had the unique opportunity to see what the United States looks like to other countries.

In this world of digital communication, I feel that it is invaluable to experience the media from as many perspectives as possible. In the field of journalism specifically, to only see the world from behind the American lenses is not only limiting as a professional, but it is boring.

The time I spent in Australia was an amazing opportunity as a budding journalist to see the world beyond the United States and to see how lucky journalists are to be in a field that is so unique to the country it resides in.

Even though I was in Australia when Carolina won the 2017 National Championship in basketball, it was fun to hang out with some fellow Tar Heels and Aussies while cheering on the boys from down under.

No matter where I went, I could find that Carolina spirit.

One time when I was in Queenstown, New Zealand, I was in a tiny Mexican restaurant with my Carolina shirt on and from out of nowhere I hear “Tar.”  instinctively turned to say “HEELS” right back.

That is why Carolina is so special. No matter where you go, you can find a piece of that Carolina blue anywhere. Even across the world.

Study abroad is a time of many firsts.

Personally, I experienced my first 24-hour plane trip, seeing the sun set over 75 miles of beach, first time calling McDonalds “Maccas,” snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, road tripping from Sydney and Melbourne, and first time living on another continent for months by myself.

It’s a time to experience another country, but it really is a time to learn more about yourself.

There is something about having friends all over the world, experiencing life outside of the states and creating memories that will last a lifetime. It’s helped me learn that feeling at home is a state of mind and not an actual place. My home is with my family and friends here in North Carolina and at Carolina, but it’s also with each and every person I met abroad. My heart is sprinkled all over the world and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s a time to fall in love with the world and yourself.

Embrace it!

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