Layla in Australia: Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Layla and I’m studying abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia this semester. Though studying abroad is very common for Richmond students, most of my friends were pretty surprised when I told them about my plans for the semester. Why, you ask? Three reasons:

  1. I’m a rising senior. The majority of Richmond students who study abroad do so their junior fall, but I’ve met people who’ve studied abroad semesters ranging from sophomore fall to junior spring. But senior year? I didn’t know it was possible. It’s much more common than I thought – there are at least five other rising seniors going abroad that I know of. Hopefully this blog will help dispel the myth that there’s only one possible semester to study abroad!
  2. I’m a chemistry major. Anecdotally, it seems like science majors are underrepresented in study abroad. For example, of the 21 chemistry majors in my grade, I will be just the fifth to go abroad for a semester. While it is definitely possible to fit in a semester studying abroad into a timeline of required science courses, it requires careful planning. I’ve heard a lot of my fellow Gottwald enthusiasts talk about how they didn’t study abroad because it wasn’t possible with their major. I’m hoping to help bust this myth as well and show how studying abroad can complement any major.
  3. I’m a citizen of my host country — I moved to America from Australia when I was seven years old. This was the reason that I originally thought I didn’t want to spend a semester abroad when I first came to Richmond. I thought that my international experiences before college meant that I couldn’t gain anything from spending a semester abroad. I’ve now come to realize that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The summer after my freshman year, I spent a month in La Rochelle, France, taking classes for my French minor. While I had a wonderful summer eating baguettes and practicing French with my host family, the small taste of a study abroad experience left me longing for more. My program was rigidly structured, with weekends designated for group trips, and independent travel outside of La Rochelle was prohibited. I itched for the opportunity to travel on my own and discover the country for myself. The more I thought about my experiences in France after my return, the more my desire to take a risk and spend an entire semester abroad grew. I knew as soon as I started considering studying abroad that I wanted to rediscover my birthplace, which has always held a special place in my heart, despite my faint memories of it. The University of Sydney was a logical choice — I love beaches and big cities, the university has an enormous class catalog, which is perfect for a science major with diverse interests, and it’s only an hour and a half away from Wollongong, the city where I grew up.

Australia’s academic calendar is very different than America’s, and the spring semester (known as semester 2) runs from the end of July to the beginning of November. So even though it feels like I’m still in the middle of summer break, it’s time for me to leave for Sydney! It’s hard to describe the emotions I’m feeling. I’m leaving a lot behind in America– my entire extended family is here for a family reunion. They live all over the world, from Iran to Sweden, and so I only see them about once every five years. I’m so excited to get to Sydney, but I’m really sad and not ready to leave my family behind. My packing for Sydney has consisted of the suitcase I threw together while I was frantically putting my stuff into storage in Richmond last week, so needless to say, I’m also feeling anxious to see if I’ve packed the right things. So it’s definitely a mix of emotions. Mostly, I can’t wait to spend the next six months really getting to know Australia!

#TBT My mom and I in the Australian countryside. I'm excited to revisit some of my childhood memories!

#TBT My mom and I in the Australian countryside. I’m excited to revisit some of my childhood memories!

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